Carmen George

Writer gets into dogs’ heads to save homeless hounds in Valley

Laura Gordon is good at imagining the world from a dog’s point of view.

Through colorful tales written from the perspective of abandoned dogs, she’s become the designated spokeswoman for homeless hounds of Labrador Retriever Rescue of Fresno. The stories, aimed at finding families for the forlorn four-leggeds, have attracted a following on the rescue group’s Facebook page.

One of her most recent stories focuses on 12-year-old Sally, found at the bottom of a well with her head cracked open and paws raw and bloody.

Despite that horror, Sally’s story is infused with a cheery optimism and hope:

“My name is Sally and I believe in fairy tales and happily ever after. My years on this Earth have taught me there are villains, vile as can be, but there are also heroes, strong and brave. Love at first sight is real, and there is nothing more valuable than a best friend. Time has taught me the value of a good relationship, and to never take it for granted. With the wisdom and patience of age, I can teach you there is nothing like the love of a senior rescue animal. Will you give me a chance to show your wishes can come true?”

Sally’s story goes on to say that her rescue was the wish she made while stranded in a “wishing well,” then makes a final plea:

“Really, just love me, and you will make my deepest heart desire come true. In return, I promise you I will love you forever. And when I cross over that rainbow bridge, as all dogs must, my head will be held high, my youth restored, I will wait for you to join me, my rescuer, who gave meaning to my life.”

In her stories, Gordon calls the volunteers with Labrador Retriever Rescue of Fresno the “Defenders of Dogs.” The group has about 25 volunteer foster parents, who primarily take in dogs from kill shelters throughout the central San Joaquin Valley until they can find permanent homes. The nonprofit established in 2010 finds homes for around 200 Labrador retrievers and Lab mixes each year.

“Unfortunately, the Central Valley has one of the highest kill rates in California and the U.S.,” says Petra House, director of the rescue group. “This needs to change.”

Story by story, Gordon is doing her part to change that.

I heard of this fabled dog writer from two great animal lovers and colleagues at The Bee, Barbara Anderson and Marc Benjamin, who regularly check the rescue group’s Facebook page for updates. I was sold within minutes of reading my first dog bio: “So, what are you waiting for – you plus me equals the perfect family.”

The search for the mysterious writer led to a happy small-world encounter. Gordon is the mother of a childhood best friend who moved away when I was in elementary school. Greeting Gordon at her home in the Rolling Hills community of Madera near north Fresno last week, I’m met with a warm, familiar smile and hug.

She introduces me to her nine muses – her dogs, of all shapes and sizes. Her boyfriend, Tom Austin, who also volunteers with animal rescue, nicknamed Gordon the “pied piper” for the procession of pooches who follow her wherever she goes.

The spunkiest of the group is the three-legged Luke Skywalker, who has no problem springing onto the couch and wrestling chew toys away from his larger pals.

“He’s a mutt, we call him a pterodactyl,” Gordon says affectionately with the little dog in her arms. “He’s rough and tumbly.”

Luke’s a rescue, like all but two of her dogs.

Gordon is a construction manager with Caltrans who started writing bios while caring for her first foster dog, George Washington, a couple years ago. (She was inspired to become a foster parent after watching a moving SPCA commercial featuring sad-looking pets and singer Sarah McLachlan’s “In the Arms of the Angel.”)

Gordon didn’t want George Washington’s old age to hinder his adoption, so she wrote about his beautiful spirit and he found a “forever home.”

She estimates she has written around 100 dog bios since. Her vivid imagination takes many interesting turns.

There’ve been rock-star dogs, like Waddy Wachtel: “Now, I may be on the small side, a pint-sized kind of a guy, but you will never find one cuter than me with my fuzzy black ears and gold eyes.”

And Graham Nash: “Let’s tour the world. Let’s tour the neighborhood. Together we will set the stage, make our house a home. Love and laughter shared, a forever commitment made.”

The magical Houston Houdini: “Now, my dear, look into my eyes, deep in my eyes … you are getting sleepy, your eyelids are getting heavy … you see yourself walking down a beach with a white dog, children playing in the sand … ”

Country singer dogs, like Miranda Lambert: “I’m a little country girl, a mother at heart. I see all children, two and four-legged, as my own, even the guinea pig.”

And Garth Brooks: “I am a genuine, made-in-America Lab, looking to be the ‘Unanswered Prayer.’ And while ‘I have Friends in Low Places,’ I also have guardian angels, too.”

She describes dogs in the best possible light. She took a bleak description given to her of one dog – active, doesn’t get along with small dogs, needs a strong hand – and turned it into something nicer.

“I changed it to, ‘I’m an athlete who needs a good coach, and I need team members my own size to keep it fair. And he got adopted in two days.”

Gordon’s bios inspire other volunteers to write similar stories. (I recently learned that my parents got their black Lab from Labrador Retriever Rescue of Fresno, and that his sweet description was written by another volunteer.)

Gordon hopes dogs inspire people to be better human beings – for people and pets alike.

“Dogs don’t care what address you have, they don’t care what car you drive, they just love you – and people could learn a lot from that.”

Carmen George: 559-441-6386, @CarmenGeorge

Support Labrador Retriever Rescue of Fresno

Information about fostering, adopting, volunteering or donating is available on the group’s website, labrescuefresno.org, or by emailing muttlovedogs@gmail.com. Donation checks can also be mailed to P.O. Box 1484, Clovis, CA 93613.

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