Tipping the Balance

fresnorescuemissionIt’s 9 PM in downtown Fresno. Saturday night. I’m in the backseat of a car. The window is down and the air outside is still warm with that particular variety of Central Valley heat that lingers way past sunset.

A neon cross outside a rescue mission illuminates a rough urban reality that makes me shift uncomfortably in my seat. We are driving thru a homeless encampment.

To my right, lines of homeless people are lying on the sidewalk, settled in for the night. A black and white pit bull nestles in at the feet of a man, who is hidden under a scratchy wool blanket.

To my left ,there is an entire block of Tuff sheds with a few porta-potties that have been set up by the Citfresnohomelessy as an emergency effort to give the homeless a place to sleep.

This raw scene speaks volumes about how dire the situation is for many in Fresno.  In 2012, Fresno County was ranked as the second most impoverished county in the nation , with one of the highest per capita homeless rates. The region is also home to the areas with the highest  percentage of Latino and migrant agricultural worker populations, many of whom live well below the poverty line.

I’m driving around with some amazing women from Animal Compassion Team {ACT}Fresno, who are showing us the neighborhoods and areas most in need of help. We are strategizing as to how to start  free veterinary wellness clinics for the area’s low-income Latino families, along with the homeless folks and their animals.

As we drive, Brenda, one of the main driving forces behind ACT, is providing a running narrative of how desperate the situation is for the animals in Fresno – especially in the areas we are driving through. The stories she tells are haunting.Homeless Family, Los Angeles, California, United States of America

Maybe it’s the long, hot day of rescue that proceeded this drive.

Maybe it’s one-part exhaustion coupled with two-parts emotional rollercoaster from selecting 59 dogs for rescue in one day.

Or maybe, it’s just me.

But the harshness of what I’m hearing, what I’m seeing, what I know to be true ….the gross inequalities and injustices all around me hit with a precise, sudden swoop -pinning me down and laying me flat for a moment, stunned by their weight.

And I allow that heaviness to hold me for a moment, pressing on my chest and limiting my breath – before I finally manage to wiggle out from below.

That very weight – inequality and injustice and the steady stream of suffering they cause, is my constant opponent, always on the sidelines of whatever game of life I am in…threatening to push me back down.

And I know full well, that I will never be able to conquer this particular opponent. Or understand it. Or comprehend it’s far reaching implications for animals, people, the planet…but I also know that what I can do is everything in my power to weaken it, to tip the scales back in favor of equality, kindness, and compassion.Moncho

It’s not fair that a dog born in Fresno or Mexico is going to be unwanted and die because of where he or she was born when there are empty kennels just a few hours north with lots of adopters looking for animals just like them.

It’s not fair that a hardworking family in a low-income neighborhood in the Central Valley can’t afford to get their dog sterilized and has no access to basic veterinary care, and that because of that inability their animal could die of a preventable disease like Parvo.

It’s not fair that someone has to sleep out on the hard concrete under a dirty wool blanket.

It’s not fair that families are living in Tuff sheds in one of the richest countries in the world. dogkiss

So, let’s do something to make the world it a bit more fair. Let’s take that dog out of Fresno and bring him or her to that empty kennel a few hours north to get adopted.

Let’s offer that hardworking, low-income family access to basic veterinary care, get that dog vaccinated and spayed and neutered.

Let’s get out in the homeless community and offer the little bit of assistance we can through accesss to basic veterinary care for their companion animals.

Let’s do something to help.

To make it even just a tiny bit more fair for the animals, and for the people who love them. Every act of kindness, every ounce of assistance, every life saved, tips the balance of back towards compassion and away from injustice and inequality – and that tip in the right direction, no matter how small, matters.

So after that rough match with my faithful opponent on Saturday night, we got up Sunday morning and promptly loaded the van with 24 dogs headed north for adoption, 35 more heading to Minneapolis on October 25th. scalesjustice3

59 dogs saved total.

And, we are beginning the plans to work with ACT to start hosting free veterinary wellness clinics for Fresno’s homeless community, as well as their underserved low-income Latino population and migrant workers.

And, we spent that day accompanied by incredible individuals who are tipping the scale back in the right direction every moment of every day. Our unbelievably dedicated and compassionate partners at Animal Compassion Team and Animal Rescue Fresno, the amazing volunteers who met us up north to help unload the dogs. Everyone working together to do right by these dogs and to keep that balance tipped the best we can.

Score 1 for the good guys….


*Note: Video below is an advertisement that is NOT in any way linked to Compassion without Borders. We do not recommend watching it.


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