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Raven's Rescue rehabilitates neglected pit bulls

ARMONA — Kiera, a 2-year-old pit bull ran circles around the compound of Raven’s Rescue Bully Breed Sanctuary in Armona Thursday while dragging her favorite stuffed animal around in her mouth, hopping from one side to the other and back again.

Kiera, who recently had a litter of 11 puppies, is like Deacon, a St. Bernard/pit bull mix who was found living in a hole he had dug on the side of Route 41, and 19 other dogs looking for homes at the nonprofit rescue.

“All my money used to go toward shoes and clothes and now it goes toward dog food,” said rescue owner and founder Carrie Raven.

The rescue, which Raven opened about three years ago, has been rescuing and caring for abandoned and injured pit bulls while searching for their forever-homes and families.  

Raven estimates that she spent $30,000 dollars in vet bills just last year and that care — including spaying, neutering, micro-chips and shots — for each dog runs around $500-$600 dollars. There is a $300 fee to adopt dogs from the shelter.

“We don’t make money on the adoption fee. We’re rarely in the positive on a dog,” said the rescue’s fundraising and resources coordinator Tonia Mayes.

It all started with Wilson, a pit bull whose story Raven saw on social media. The dog had been hit by two cars, resulting in an amputated leg. Wilson also had rope scars on his belly, probably from being tied up and used as “bait,” according to Raven’s husband, Anthony. Bait dogs are tied up and sometimes muzzled while fight dogs are set upon them by trainers.

Wilson was adopted by the Ravens, owners of Raven’s Deli in Armona, and still have him.

“He drives around with me everywhere,” Anthony said.

Since then, many injured dogs have come through the rescue, including two that were tied to a tree on the side of the road, abandoned in Goshen and a dog named Da Vinci that needed neck reconstruction to treat injuries.

“When he came in, he was scared and didn’t like anyone but now he’s my little partner,” Raven said.

Due to the extreme injuries the dogs sometimes have when rescued, it can take as long as six months to a year for them to get healthy before the sanctuary team can even begin to look for a new home.

Mayes says it’s become harder to adopt out pit bulls in the area due to them being banned from the Naval Air Station in Lemoore and Lincoln Housing. Then, of course, there’s also the stigma around the dogs and the widely-held belief that they’re inherently more aggressive than other breeds, a view that the Raven’s sanctuary team is trying to fight.

“They’re just misunderstood,” Mayes said. “They’re good family dogs. They used to be known as nanny dogs.”

Mayes added that just because the breed may not get along well with other types of dogs doesn’t mean it won’t get along with humans.

“As a vet tech for 15 years, I’ve never been bit by a bully,” Mayes said. When asked if she had ever been bitten by other breeds, she responded with a quick, “Oh yeah!”

Mayes said that every generation seems to pick a dog breed to villainize and before pit bulls, it was German shepherds and Dobermans. 

Elizabeth Stelow, staff clinician in the Clinical Animal Behavior Service for the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, points out that many "pit bulls" are not true pit bull terriers and are best categorized as "pit bull-type dogs." Some are other breeds, like American Staffordshire terriers or American bulldogs. Many are mixed-breed dogs.

"The challenge with aggression in these dogs has mainly to do with their jaw strength and the tenacity that comes from being a terrier breed. This means they have strong bites and aren't inclined to let go. So, whether or not they are more likely to bite, they are more likely to do serious damage," Stelow said.

Stelow also points out that while pit bull-type dogs inflict a high percentage of fatal attacks, they also represent a very high percentage of dogs owned by Californians. 

"[This makes it] hard to tease out all the reasons for these statistics," she said.

Raven expressed a passion for pit bulls, a desire to educate people about them to decrease any negative stigma about them and the hope that breeders would stop milling out puppies to make a “quick buck.”

“They’re beautiful puppies and people tend to get them without realizing how big they’ll get and can’t take care of them,” Anthony said.

The sanctuary now hosts regular adoption events and will be partnering with the Fresno Grizzlies at the Bark in the Park on April 14. Ticketholders are permitted to bring their dogs to the game that day and the sanctuary will be adopting out pit bulls that need new homes.

“Seeing one of our dogs get a new family is better than a brand new pair of Louis Vuittons,” Raven joked. “Well almost.”

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Home2 Suites creates a home

HANFORD — The newest hotel in the Hanford scene is the Home2 Suites by Hilton.

Located near the corner of 12th and Glendale avenues, the new building is decorated and set up like it has mini apartments in a large home and has a staff that works to make it feel like the guests' home for their stay.

Generally, a hotel room there costs $120 to $170 a night. When you stay for more than 30 consecutive days the rate can drop to $99 a night.

This hotel is designed for guests who are staying for an extended period of time, more than a four-night stay. The general manager, Frances Perkins, said they have mostly housed business people with work to do in the Hanford area and military personnel visiting the base.

