by Wendy Hunter
Wendy Hunter is a volunteer with the Animal Rescue of Fresno. ARF shares with KRL their animal rescue adventures every month.
It’s an amazing thing to watch a lizard fold a moth into its mouth, like a sword swallower who specializes in umbrellas.-Elizabeth McCracken
If you missed the giant Reptile/Pet Show at the Fresno Fairgrounds a few weeks ago, you didn’t miss one little thing. What you did miss was one BIG selection of brightly colored creatures, inching through glass display cases, and scavenging for tasty treats. And I’m not just talking about the crowd. I’m talking about the creepy, crawly, scary, slimy, bearded, bug-eyed critters that kids and adults alike just couldn’t get enough of. Between spiders and scorpions, crickets and chameleons, turtles and tarantulas, there was something for everyone, including a lovable monitor lizard, who made our hearts melt when he laid his scaly head in the lap of a small boy, and enjoyed a gentle petting. I laughed out loud when I met my namesake, manning her squirmy supply at Wendy’s Worms. An excellent photo op indeed. And let’s not forget the sprightly antics of a tiny jumping bean, known as the “bird poop frog.” Folks, you can’t make this kind of thing up.
Animal Rescue of Fresno was thrilled to be invited to this unique gathering, especially after seeing the huge space we’d occupy. Let me just preface this by saying that sometimes at events, we’re squished into a shoebox-sized spot. It’s a good thing we like each other, or it could get really ugly, especially when you’re trying to cram everyone into an area no bigger than a Barbie Kitchen. But this time around, we were treated like royalty, with a spacious amount of room for both hounds and humans. Set outside in the covered patio of the Commerce Building, the pet area was bright and alive with the sound of excited dogs. We shared the expanse with several other rescues, and friendly pet food vendors, who handed out handfuls of samples. And once the show was over, most of them generously donated the remainder of their goods to ARF and others. Snacks all around!
For this occasion, we brought our best-behaved dogs, giving ARF some terrific exposure. Plus, we also hoped to sucker in some much-needed volunteers, extolling all the glamorous opportunities available to them. Love doing laundry? We have loads! Note: Beware of special prizes from dogs. Mad about dishwashing? Bunches of bowls are waiting! Just remember to sweet talk the machine. Handy with a pooper-scooper? We’ll keep you busy ‘til the cows come home. Or you beg for mercy, either way. Hmmm, I might need to revamp my recruitment speech.At the show, the dogs were like starving actors just waiting for that big break, and everything was riding on a single performance. As soon as visitors arrived, they morphed into Meryl Streep and Al Pacino, giving it their all. Bosky, our exuberant long-legged Terrier mix, bounced around like a springing Tigger. For pint-size min pin entertainment, Lizzie was a crowd favorite, soaking up the spotlight. People loved her cheerful personality, and her silky sea otter coat. Belle, a cappuccino and cream Terrier, won over the audience after they heard she was a survivor from one of California’s wildfires. In the end, toddlers with sticky fingers, teens without manners, and adults with pleading children, all received an Oscar-winning tour de force of puppy breath and doggy kisses. Curtain call!
There was only one hitch in our plans, and that would be Mother Nature. I realize she’s got a job to do, and it’s tough turning green leaves to gold, designing each snowflake differently, and persuading thunder to answer lightning every time, but does she HAVE to be so cranky? I mean, this summer was just brutal. I can’t even count how many containers of deodorant I plowed through. And since the weather was in the high 90’s for the expo, I anticipated it being a little uncomfortable. What I didn’t count on was the horrible humidity that sneaked up on us like a soggy ninja. Despite the towering fans and overhead misters, we sweated ourselves silly, while the dogs ditched their blankets for the cool cement below. But, ARF volunteers are a resilient bunch, and two of ours stepped up to the plate and hit a homerun. On Sunday, they hauled in a gigantic fan from home, that was literally the size of a NASA satellite dish. And let me tell you, that baby blew like nobody’s business. Salvation, at last.With about 60 vendors, and thousands of people milling around, the show was quite a bustling experience. These events are essential for the ARF dogs, because it allows them to showcase what wonderful pets they can be. For the three dogs we adopted out, it was certainly their day in the sun. When I saw Muffin for the first time, I knew she would find her family in a New York minute. This sweet Schnauzer mix charmed everyone with her lovely disposition and fluffy fur. Unable to resist her smiling face, a great couple came by and scooped her up. Settled in her new dad’s arms, Muffin’s pink tongue waved a happy goodbye. For Terrier puppy Belle, a little bow on the head may have been her lucky charm. With a skunk striped face, this scruffy ball of black and white was extremely popular. Her new owner was quite smitten, grinning from ear to ear while signing the adoption papers. When Priscilla originally arrived at ARF, she came in with Elvis, who was quickly adopted. I was hoping we’d have the same outcome for Priscilla at the show. Stretched out on the floor, her snout poking between the kennel wires, she welcomed every pet on the nose. Drawing people in with her beautiful brown eyes, she found the perfect home. With wagging tail and smooches for her new mom, Priscilla left the building. Of course ARF wishes that all our deserving dogs had been adopted, but their day will come. It’s amazing how particular dogs get so much attention, but never go home. Like Casey, whose fuzzy face should appear alongside the word “cute” in the dictionary. Or Captain, a smoky grey Lhasa Apso mix, who wowed the spectators in a sailor suit during the fashion show. Such swagger. It has to do with people’s preferences for all things dog; size, sex, breed, age, coat color/length, and how much grooming is involved. This might apply to Marley, a spunky black Spaniel mix, with a touch of tan. Black dog, longer hair, tough sell. Personality is a huge factor for potential adopters, and dogs who aren’t as outgoing can be harder to place. For dogs like Casey, a wiry terrier with a shy demeanor, events like the expo are a fantastic way to get them out of their shell. They get accustomed to being picked up and held by strangers, and eventually start enjoying all the affection. We can see how they do with children; are they better with young kids or older ones? Do they prefer women to men? The more public exposure they get, the easier it is to find them a home of their own. Family and fireplace included.
Sure, these shows are exhausting. Hauling equipment back and forth, packing and unpacking the dogs, long days standing on swollen feet, talking to 20 people at once, and the crazy amount of caffeine that’s required for two days of absolute chaos. Sure, your brain goes numb. There are a thousand questions being thrown at you so fast, you might forget to duck: What kind of dog is that? How old is he? How much is he? What’s his name? Where did he come from? Does he like cats? Does he like kids? Can I hold him? Can my kids hold him? Is he house trained? Is he fixed? Does he dig? Does he bark? Hey, your face is turning all red…are you okay? And sure, you could be hanging out with your friends, having cocktails, but you’re here with the dogs instead. You’re here instead of paying bills, listening to fake news, or attending the third round of nuptials for your second cousin.
But in the end, those things don’t seem to mean much. What’s truly meaningful is watching someone adopt a rescue dog, and the unbridled joy on both their faces. That’s worth much more than a round of margaritas or catching the bouquet. And really, how many Jordan Almond wedding favors does one person need?
Check out more animal rescue stories in our Pet Perspective section and check back every month for another animal rescue adventure from ARF. Advertise in KRL and 10% of your advertising fees can go to a local animal rescue.