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In his former role as Fresno’s Film Commissioner, Ray Arthur was used to spending time with celebrities of all stripes. Now in his current job working for Fresno’s Department of Utilities, he finds himself looking after a different kind of wild animal.
Located ten miles outside of Fresno, Ray’s workplace is often the dumping ground for feral or unwanted pets. Over the years, he and his co-workers have taken care of dozens of animals—mostly feeding them and finding them homes.
Currently, Ray is taking care of Domino, a cat that recently lost an ear to cancer. He calls himself a dog person, but one has to wonder if all the grouchy cats in his life aren’t working their way into his heart.
Here’s Ray’s story, and how you can help take care of Domino.
First, tell me about your experience as Fresno’s Film Commissioner. What was that like?
I was a Film Commissioner for 15 years before arriving in Fresno in 2007. My favorite story was our biggest film shoot. Everyone wanted a piece of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Steven Spielberg was looking for a small 1950s airport to double for Mexico City in 1957. After scouting several countries, they chose Fresno’s Chandler Municipal Airport. The crew was here for a week and they filmed one day. Unfortunately, all but one of the scenes were cut, but we did make eight seconds of the inside of a plane, and if you squint really hard you might see the control tower over Harrison Ford’s shoulder through the window.
The reality, however, is that film production is not just about getting your locations on the big screen. It’s primarily about economic development. Indiana Jones spent over $250,000 in Fresno and gave a $3,000 donation to the nonprofit Creative Fresno.
The kicker was, this was my second time working with Steven (he told me to call him Steven, I swear). He filmed a small portion of the original Jurassic Park in Red Rock Canyon State Park in 1992. That means I need to find a new Film Commissioner job by 2022 because clearly we are meant to work together every 15 years!
Due to the near depression about a decade ago, the funding for the Film Commission was eliminated, along with several hundred City positions. In 2010, I was fortunate to be offered a Project Manager position within the City’s Department of Utilities.
Now you adopt cats and dogs at your work. What does that entail exactly?
Well, technically they adopt us.
I work at the Fresno-Clovis Regional Wastewater Reclamation Facility and our offices are located about 10 miles southwest of Fresno City Hall. It’s a pretty rural location and occasionally we become a home for strays and unwanted pets that have been dumped. When I arrived we already had a cat, Elvis. He was feral but has since learned some manners and has trained several of us to feed and pet him. We call him our Parking Lot Watch Cat and to his credit not one vehicle has been stolen or broken into since his arrival!
Additionally, we’ve had a variety of dogs vacation here, one or two a year, and through Facebook and email lists we’ve been successful in finding homes for many of them. About six years ago, a cat was dumped and she figured out pretty quickly that where there are people, there would be food. One of my co-workers named her Domino.
While Elvis will roll over for anyone who walks by, Domino is more skittish and only trusts a couple of us. Ironically, I’ve always been a major DOG person and not at all interested in cats. These cats, however, seemed not to sense that or if they did, to give a damn. So, Elvis’s food is near the front door and Domino’s is near the back door and they rarely meet. The only thing they have in common is me.
Domino needed ear surgery, and you’ve set up a GoFundMe page to help with her medical expenses. How is she doing now?
Several months ago, we noticed that the tip of Domino’s right ear was missing. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a growing cancer, and two weeks ago we had most of the ear removed. On January 12th, she had her stitches removed and she has about two more weeks with the cone. Then she’ll be close to back to normal.
She has two major life changes: due to the ear amputation, she will now be an inside cat, as she clearly was before she was dumped. And there is a high probability that the cancer will return.
I created the GoFundMe campaign because the initial medical bills topped $500 and there will be more to come. The goal is $1,000 and we’re a little over $300, so we have a way to go.
Do you have any advice for people wanting to help the local pet population? How to get started, etc.?
Not really. I’m a total amateur who just fell into this. All of my dogs over the past 60 or so years have been strays or rescues. I would urge people to find a mutt you like and know that you saved their life and they’ll thank you every day.
What’s your favorite thing about Fresno?
Not any one thing. I was on the Creative Fresno Board of Directors for several years and that not only built long term friendships but broadened my interests. I grew up just outside of Philadelphia (huge), and over the years worked in many smaller communities. Depending on what I’m doing at the moment, I enjoy Fresno as a big “small” town and a small “big” city, depending on the day.
If you want to donate a couple of bucks to Domino’s medical expenses, click here to visit the GoFundMe page. If you’re interested in adopting a cat or dog that needs a home, you can contact The Cat House on the Kings or Valley Animal Center (to name a few!). You won’t regret giving a furry friend a new home.