“Our guest base is looking like a lot of corporate travel,” said Perkins. “Everybody comes here to work; nobody is really vacationing in Hanford.

Frances Perkins, general manager of Home2 Suites by Hilton, is a Lemoore native.

Michael Sheehan from Oakridge, Tennessee, is currently doing work in the area as a PG&E contracted safety professional and will be staying at Home2 Suites for around four months.

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the staff, from the manager to the housekeepers. They are so nice and helpful,” Sheehan said.

Perkins' background is not originally in hospitality.

Native to Lemoore, Perkins went to DeVry University to study computer information systems. While there, she fell in love with the hospitality business while working at a Sheraton hotel in North Phoenix. After finishing her degree, Perkins decided to move back to her hometown.

“I love Lemoore,” Perkins said. “My family is in Lemoore, and honestly I was homesick.”

Upon her return to Lemoore, she took a job at the Best Western, formerly Holiday Inn Express. Now after working her way up the ladder, she is the general manager of Home2 Suites and the director of operations at Best Western in Lemoore.

The first thing guests see when walking into the front entrance is an outdoor patio that has an automatic fire pit that turns on around sunset.

This mid-scale hotel has room amenities such as cookware, tableware, dishwasher, microwave and a full-sized fridge.

As someone who likes to cook, Sheehan wishes there was a stove in his room, but is sated by the hotplate the hotel provided. He also appreciates the location, saying it is within walking distance to the chain restaurants near Hanford Mall.

Perkins said the Home2 Suites option is mostly available on the East Coast. The Hanford location is the fourth one in California.

Of all the hotels he has stayed in, Sheehan said Home2 Suites here in Hanford is much better than most and he plans to look for this style of hotel in future travels.

One dead after motorcycle collision

A man was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence after hitting a motorcycle, causing a series of events that led to the motorcycle driver’s death, California Highway Patrol officials said.

On Saturday at around 6:15 p.m., officers from the CHP Hanford area responded to a reported traffic collision in the area of westbound State Route 198, east of Avenal-Cutoff Road.

During the investigation, officers determined a 2007 Kawasaki motorcycle was traveling westbound in the left-hand lane on State Route 198 when the driver of a 2011 Chevrolet Malibu, also traveling on the same lane, failed to slow down for the motorcycle.

CHP said the Malibu collided into the rear end of the Kawasaki, causing the rider of the Kawasaki to be ejected and land in the roadway.

Moments later, officers said the driver of a 2006 Toyota Corolla was also traveling westbound on State Route 198 in the left-hand lane and approached the crash. CHP said the driver of the Corolla struck the Kawasaki rider before pulling the car over.

This event caused the rider of the Kawasaki to be pushed to the right-hand lane, when moments later, the driver of a 1998 Saturn approached the scene and swerved in an attempt to avoid the Kawasaki rider but instead lost control, struck the Kawasaki rider, left the roadway and overturned, officers said.

Moments later, officers said the driver of a 2011 Mazda approached the collision scene and saw the rider of the Kawasaki in the lane. The driver of the Mazda attempted to avoid colliding into the Kawasaki rider, but was unsuccessful and struck the Kawasaki rider before pulling over near the center median, officers said.

CHP officials said the rider of the Kawasaki died and the driver of the Saturn sustained moderate injuries.

The driver of the Chevrolet Malibu, identified as 43-year-old David Workman of Madera, was arrested for driving under the influence.

Driver goes the wrong way on highway, crash leaves one dead

HANFORD — A woman was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence after driving the wrong way on State Route 198 and crashing head-on into another vehicle, killing the driver.

On Sunday just before 2 a.m., officials with the CHP Hanford area said the Fresno Communication Center received a 911 call of a vehicle driving recklessly.

Not long after, CHP said a traffic collision occurred in the area of eastbound State Route 198, east of 12th Avenue.

CHP officers responded to the area and said they determined a 2016 Hyundai Elantra was traveling the wrong way and going westbound in an eastbound lane of State Route 198.

A 2015 Toyota Rav 4 was traveling east on State Route 198 when the car directly in front of the Toyota quickly veered to the right to avoid colliding into the 2016 Hyundai that was traveling wrong way, officers said.

The driver of the 2015 Toyota did not have enough time to react to the 2016 Hyundai traveling wrong way and officials said the vehicles struck each other head on.

Officers said the driver of the 2015 Toyota sustained major injuries and later died at the Adventist Medical Center in Hanford. They said a passenger in the Toyota sustained minor injuries and was transported to the Adventist Medical Center in Hanford.

Authorities said the driver of the 2016 Hyundai, 22-year-old Lucia Gomez of Visalia, was placed under arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence and was transported to Kaweah Delta Hospital in Visalia with major injuries.