From Filthy to Fluffy


Marilyn Burleson loves Shih Tzus so much she refers to them as “kids.”

So when a call came Tuesday to rescue 27 apparently mistreated and filthy purebreds, she and friends piled the dogs into their trucks and rushed them to her Critter Clipper dog grooming studio here for emergency care.

“We’re just frantic,” said Burleson, who has rescued Shih Tzus for 16 years. “I’ve got to place these puppies somewhere.”

The seven volunteers spent much of the afternoon and evening bathing, flea-dipping and combing the Shih Tzus. Business was turned away for part of the day to make way for Burleson’s biggest rescue to date.


More than 200 ticks were pulled from one dog alone. Others suffered fleas, ear and skin infections, rotten teeth, bad eyes and hair loss. A few were pregnant. They were examined by a veterinarian.

The flat-faced dogs with pouty eyes and long coats took the cleanup in stride, yapping little under the dryers, clippers and combs.

“Only one is very frightened,” Burleson said. “Other than that, they’re sweethearts.”

Burleson said she acquired the animals from a home-breeding operation in Westminster. Not identifying the owners, she would only say they were physically unable to care for the dogs.

“We went over there and they said we could have them all,” she said. “These dogs are breeders. They have been bred and bred and bred.”

The yard, where the animals were roaming freely, was reportedly dirty and unfit for breeding. One Shih Tzu was found dead. Volunteers did not know how long the dogs had been there and speculated that they were from out of state because of the amount of ticks.

“It was horrible,” said Colleen Lohse, 32, of Huntington Beach, who helped. “People can take care of people, but animals cannot care for themselves.”

Westminster police contacted Tuesday night said they were unaware of the situation, and Animal Control officials could not be reached for comment.


Burleson said she was in the process of obtaining release papers from the owners so she could find adoptive homes for the dogs. If she can’t secure the papers, she said, she may have to call animal services officers--but would prefer not to.

“I don’t want these ‘kids’ to go to Orange County Animal Shelter.”

Shih Tzus are a small breed of Chinese dog about 8 to 11 inches long, weighing 9 to 16 pounds when healthy. They have broad heads, round eyes and short, square snouts. Coats are long, silky and usually a mix of black, gray and white.

“They’re the most docile animals,” said Mary Jo Selby, 49, of Balboa Island, who owns one and helped with the rescue. “They’re laid back, sweet as can be.”


Adoptive and temporary owners are needed, as are donated vaccinations and food.

Information: (714) 962-6988.