The monsters in my urban fantasy novella, The Monsters of Chavez Ravine, are many and come in different shapes and sizes, but the one that first popped into my head was Dog Face Bride.
I’ve been thinking about it since I was a kid.
Thank you, Grandma Chata. Whenever I asked my grandmother for a story, she told the same one every time. Now that I think back on it, it was a strange tale for such a sweet, kindhearted woman to tell a young child. I spent most weekends with my grandmother, a seamstress, at her house in Boyle Heights.
She swore the story was true. It went like this:
It happened in the old mining town of Bisbee, Arizona, my grandmother’s hometown. A friend of the family, a young and beautiful young woman, fell in love with a handsome man. She did not know he had a wife over the border. The young woman believed they were engaged, so she had a wedding dress made. Then she discovered her lover was a liar. She became crazed with grief, then rage. He fled back to Mexico.
Still, this miserable young woman could not get over him. I don’t recall the name my grandmother used, so for this story, let’s call her Anna.
The family called the local curandera, who tried one concoction after another, with no effect. The healer said the man had sinister powers and had bewitched her.
The experience left the jilted young woman deranged. Anna wandered around wearing her wedding dress (shades of Dickens’ Miss Havisham), talking to herself and making aggressive gestures at anyone who tried to console her.
For her safety and for those around her, the family locked her up in a shed made comfortable for her stay. She endured her confinement without protest, but everyone could hear her wailing and cursing her ex-lover. Her sisters took turns taking her food and visiting her.
My grandmother said she was a young teenager at the time and avoided visiting her friend at home because she found the ruckus strange and terrifying.
Then, one day, the noise from the shed stopped.
One of Anna’s sisters went to investigate. The sister stood outside the shed door and called Anna’s name. Nothing. No response. Then a low growl.
The sister unlocked the door and opened it. A large black dog emerged from the gloom of the shed, let loose with a piercing long howl, then ran off. Anna had disappeared, never to be seen again.
Well, you can see how a person told such a bizarre story could mash up the two: Anna and the dog.
Which is how I came up with Dog Face Bride.
When I commissioned an illustration, the artist asked the million-dollar question: “What kind of dog?”
Hell if I knew. Was there was a dog breed out there that matched the picture I’d formed in my head? This led to furious searching on the web.
And then there it was! The Xoloitzcuintli or Mexican Hairless, except not the toy version, but the standard size. It’s beautiful and scary. The AKC describes the Xolo as loyal and calm. A very nice dog to own, so I felt guilty using the breed as the basis for the monster. My youngest daughter, a huge Disney fan, pointed out that the dog in the animated movie Coco is a Xolo, so that made me feel somewhat better.
So, a final thanks to Grandma Chata for the inspiration for Dog Face Bride. Not so much for the nightmares.
And I have a few more notes of appreciation.
To Natalia, the freelance digital artist from Poland, who interpreted the monster. She NAILED it. You can find her on FIVERR.
And as for bringing Dog Face Bride to life with movement, I have Suzanne at Motion Kitty to thank. I think you’ll agree she did a fantastic job! And not only that, Suzanne works fast and is delightful to work with.