Animal Rescue of Fresno: A New Beginning

 By Wendy Hunter

A Happy New Year! There is a glow of cheer and optimism in the very words: "New Year." The old year, with its anxieties and worries, is over. It, too, brought happy days and sunshine, and in memory we must cherish the bright places.—May Louise Crane

ARF pup Boudy
Well, my friends, we’re finally at the finish line. We stuffed ourselves silly over Thanksgiving, and now we’re hurtling at breakneck speed right smack into the craziness of the Christmas season. It always comes way too early, with pre-lighted trees up in August, and holiday music blaring over the airwaves in relentless rotation. Ho-Ho-Ho. I have always loved Christmas, with it’s Sugar Cookie candles, presents under the tree, stockings on the mantle, and homemade treats of all kinds. To me, it was all about family. It was all about getting together and sharing stories and memories. But mostly, it was all about four long hours of opening packages, breaking for cocktails, and wondering if we were ever going to have dinner. C’mon Uncle David, speed it up, get in there and rip that paper to shreds! That forty-seven pound bird is getting crispier by the minute.

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ARF pup Gemma
This year is a completely different one for my family, as we lost my dad just a few days before Christmas last year. We had mixed feelings about what to do this year. Get a tree? Decorate? Listen to carols? In the end, we decided to embrace the holiday spirit, especially after this crappy year of really bad things. The day after Thanksgiving, Mom and I decorated the house, with Christmas music playing. Today, my sister joined us in putting up a lovely tree, festive and sweet, with all the ornaments. I bet dad was looking down, smiling, before giving my mom the O.K. to string up the lights in her own perfectionist way. “Okay Dorothy, they’re all yours.” Trust me, she’ll be rearranging them until Christmas Eve.

I think we can all agree that the Year 2020 sucked big time, and watching it go with it’s tail between its legs will be a most welcome sight. If only it would take the COVID virus with it, then our lives would be complete. At Animal Rescue of Fresno, we plugged along just like everyone else this year, learning how to social distance for adoptions and wearing masks for protection. Unfortunately, we had to cancel pretty much all of our usual fundraisers, including the annual Christmas Open House. Boo. But, life must go on, and dogs still need to find loving homes. Our “by appointment only” plan was a great success, and we adopted out a huge number of dogs. It took awhile for people to come around to the idea, and it was originally met with as much excitement as a bowl of Brussel sprouts at the kids’ table. Um, no no.

ARF pup Scout
Eventually, people began to realize it was a good thing, especially since they were able to spend quality time with their potential new pet. We had a whole mess of Meet and Greets, and for the most part they went incredibly well. There was the occasional “But mom, I don’t WANT a playmate” attitude, but generally speaking, dogs found themselves riding shotgun on their way home to a forever family. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the ones you see here must be priceless. The joy and happiness on both human and canine faces can only be matched by us ARF volunteers. It’s always a mixture of tears and laughter when one of our dogs leaves us, but it’s always worth it when you can say to yourself,
Hey, I helped make that happen. We’re kind of like Santa’s elves, but without the funny hats.

ARF pup Scrappy Doo
The world was put to the test in 2020, with fires and floods and even swarms of locusts. Mother Nature really woke up on the wrong side of the bed on New Year’s Day, that’s for sure. Our lives under quarantine have definitely brought people together, even if we didn’t want to. With parents and kids all under one roof 24-7, families began new traditions like weekly board game nights, movies at home, and even cooking together. Who’d have seen that coming? Not only that, but millions became obsessed with baking the perfect loaf of sourdough bread, like it was the greatest thing since, well, sliced bread. Sharpening our culinary skills was a great way to kill time and learn new recipes, but it also contributed to the expansion of our waistlines. And with just about every fitness club closed, even the most sculpted bodies began to show signs of too many late night visits with Ben and Jerry’s. We ARF volunteers are no exception, and it’s a running joke around the office that our scrubs are running a bit tighter than usual. Oh well, at least we still have our sense of humor these days. Hey, who brought the doughnuts? 

ARF pup Lucy before haircut
Volunteering at an animal shelter can be a wonderful experience. It’s like having a second family, but one where you can babble freely about your twelve dogs, without having Aunt Martha ask when you’re getting married. We celebrate each other’s victories and mourn our losses together, share meals with one another, and inevitably fall in love with the same dogs over and over again. Some people may not think that mucking around wet yards and picking up poop would be an activity one would do for free. They certainly wouldn’t enjoy washing and folding mountains of laundry on weekends, especially if it wasn’t their own. And why on earth would you want to unload a bunch of scared, smelly, shelter dogs from their crates? Well, why wouldn’t you? Maybe this could be the year you decide to volunteer, and make a difference in some deserving dogs lives. If poop isn’t your thing and dryer sheets make you sneeze, there’s a whole list of other things you can do at ARF. How do you feel about sweeping floors, cleaning kennels, or dog baths? Don’t worry, we have something for everyone. Including puppy breath, if hanging out with the little ones is more your speed. Caution: You may get licked into submission.

Lucy after

It’s hard to believe this year is almost over, and most of us couldn’t be happier. I usually don’t like it when the year seems to blow by in a flash, but this time around, I couldn’t wait for it to end. I’m ready for the New Year and better times to be had. I’m ready for all the gloominess to end and to see some of the worry erased from my mom’s face. I’m looking forward to another year at ARF and volunteering with some of my best buddies. At work, we are constantly reminded to “self-care” and to do something to relieve the stress of everyday life. Animal Rescue of Fresno has kept me mostly sane for the better part of this year, and given me a refuge from all the scary things that life has thrown us. As December has slowly come closer and closer, I truly dreaded it’s arrival. I thought about my dad every single day of 2020, and would usually end up a weepy mess. And every Saturday at ARF, I was so thankful for my volunteer friends there, and for my furry friends as well. There is absolutely no judgment when you’re sobbing into the softness of a dog’s silky neck. He knows how you’re aching because he feels the heaviness in your heart. I hope this coming year is good to you. I hope your friends and family are safe. And I hope your heart is as light as a dog’s kiss. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!   

 Animal Rescue of Fresno is located at 4545 E Dakota in Fresno, CA.

Check out more animal rescue stories in our Pet Perspective section on Kings River Life, and the Pets section here on KRL News & Reviews. 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. Learn more about ARF on their website.

Wendy Hunter has been volunteering with ARF for four years. She grew up in Fresno and recently became an Office Assistant with Fresno County. She has been writing all of her life, though never professionally, and currently writes personalized poetry for birthdays, weddings, pet remembrances, etc.