ARF: Marvelous Maya--One pup’s journey from frightened to fearless

by Wendy Hunter

Wendy Hunter is a volunteer with the Animal Rescue of Fresno. ARF shares with KRL their animal rescue adventures every month.
“The Goddess is Maya, embodiment of all delusions. She is Shakti, personification of energy. She is Adi, primal, as ancient and boundless as the soul.” Devdutt Pattanaik

To most people, the word Maya generally evokes images of an ancient civilization, and the jaw-dropping architecture of their stone pyramids. The name Maya actually has many definitions, in many different cultures. In Hindu philosophy, it means “illusion;” in the Nepali language, it signifies “love;” and in Hebrew, it’s a short form of “Ma’ayan,” meaning “spring of water.” There are several famous artists named Maya, all extremely talented. Maya Angelou was an award-winning writer, civil rights activist, and prolific poet. Maya Rudolph is an actress and comedian, who made her mark on Saturday Night Live, and the side-splitting film Bridesmaids. And Maya Lin is the amazing designer whose idea for a simple V-shaped granite wall won a national competition for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. She was only twenty-one at the time, and beat out 1,441 other submissions. Now that’s what I call girl power.


And speaking of powerful… one of the dogs we currently have at Animal Rescue of Fresno is certainly one Mighty Maya. This energetic jumping bean may not look big and strong, but according to her previous foster mom, she can “leap tall buildings in a single bound.” Maya is a tan and white terrier mix, with a scruffy face and lovely chocolate brown eyes. Due to her bouncy behavior and overall appearance, there might be a touch of Jack Russell hiding beneath her wiry coat. Before arriving at ARF, Miss Maya was taking shelter under an abandoned building with her mom and siblings. Which might explain why she was, and still can be, extremely shy around strangers and even volunteers. We can only imagine the kind of unpredictable life her family endured, and how scary it must have been. You can tell how the situation had an impact on Maya, by the way she warily eyes new people. Perhaps her only experience with humans was not a pleasant one, but we’ll never know for sure. If only dogs could talk, the surprising things we’d learn from them. I’m sure the ARF dogs would have full-blown conversations about their time with us: “Geez, why do they keep calling me George? My name is Charlie. Do they have to keep throwing that stupid ball? Where’s my green sweater? Hey, Rocky’s wearing my green sweater! Why is peeing on the blankets wrong? Ugh, I hate this new kibble…”

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It’s always been easy to spot Maya in the yard, as she’s never without a leash. At bedtime it can be difficult to catch her, and most of us aren’t up for a 20-minute chase around the fruit trees. This is often the scenario when one of our Partner Rescues shows up to select dogs for re-homing. Because Maya isn’t the type of dog to scamper over and jump into your arms, or roll around for belly rubs, she is often overlooked. Timid dogs like Maya don’t bound up to newcomers, eager to be petted or hugged, which makes it difficult to get a sense of their true temperament. Even though Maya socialized well with the other dogs, she seemed to have trust issues with people. It’s quite possible that during those early weeks of hiding out with her feral mother, Maya’s defense mechanisms shifted into overdrive. However, ARF never gives up on our personality-challenged pooches, and Maya soon found her champion. Enter Linda M., a longtime volunteer who decided to foster the pup and see if she could be tempted out of her shell with a few confidence-building techniques. And maybe some chicken.

Maya made great progress during the four months she was with Linda and her husband. Linda says she was very playful, and got along swimmingly with their two dogs. She made friends with cats and kittens. Maya began using puppy pads in the house, and her crate training improved as well, resulting in a dry bed more often, because a soggy doggy bed is gross. Linda began Maya’s training by showing her the ropes of learning to walk on a leash, and some basic commands like “sit” and “wait.” With Linda’s patience and guiding hands, Maya became more confident, and proved to be a quick study. The aforementioned chicken may have helped. Unfortunately, space was limited at Linda’s house, and she was unable to adopt her new student. Linda thinks she would make a wonderful family pet, but since they only have adults in their home, Maya’s attitude toward children is still a mystery. And so Maya has found her way back to the ARF facility, where she spends time playing with her old pals. In the meantime, Linda continues her instruction, and enrolled Maya in basic obedience classes at Melody Daggs Professional Dog Training, The dynamic duo worked hard on many skills like “sit, stand, stay, come, and down.” Miss Maya completed her Beginner Course in July of 2017. Milk Bones all around!

In the Fall of 2017, Linda signed up Maya for two consecutive Agility Training Classes at Melody Daggs. This is where Maya began to really show her athleticism and joy for this type of exercise. On the first day of the Level 1 class, Linda proudly posted a message on our volunteer site, “I won’t say that Maya stole the show…but she did. Loves to jump, walk the ‘plank’ with no problem, sat on the table, and flew up and down the A-frame.” During the Level 2 classes, you could feel Linda’s enthusiasm when she posted, “I wish someone from ARF could have seen her yesterday, flying over the hurdles, up and down the A-frame, through the tunnel, and sit/stay on the table.” I know a lot of us volunteers wished we’d been there, too. The instructor at Melody Daggs has some insight into what makes Maya tick. She told Linda that as smart as Maya is, she has not learned to be a pet yet. She believes Maya is not as aloof as she appears, but is actually an observer, waiting to pass judgment, and then acting. Maya certainly knows how to judge someone who might be a benefit to her, since she made fast friends with Santa Claus at our Holiday Open House. I bet a forever home was at the top of her Wish List.

Maya and Santa

These days, Linda takes Maya for sidewalk strolls around the ARF neighborhood, and continues to focus on their training. For myself, I’m thrilled to have a friendlier relationship with Miss Maya than I did before. Whenever I went into the yard, the most I saw of her was the end of that ever-present leash, trailing along behind her. She was always like a little ghost, just a flash of white fur, skittering behind the shed or hiding in the corner. Now, she actually comes running to the gate with the other dogs, hopping up and down like an over-wound Jack-in-the-Box. We’ve discovered from Linda that “off” is the key word in preventing her from jumping up, and Maya is still learning. Admittedly, I’m very guilty of not following these instructions, mainly because I forget, but mostly because Maya makes me laugh when she catches such big air. Seriously, if jumping was an Olympic sport, she’s be wearing gold already. It’s a nice feeling to be in the yard now, and actually have Maya approach me and accept the attention I give her. She seems happy, adjusted, and more comfortable in her scruffy skin. All Maya really needs is a lot of love, and someone who’s willing to take the time and patience to keep her moving forward. Well, that and some chicken.

Check out more animal rescue stories in our Pet Perspective section on Kings River Life, and the Pets section here on KRL News & Rewviews. Check back every month for another animal rescue adventure from ARF. Advertise in KRL and 10% of your advertising fees can go to a local animal rescue.

Wendy Hunter has been volunteering with ARF for just over a year. She grew up in Fresno and recently became an Office Assistant with Fresno County. She has been writing all of her life, though never professionally, and currently writes personalized poetry for birthdays, weddings, pet remembrances, etc.