Animal Rescue of Fresno—Summer in the City

 By Wendy Hunter

When you finally go back to your old hometown, you find it wasn't the old home you missed but your childhood. —Sam Ewing

I miss the summertime. No, I haven’t bumped my head really hard, and yes, I know what year it is. Sometimes, I just wish it were another year. One of those elementary school-aged summers, when all we used to think about was how fast we could ride our Stingrays around the block, what flavors of popsicles were in the freezer, and if we had enough time before dinner for some evening barefoot races down the street. Oh, and just for the record, my bike was teal with a sparkly white banana seat. Yeah, I rocked it. Except when the gutter water turned all green and slimy in the heat, my tires skidded out of control, and I went down like Muhammad Ali at Madison Square Garden. I threw in the towel, and skulked home for a much needed 50/50 bar. Later in high school, we lounged by the pool with Sun-In streaking our hair, reading the latest Rosemary Rogers bodice ripper, and slathering Hawaiian Tropic all over our pink skin. Ah, that sweet smell of coconut and not a care in the world. We couldn’t get enough of the heat back then, jumping out of bed early, swimming for hours, burning our toes on the steamy cement, and drinking enough Pop-Shop soda to sink a ship. Mmm, my diabetes is craving a Lime Ricky at the very thought.

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Wild heart, child heart, all of the world your home. Glad heart, mad heart, what can you do but roam? —Robert W. Service

This scorching summer has already been brutal for both the dogs and the volunteers at ARF. Last weekend it was 106 degrees, and I wished I was wearing my pink fire hazard suit and matching helmet. Unfortunately, it was at the cleaners. You could literally see the heat shimmering and rising up from the dirt out in the big dog yard. At those temperatures, our dogs go to bed early in the day, and I mean 12:30 early. They don’t want to be out in that sweltering sun any more than we do, so they are thrilled to be inside their cool, air-conditioned kennels. Crank it up people, and don’t forget the fans! 

The ARF residents are a few of the blessed ones because there are hundreds of abandoned and lost dogs roaming the city streets and country roads, with no relief from the weather’s wrath. One such dog is Annabeth, a beautiful ten-year-old Boxer, who must have had Lady Luck on her side when she was found and turned into a local shelter. This gorgeous girl has such a happy disposition and charming personality you’d think she was a perfectly normal dog. However, just one look at her right hind leg and you can see something shocking: a huge mass the size of an overgrown grapefruit. I am continually amazed at a dog’s resilience, especially when it comes to things like injuries and diseases. I’m sure if I had that gigantic thing hanging on my leg, I’d be whining and complaining 24/7. But it doesn’t seem to slow Annabeth down at all while she’s running around her yard and having fun with all her playmates. I would be curled up on my comfy cozy bed while my human hand-fed me string cheese, slow roasted chicken, and puppuccinos. Poor thing, let me plump up those pillows and turn on Animal Planet.  Suckers!     

There is something beautiful about all scars of whatever nature. A scar always means the hurt is over, the wound is closed and healed, done with. —Harry Crews

Annabeth certainly wouldn’t pull a stunt like that because she isn’t as devious as I am. Instead, she’s putting on a very brave face and acting like everything is peachy keen. To treat Annabeth, we only had a couple of options to choose from. One of the options was amputation, which is always something to consider when you’re dealing with a mass this size. However, due to her age, we really didn’t want to put Annabeth through such an extensive surgery and long recovery process. The second option was to remove the mass, even though we couldn’t guarantee clear margins: meaning there’s always the possibility of it growing back. During or after surgery, a pathologist looks at the removed tissue to make sure there are no cancer cells in the margin. A clear, negative, or clean margin means there are no cancer cells at the outer edge of tissue that’s been removed. A positive margin means that cancer cells come right out to the edge of the removed tissue, i.e. the “inked margin.” In some cases, the pathologist may classify the margins as close, meaning the cancer cells are close to the edge of the healthy tissue but not right at the inked margin. I know, that’s a lot of medical terminology to digest, but don’t worry, there won’t be a test later.

I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders. — Jewish proverb

When ARF pulls an elderly dog from another shelter, we always have to stop and ponder some real world questions. Well, at least I do. How did a ten-year old Boxer end up out in the middle of nowhere? Did she escape her backyard? Was she stolen? Or did someone do the unthinkable and just dump her? How long has her horrible lump been growing? Maybe her former owners realized that mass wasn’t going anywhere and couldn’t afford the medical bills. She was obviously somebody’s baby for a while, as she knows how to sit, shake, and ride well in a car. Her lovely brown eyes are really the only witnesses to what she’s been through, and unfortunately, they’re not talking. And so we put all those bad thoughts in our mental vault, and try to think of better things. Like the fact that she’s in a better place at ARF now, she’s getting veterinary care, and one day she will find her forever family. Cross your paws peeps! And now, for some more medical jargon.

When wounds are healed by love, the scars are beautiful. —David Bowles

Before deciding on removing Annabeth’s mass, we had it tested to find out just what kind of animal we were dealing with. A biopsy was performed by grabbing a few cells from the mass and placing them on a slide. The results show that Annabeth has a sarcoma: the general term for an uncommon group of cancers that begin in the bones and soft tissues. These tissues include muscles, tendons, and blood vessels. In most cases, it’s not clear what causes sarcoma, though family history and exposure to chemicals or radiation may increase risk. The difference between sarcoma and carcinoma is that carcinomas are cancers that develop in epithelial cells which line the internal organs, such as liver or kidneys. Carcinoma is the most common type of cancer and may spread to other parts of the body. I don’t care what you call either of them, they both sound nasty to me. We also discovered that Annabeth had a Sebaceous cyst on her back near the tail. These cysts are small, slow-growing, noncancerous bumps beneath the skin. They may develop as a result of trauma or blocked glands in the skin. Thus endeth the medical lingo for today. Anyone for a pop quiz?

Go and wake up your luck. —Persian saying

Annabeth is now recovering nicely from her surgery. Along with the tumor removal, she was also spayed and had eleven teeth pulled. Ouch, that smarts. We see many elderly dogs with bad teeth, and they usually require a good dental. A lot of the time, it’s a great relief for the dog when infected or rotting teeth are removed. They don’t suffer from pain while they’re eating anymore and can enjoy the occasional chewy treat again. So, I’m positive Annabeth’s mouth feels better after getting all those yucky choppers taken out. Bring on the Beggin’ Strips! 

ARF is currently working on a fundraiser for Annabeth, and by the time you read this, it will probably be up and running. The vet bill for our bubbly Boxer was close to $1600, which we do not just have laying around. So be sure and check out our website and make a small donation if you can. ARF is the luckiest rescue around to have such amazing supporters as all of you. Without your support, medical treatment for dogs like Annabeth would not be possible. Once again, we say thank you, and send some slobbery dog kisses your way. Smooch!

Animal Rescue of Fresno

4545 E Dakota Ave.
Fresno, CA 93726

 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 since 2014. She grew up in Fresno and has been an Office Assistant with Fresno County for 7 years. She has been writing all of her life, though never professionally, and currently writes personalized poetry for birthdays, weddings, pet remembrances, etc.