ARF: Skippy the Spaniel, Taking the Tamale Trail

by Wendy Hunter
Wendy Hunter is a volunteer with the Animal Rescue of Fresno. ARF shares with KRL their animal rescue adventures every month.

“And I'll skip to Heaven on my own two feet.” – Terri Guillemets

Ah, the unmistakable aroma of something delicious cooking in the kitchen. Spices wafting through the air: cumin, coriander, and oregano, along with onion and garlic, tantalizing your taste buds. Roasting jalapenos, chilis, and peppers sputter in the oven, corn husks soak in a hot bath, and seasoned hands gently work a batch of masa. Selected meats such as chicken, pork, and beef are married with all these flavors, and before you know it, you’ve got the makings of something special. Something that melts in your mouth. Something that makes you sigh a little. Something that makes you want to lick the plate. Hey, I’m not judging. What you’ve got my friends, is tamales, and as sure as the sun sets tonight, you’ll beg for seconds. And if you’re a stray dog, lost and lonely, roaming the city streets, begging is something you get used to. And if you’re a very hungry dog, the smell of tasty tamales permeating your nostrils is a heavenly scent you will doubtlessly follow. As a matter of fact, you might even skip a little, just to get there.
Rescue dog Skippy

And that’s just what Skippy the Spaniel did – he followed his nose to the Promised Land. Well, it was actually the Tower District’s beloved Casa de Tamales restaurant, but that’s pretty much Paradise. With just a whiff of those generously stuffed packets of goodness, Skippy was transported to tamale utopia. From yummy creations like creamy chicken poblano, New Mexico chili pork, shredded beef, and even vegan versions like spinach/artichoke and Portobello/asparagus, these are the real deal. Craving something sweet? Try the triple chocolate cake, blueberry/cream cheese, or sweet corn tamales. Is your mouth watering yet? I’ve a feeling scrawny little Skippy was drooling by the time he landed in the restaurant’s back patio, trembling in a corner. This charming black and tan pooch was found in the summer of 2016 by Jose and his wife Liz, the owners of Casa de Tamales. According to Jose, Skippy was absolutely terrified, extremely dirty, and obviously starving. Which meant the only way they had any chance of touching or catching him, was using the one thing no canine carnivore can resist; food. It was time to bust out the tamales…

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For the next six weeks, the couple played host to Skippy, while trying to find his owners or a permanent home for him. At the time, Jose and Liz were unable to keep him on a permanent basis, as they already had dogs of their own. But they were willing to be foster parents, and do whatever it took to provide sanctuary for Skippy as they continued their search. The duo posted on Facebook, visited local shelters, and tacked up flyers in the immediate vicinity; they received no responses. During this time, Skippy began adjusting to his new surroundings, exploring the home and backyard. In the beginning, he was kept in the laundry room, but that didn’t last long. Jose explains, “Skippy knew there were other dogs in the house, so he insisted on being with them. We ended up using a large crate, so he could be near the other dogs, while keeping everyone safe, until they got to know each other.” Good plan. Jose says that during this period, Skippy started warming up to them, but more so to Liz; he seemed to prefer a female presence. It’s possible that his experiences with men have not been good ones, or that he just hasn’t been around men much. Perhaps his previous owner was a woman, and he’s more comfortable around females. Or maybe he just knows the wiser sex when he sees it.

Nevertheless, Skippy eventually settled in, and began to enjoy life in his temporary digs. Skippy loved the companionship of other dogs his size, and actually preferred it to being alone. Jose recalls, “He was okay by himself outdoors, getting used to the fenced in backyard, and he liked having his own dog house. He didn’t mind being outside, as long as he had company.” Since Jose had mentioned the spunky spaniel had some protective qualities, I wondered if he meant as a guard dog. To which he responded, “Yes, as a guard dog. Once he got familiar with the backyard, he seemed to become territorial.” As for any behavioral issues, Jose says, “When he was alone in the yard, we don’t recall him being an excessive barker or digger, but he was fearful and defensive at first. That disappeared with time, especially with Liz; he was more of a lap dog with her.” It must have been quite the culture shock going from roaming back alleys for scraps, to a full tummy every day. From sleeping under shrubbery in the cold, to a soft, warm bed every evening. Nothing says home like fuzzy blankets to burrow yourself underneath, and a couple plush toys to keep you company. Don’t even think about touching that pink piggy; Mr. Oinkers is all mine.

For dogs like Skippy, who don’t like being alone indoors, acclimating to a completely unfamiliar environment can be frightening. I mean, there are lots of people who don’t like being alone in a house they’ve lived in for 20 years, especially on a stormy night, watching Swamp Murders on ID Network. The lightning cracks, the TV flickers, and suddenly, a haunting voice emanates from the back bedroom, barely audible. Is it Pennywise? Pinhead? Poltergeist? Nope, it’s just your Amazon “Alexa”, creepily giggling for no apparent reason. Now that would scare both hound and human. Speaking of which, Jose believes the best human home for Skippy would be where someone is there most of the day, like a retiree or a person who works from their residence. A fenced backyard would be great, and older kids might be okay, providing they have a gentle touch. Jose praises his former foster saying, “I truly feel Skippy has a lot of love to give. Once he bonds to someone, I think he’d be solid as a rock.”

Rescue dog Skippy
Beginning over seven years ago with their grand opening celebration for Casa de Tamales, Jose and Liz have supported many local no-kill shelters. They began working with Animal Rescue of Fresno early on, by donating and hosting several adoption events. For the past few years, they’ve dedicated more time to ARF, because they’re great fans of our out-of-state placement programs, such as “Heaven Can Wait.” As Jose puts it, “Next to spay & neuter, getting rescues to other states is the best way to go, a win-win for everyone.” After unsuccessfully being able to find Skippy’s owners, Liz and Jose contacted ARF and we gladly agreed to take him in. Just like his namesake sandwich spread, Skippy is smooth and delightful, with just a hint of nuttiness. With his tufted toes, butterscotch eyebrows, and wavy coat, Skippy is the epitome of happiness on four legs. Playful, energetic, and fond of belly rubs, he cheerfully chases toys, and is an eager participant in the fine art of roughhousing with other doggy pals. If you would like to meet Skippy, come on out to Animal Rescue of Fresno, and we’ll be happy to make the introduction. Hmmm, maybe you should bring along some tamales. I know a good place…

“Our stray four-legged friends need all the help they can get. We’ll do whatever we can to help. It’s the right thing to do.” – Jose, Owner, Casa de Tamales

Check out more animal rescue stories in our Pet Perspective section on Kings River Life, and the Pets section here on KRL News & Reviews. 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. Learn more about ARF on their website.

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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.