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Excerpts from some published favorites.

Driving back to the office from the prison, I soak in green fields along the side of the highway and this idea of a new horizon – opportunities.


Everything gets replayed – the eagerness in the men’s voices, a sincerity and sweetness not unlike a child seeking approval. The way they bowed their heads when they talked about who they used to be, what they’d done. The fragile hope that flickered across some of their words, never more evident than when they talked about the dogs.


I see Carter telling me he loves dolphins, and Campos talking about volunteering with self-help groups for struggling inmates. I think about learning that inmates from the prison are donating more than $4,000 to the Craycroft Cancer Center at Valley Children’s Hospital.


I see Pillsbury kneeling proudly beside Rosie.


“Not only can shelter dogs be rehabilitated for society, so can we,” he says. “It just takes a few people to believe in us, that’s all it takes.”


And I think of all of them standing in that dirt lot like they’ve done for weeks, months, years. They’ll remain that way, some for the rest of their lives.


Campos is among some of the “lifers.” He says being selected for the dog training program is a dream come true.


“It gives us hope,” he says. “Hope of training a dog, teaching a dog, giving a dog a new home. Saving their lives. … It’s like a freedom almost. Yeah, it’s a great freedom.”


I think of all of these things while remembering a yard full of unwanted men and dogs.

A teenage boy stares silently at a teddy bear for several long moments during a Christmas party at Valley Teen Ranch last week before a softness creeps into his face. The gift stuns him at first, but it’s not stifled disappointment. This is alien territory for a child who trained himself to act tough through months of lonely nights in a sparse juvenile hall cell devoid of stuffed animals.


As a friend sitting beside him unwraps a teddy bear of his own, he turns to his buddy: “Hey, we got matching bears, bro!” They swap smiles.


“Hi bear,” the teen says, looking at his present, “I love you.”


As they pose for a group photo in front of a decorated Christmas tree at their group home, another teen, 18-year-old Clay, blurts out: “It’s the best Christmas I ever had! Seriously. The best Christmas I ever had.”

Carson says the Petersens “taught me how to believe in myself.”


“I’d tell him that he was worth it,” Tex says, “that’s the biggest thing. … He felt like he wasn’t worth anything, so why try to strive?”


Carson is striving now.


Of his adoption, he says with a smile, “It was just awesome to be wanted.”

Amal’s father is thankful for Tovar helping Amal navigate middle school as the family remains in limbo. 


For one class assignment, Amal decorated a sheet of paper with her photo in the center with words that describe her: Loyal, brave, strong, small, happy, good, modest, nice, smart, careful, crazy, loveable, singer, random, mindful, fast, and her favorite adjective – smiley.


Her father is very proud of her.


She is “very smart,” he says with a smile, “number one, A-plus.”

Sawmill equipment strewn across acres of an eastern Fresno County property is “well worn” and “discombobulated,” Kirk Ringgold says on a recent spring day, but the scarred and rusted machinery has “good steel bones.”


He’s hitched his livelihood to this steel that’s sitting in a kind of boneyard: The site of the Auberry sawmill that closed in 1994. Ringgold wants to bring it back to life.

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