Dog Cheats Death – Becomes a Movie Star

This is the story of a ridiculously lovable Chihuahua named “Chiquita”. She lives in South Pasadena now. That’s after she cheated death not once – but twice. Her gravelly bark is also soon to be featured in a top Hollywood studio animated feature film. This is how Chiquita went from zero to hero.

South Pasadena resident, Maryann Garger, woke up one morning and had no intention of adopting any more animals. She already had her hands full with two dogs and ten chickens. Maryann was headed to Marengo Elementary School in March for the “Walk Through the American Revolution” to see her son perform. While waiting at the cross walk she overheard another South Pas resident say that she had a dog at home and was looking for a “forever” home for her. Once Maryann heard the description of a “cute little dog” – she asked her neighbor more about the details.

On somewhat of an impulse Maryann said, “I might be interested – here’s my number”. The whole encounter lasted 20 seconds. Later that day, a text arrived: “This is Monica Krieger. I’m the one with the cutest little dog…”. The next day, Maryann and her mom went to visit Monica and the dog: Chiquita.

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PHOTO: Derek Vaughan | News | Maryann Garger and Chiquita – The Dog Who Cheated Death

When Maryann first met Chiquita she was swaddled like a little baby in Monica’s arms. “I love this little dog and I want to make sure she finds a loving home” Monica said. Then Maryann held Chiquita – and fell in love as well. Maryann explained, “I was taken by her from the second I saw her.”

She learned that Chiquita was estimated to be 15 years old and had suffered from tumors. One set had been removed, and a second surgery was required to remove the other.

Monica, who is a planned giving officer for Best Friends, was fostering Chiquita during her recovery period, while she had stitches.

PHOTO: Derek Vaughan | News | Maryann Garger, Chiquita, and Monica Krieger

After they left, Maryann’s mother tried to talk her out of adopting Chiquita: “We can’t get the dog, it’s too crazy. She’s 15 years old, and she may not live. I don’t know.”

When Monica called Maryann the next day she said something that Maryann would never forget. Maryann had expressed concern that Chiquita was already 15 years old. Monica said, “You help out this dog now and then later you can save the life of another one.” The two neighbors then agreed that because they both loved the dog so much that Monica would keep Chiquita during the day – and Maryann would keep her at night. The decision became clear for Maryann: she loved Chiquita and would adopt her.

PHOTO: Derek Vaughan | News | Maryann Garger and Monica Krieger pampering Chiquita

Monica took Maryann to Best Friends Animal Society in Mission Hills so she could formally adopt Chiquita. Best Friends Animal Society is the only national animal welfare organization focused exclusively on ending the killing of dogs and cats in America’s shelters. A leader in the no-kill movement, Best Friends runs the nation’s largest no-kill sanctuary for companion animals, as well as lifesaving programs in collaboration with its nationwide network of members and partners working to “Save Them All”.

Upon working together with Best Friend’s Animal Society, Maryann learned the back-story of Chiquita’s life. She had developed the tumors and her previous owners most likely couldn’t afford the surgery. So Chiquita was dropped off at a city shelter where animals may eventually face the possibility of being euthanized. Best Friends pulled Chiquita from that shelter and provided her with the medical and foster care opportunity that saved her life.

It was a tense time for Monica and Maryann as Chiquita underwent her second surgery. The two friends who were now “co-parenting” Chiquita were on pins and needles waiting for the outcome of the surgery and biopsy. It became apparent that Chiquita was fine. She had turned a major corner in her health – and her life.

PHOTO: Derek Vaughan | News | These South Pasadena residents all now share a common bond

Once Chiquita recovered from her surgery she was thoroughly examined by another vet who estimated Chiquita to be not 15 years old – but closer to 7 years old. The tumors and hard living at the shelter had simply worn her health down and given her the appearance and energy level of a much older dog.

Chiquita is now living the “good life”. She plays in the backyard and chases the chickens. Chiquita never leaves Maryann’s side. Maryann even bought a special doggy backpack to take Chiquita with her on outings. She also traveled with the family to Maine for the summer.

It was during the summer that Maryann and her family noticed that Chiquita would make “weird sounds”. They started recording the “weird growl” on their phones – because it would make them all laugh.

Maryann’s husband Nick Fletcher is an editor at a top Hollywood animation studio. He’s currently working on a new animated feature film. Nick started cutting Chiquita’s unique growl into the story reel as the voice of one of the characters. When the rough cut was screened, the voice of the character (Chiquita) would get tons of laughs. Therefore, it is highly likely that Chiquita has graduated to voice work on a Hollywood animated feature! (We’ll have to wait for the final film cut to know for certain – and to learn the identity of that special character.) According to Maryann, “She has reinvented her life.”

It’s impossible to describe the sound of Chiquita’s growl. It might have evolved due to the fact she had a tooth pulled. To really understand Chiquita’s unique talent – check out the short video below.

So that’s the story of how a tossed away dog cheated death and overcame numerous obstacles to emerge on the other side as a Hollywood starlet living her best life. I think we can all learn something from Chiquita.



Derek Vaughan
Derek Vaughan is a contributing writer and local realtor specializing in South Pasadena. Known for his expert knowledge of digital marketing and the local real estate market, Derek has lived in South Pasadena for the past 20 years. Derek has also worked for the Walt Disney Company where he was responsible for digital marketing for both the properties and the NASCAR online store. He also holds degrees from the Indiana University School of Music, Purdue University and an MBA from Vanderbilt University.