After our beloved Shih Tzu Bella showed signs of impending departure from her earthly realm, I decided to be proactive and find her potential replacement for my then 12-year-old daughter. I went on Pet Finder to find a Shih Tzu as a preemptive strike to lessen Bella’s impending loss, when I observed the most bizarre looking animal standing out among the pictures of Shih Tzu’s hoping for adoption. A creature eerily resembling a fruit bat stared out at me with the most pitiful watery and bulging eyes I’d ever seen. Boasting an under bite that would have provided an impossible challenge to the most experienced orthodontist, Carmen was advertised as a “shy” six-pound bundle of love.
Captivated by such a bizarre and terrified looking creature, I took a lunch hour to visit her at her foster home. Lorrie, Carmen’s caring foster mom, was brutally honest about her prognosis, which was poor to say the least. Carmen was rescued from a deplorably filthy hoarder house in Modesto, California that contained 26 Shih Tzu’s and Shih Tzu mixes. Obviously, there must have been a deer head Chihuahua in the fray who was either part of the pack or a frequent visitor because poor Carmen favored her unfuzzy sire or dam. Even the local Shih Tzu rescue would not take her and left her behind to fend for herself. It was only through the actions of some kind-hearted local dog rescuers in Modesto who stepped in and transported her to New Beginnings for Animals in Aliso Viejo that Carmen managed to stay alive.
Lorrie advised me that Carmen remained terrified from her ordeal and would only leave her dog bed at night. Only under the cover of darkness would Carmen leave her bed to play with a solitary squeaky toy, eat, poo, and then huddle down again. A pathetic and sad existence. I took her of course. In my deranged mind, I thought that she was the cutest, hot mess I had ever seen. My daughter was tasked with socializing her. That meant at a minimum, getting her to come out from under my daughter’s bed where for the first six weeks she had chosen to live, not treating her poop as an appetizer, (which left her with the unmistakable nickname of “doo doo breath”) and limiting her bizarre barking, which sounded as if she was being tortured on the rack. “Charmin Carmen” as my husband came to call her began to leave her unique mark on our household.
It has been five years since Carmen Frankenweenie entered our lives. Carmen remains an odd duck but a greatly loved one. She is freakishly anti-social with non-family members, awkward at best with other family dog members, terrified of the world outside our doors, and glued to my daughter at the hip. In fact, if it was not for my daughter Elena’s great patience and love Carmen would still be living under the bed 24/7. Yet, today and every day our beloved Frankenweenie is out there zooming around the house with her little doggie siblings and grinning to the world with her gruesome under bite. It would not be the perfect life for every dog, but it is enough for Carmen.
– Joyce M. Keller