Animal Rescue of Fresno: Paquita

by Wendy Hunter

Wendy Hunter is a volunteer with the Animal Rescue of Fresno. ARF shares with KRL their animal rescue adventures every month. You can learn more about them on their website.

“Do people ever get over being shy? I think it’s with you for life - like the color of your eyes.”
—Marilyn Monroe

While I was growing up in Fresno during the ‘70s, I was a pretty shy kid. I read a lot, took piano lessons, and dabbled in writing. When my parents had other grown-ups over for dinner, I stayed home with the adults, cleaning up the dishes, serving coffee, and attempting to entertain them with my feeble keyboard skills. I didn’t go out much, except for the occasional football game with my handful of girlfriends. I was that skinny kid with the long, dishwater blonde hair, walking the halls, staring at my feet on the way to typing class.

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All through my junior and high school years, I was self-conscious about my big derriere, and still am to this day. To make things even worse, one of my classmates started calling me “bubble butt.” I remember my ears stinging with embarrassment as I walked past her house, while she shouted that mortifying name from the front door. I was always jealous of my sisters and their flat behinds, how great they looked in jeans, and not a bubble in sight. But, with the advent of curvy girls like Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce, and the Kardashian Clan, I’ve learned to make peace with my booty. I still don’t like it, but at least I have a natural flotation device in case California ever does break off into the ocean.

When I started gifting my personalized poetry to family, friends, and total strangers, I crushed my shyness like a piece of porcelain. As soon as I started reading them aloud at celebratory events, my confidence went through the roof. In my late twenties, I moved away from Fresno to the Bay Area, and began working with a bunch of crazy salespeople at a leasing company. They all swore like sailors, fought like fiends, and dragged me out of my comfort zone. I began writing a monthly blurb about their zany antics, and it spread like wildfire. Being a wallflower in that environment was virtually impossible. However, some shyness still remains today; no matter how many compliments I receive on my scribblings, it makes me uncomfortable. It’s a double-edged sword because, even though I enjoy the attention, it can be strangely awkward. If you think being a bashful human is tough, imagine being a little dog who’s apprehensive of just about everything and everybody. Occasionally, Animal Rescue of Fresno takes in a frightened soul who just needs the right cure. A dog like Paquita, for example. Folks, we need a prescription for some TLC, stat…..

Paquita is an unremarkable dog. I know what you’re thinking, “Geez lady, that’s pretty harsh.” Now before you come after me with the hate, let me explain. My dog Cocoa, is also an unremarkable dog. We actually call her the Basic Brown Dog. Having no particularly exciting markings, or two different colored eyes, Miss Cocoa didn’t stand out, and she was easily overlooked. Paquita is a small, brown Chihuahua, about three-years-old, and timid as the nerdy new kid at school during lunchtime. Just trying to blend in, minding her own business, and avoiding eye contact. Do NOT look at me. Paquita has the most amazing coffee-colored eyes, which clearly reflect her wariness toward strangers. They seem to plead, “Please go slow…I won’t bite, but I’m very frightened.”

Because she came in as a stray from another shelter, it’s impossible to know what kind of life she’d been living. Any dog who winds up on the streets for a significant amount of time, will often build up a suit of armor. They become distrustful toward people, and even other dogs, especially if they’ve had to fight for every meal. For a peanut-size dog like Paquita, being the smallest one in the pack can mean being the last one at the dinner table. She may have subsisted on scraps the other dogs left behind, like a discarded cheeseburger bun, or the last bite of a burrito tossed in the trash. It’s not Hometown Buffet, but it will do in a pinch.

Like many dogs at ARF, Paquita is not fond of bedtime. She still doesn’t understand if you’re friend or foe, and will hide behind sheds or inside a crate. Because of this, she constantly wears a leash, which prevents any chasing by volunteers. The last thing you want to do with Paquita is to give chase, which will just terrify her even more. Approaching her in a leisurely manner and letting her come to you is a soothing way to build a trusting relationship. But, if that doesn’t work, getting close enough to gingerly step on that ever-present leash is a great back-up plan. In a perfect world, all of ARF’s little brown Chihuahuas would get adopted soon after arriving. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Some of them are lucky enough to score a plane ride to Minnesota, where they are welcomed into happy new homes. Of course, this is dependent upon their personalities, health issues, and age. For anxious dogs like Paquita, spending an inordinate amount of time at a shelter can be traumatizing. Let’s face it, even I’m a nervous wreck after dog-sitting at my sister’s house for just one weekend. Spending quality time with two dogs and a pony can be absolutely exhausting…

It’s hard to believe that anyone who makes their living on stage or in front of the camera would have a shy bone in their body. Barbra Streisand is known for her amazing pipes, but also for her infamous struggle with stage fright, “I don’t get nervous-nervous, but I don’t enjoy it. I get scared.” Jim Carrey says he was “Painfully shy as a kid...biggest geek alive in freshman year. No one ever talked to me.” And Lady Gaga claims she always feels shy in the Hollywood scene, “I feel a bit like I did in high school, like I don’t really fit in.” I was in Paquita’s yard yesterday, sitting on a bench with five dogs in my lap. I watched her while she laid in the sun, soaking up the morning warmth. Paquita seemed to fit in quite nicely with her canine crew, gazing at them quizzically as they chased after toys and rolled in the grass. She didn’t let me get too close, but later on, she was sitting in another volunteer’s lap. I didn’t take it too personally. Just like humans, dogs prefer to choose their own companions in life. Not every ARF dog is fond of every ARF volunteer, it just depends. Since I only volunteer on the weekends, I don’t get a chance to know many of the dogs very well, and vice versa. It can be like high school all over again; I’ve seen you in the hallway before, but I don’t remember your name…

Skittish dogs like Paquita have a rough time getting adopted. Many people don’t want to expend the time and patience it will take to convince her that you’re not the enemy. She needs some stability in her life, and someone with perseverance and a calm demeanor. But what she really needs is for someone to just give her a fighting chance. Barbra Streisand, Jim Carrey, and Lady Gaga were all bound and determined for someone to give them the break they needed, and the opportunity to be heard. For Paquita, her shot at show biz lies in the hands of that perfect person, who can take their blinders off, and see this lovely girl for all her favors and flaws. Paquita could easily be somebody’s shooting star; all she needs is that one audition.

NOTE: There are millions of dogs languishing in shelters every year. Many of these are extremely shy and frightened dogs like Paquita. Because they are deemed to be un-adoptable, these are the first dogs who are euthanized. ARF has been known to literally pull dogs from the table in order to save their lives. Please think about opening your home to a shy dog who may be fearful, but also very lovable.

Animal Rescue of Fresno is located at 4545 E Dakota in Fresno, CA.

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 four years. 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.