Animal Rescue of Fresno: Killing Fear with Kindness

 By Wendy Hunter

To fear is one thing.  To let fear grab you by the tail and swing you around is another. —Katherine Paterson

I am not afraid of many things. I hate broccoli, squash, and cauliflower, but I’m not afraid of them. As a youngster, I was afraid of water skiing and anything else that made me look like a complete idiot. I wasn’t the most physical kid, but I did pitch for my mom’s BofA softball team. It was great fun, but fear crossed my mind every time it was my turn at bat. My talent on the mound was okay, but my swinging skills sucked. Nowadays, depending on my Netflix roster, I fear the darkness of my bedroom. I’m currently in the grip of Dahmer, and the other night after a diabolical dream, I was convinced there were footsteps racing down the hall. Yikes!

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Fear of the unknown is what scares people, and recently my family had to face it head on. Last week, my mom underwent a sentinel lymph node biopsy, which meant an entire day spent at our local Kaiser. She had a cancerous melanoma on her cheek, and the procedure was to remove any evil lymph nodes that were closest to the affected area. It was a three-hour operation, which is a rocky road for anybody, but when you’re eight-eight years old, it’s like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. After waiting for the pathology results, we breathed a sigh of relief when they came back negative. Mom is recovering nicely, and now bears the scars not unlike The Bride of Frankenstein. Neck bolts not included.'s okay to be afraid. Fear is just your feelings asking for a hug. —Michael Pennie 

People in the animal rescue world can tell you that every rescue is different: the situation, the environment, the owners, the dogs, and everyone involved. Usually, the animals are terrified by what’s happening to them, especially if they haven’t been socialized, or have no experience being handled. This was the case late in August, when ARF received a dire plea for help in rescuing twelve mixed Min Pins who were living outside in crates on the back of a truck. They had apparently been in there for over a week when the weather had been in the triple digits for days. 

The owner had been evicted from the home after her husband died, leaving her nowhere to keep them. I was with ARF at a Sunday Petco event when the call came in, and we raced over to our facility as fast as we could. We waited for what seemed like forever in the blistering heat until the owner arrived in a worn out pickup, a huge crate tied to the bed. Over the crate, she had draped a heavy woolen blanket, strapped down with bungee cords and rope. You could hear the dogs panicked yelping as the owner struggled with the bindings. I wiped the sweat from my brow, and remembered these famous words, “hope for the best, prepare for the worst…”

In their wild state, wild creatures can generally shift for themselves; but to prison a wild bird in a cage, to chain a dog to a kennel, or even to shut him in a to be guilty of a cruelty not easily to be forgiven. —Coulson Kernahan

I’m not quite sure which was worse; the absolute horror of the filth these dogs were living in, or the overwhelming stench that emanated from it. Having said that, I imagine if you’ve lost your husband and your home, you’ll try anything you can think of to keep your pets. Sometimes, they’re the only thing you have left, and most people just don’t know where to turn or where to get help. They can only try to find the best possible solution. Unfortunately, these poor dogs were so overheated and stressed out, not to mention wallowing in their own excrement, they were chewing at the bars. It was like a small herd of Cujo’s offspring, panting and baring their teeth at all of us.

Our ARF President and VP were in charge of this operation, and had a kiddie pool and water bowls waiting in our Meet & Greet area. Easier said than done because when the owner pulled out the larger of the Min Pins, he bolted from her hand and raced across the steaming asphalt of our driveway. Luckily, the gate was closed, but watching him run for freedom just got the other dogs even more worked up. It took some time, but I was able to wrangle him into our Memorial Garden where he could calm down and ward off any impending heatstroke. I can’t say I blame him, though, if I were in that crate with so many rowdy roommates, I’d make a break for it too. I forgave him for making me run in circles.

Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.  —German proverb

The owner finally unloaded the dogs, and they were able to drink some fresh cool water, splash in the pool, and stretch their tired legs. Finally, we could see what we were dealing with and what these dogs had been through. They were clearly neglected and possibly mistreated; several of them appeared emaciated. They may have had to fight each other for food and didn’t get much of anything to eat. They definitely all had fleas. Despite what we were told, none of them were particularly friendly. Several of them were snappy, and didn’t want to have anything to do with us. They cowered under chairs and benches, shivering with fright, refusing the water we offered. One of them had back legs that did not function properly, and could barely walk. The tiniest of the bunch was cute as a button but could do with a big plate of chicken and scrambled eggs. The dogs didn’t seem to have much of a rapport with the owner, running from her touch, and avoiding her when she called to them. Perhaps they were her husband’s pets, and that was the reason. Maybe they were waiting for his return.

There are few things that are more beautifully infectious than true kindness. It spreads like a magnificent wildfire. —Keith Wynn

At the end of the day, we rescued a total of eleven dogs. Later on, our friends at The House of Muddy Paws took two of them, the ones we considered to be the “biters.” Because of their previous treatment, it turns out that many of the dogs decided to protect themselves. It also appears two may need surgery for leg issues, but we’re hoping good nutrition will help some. We started out slow the following Tuesday, with just two ARF volunteers interacting with the Min Pins, giving them some stability. The volunteers would talk to them, read stories, and sing an occasional song. Requests, anyone? 

Each day we were able to reach another dog, and in just one week, they were all settled in runs, exercising their legs, and enjoying lots of love time. We have seen great progress in all of them, and are learning the trigger points for each one. They are still very scared when picked up, and desperately try to get away, thinking they are going to be hurt. Later on, we introduced the Min Pins to even more hands touching them, and they did a great job. Currently, they are being treated for intestinal issues stemming from eating and drinking dirty water. They are all suffering from some type of trauma. However, they are learning that our hands are for loving, caressing, and not to cause any harm. C’mon kid, how about a nice, soothing massage? 

Every day you either see a scar or courage. Where you dwell will define your struggle. —Dodinsky

Our original goal of getting the dogs bathed last week was pushed back, as they are getting overwhelmed just moving around ARF. We do expect potential baths and nail trims happening in the future. Some of these babies have battle scars all over their bodies, so we must be patient. They have all been given flea and tick treatments, and are still learning that clean water and food is readily available. The dogs are also leash reactive, but we are working with them on this. Several of the Min Pins are actually starting to gain weight, and we are thrilled to see some very happy tails. Sleeping in air-conditioned sheds have truly brought down the anxiety level and they are finally beginning to relax: stress free zone ahead. 

We wanted to thank all of you who have donated to help these distressed dogs. Your generosity is providing canned food, hard food, medication, and whatever else they may need. We have received numerous calls from people wanting to visit them. Please understand they are not up for that right now, and still have a ways to go before being ready for adoption. We thank you for your continued support. 

Thanks also to The House of Muddy Paws for helping out, and alerting us to this sad situation. If you would like to donate to their amazing rescue, here is the website:

Our past is like a footprint. It only confirms we were there. No burden on our future does it bear. Bring the rain, clear the pane of clutter. —Jeb Dickerson

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.