You might be asking why a Cuteness Correspondent might be at the 2012 World’s Ugliest Dog Contest at the Sonoma-Marin County Fair in Petaluma, California. I was certainly asking myself this as I packed my camera and my notebook and set off on the hour-long drive from the city of San Francisco to the suburban farmlands of Petaluma. Grabbing my press pass and heading to the Kiwanis Stage, I wondered what would be in store. I claimed a perch among the camera crews (at my stunning 4’11”, I never get in anyone’s way), dialed in my camera settings, and waited as a crowd gathered on an overcast but comfortable day.
Looking back, I noticed the competitors’ enclosure, crowded with humans and their ugly dogs. And that’s when I got it.
There’s something about a flat-faced Pug with her tongue dangling helplessly from her mouth as she cuddles in her person’s arms that is overwhelmingly endearing. It makes your heart inflate with warmth even as you might feel mildly repulsed.
For dogs, love is blind — they don’t care if we have a bad hair day, they don’t care if our skin has broken out like a slice of pizza, and they definitely don’t care if we haven’t showered in a couple of days because a bout of depression has laid us out on the couch (in fact, they’ll come lick the salty sweat right off of our faces). Though we’re the ones with opposable thumbs, we are humbled by their capacity for unconditional love and devotion. And even with her massive drooping tongue, Daisy the Pug looked on to the people around her with an eagerness to please and adore.
Hosted by pet psychic Sonya Fitzpatrick alongside a panel of judges, the dogs competed for a trophy, a $1,000 cash prize, a VIP (Very Important Pup) stay at the Petaluma Sheraton, a glamorous photo shoot with Nuena Photography, and a year’s supply of Doggie Dollar$ dog cookies. That and bragging rights as the World’s Ugliest Dog — who wouldn’t want that? In a world where everyone is clamoring for beauty and perfection, to be its ugliest is no small feat.
A couple of the dogs brought entourages of supporters outfitted in t-shirts emblazoned with the mutts’ mugs. Fan favorites, such as Icky and his human, Jon Alder, drew enthusiastic cheers from the crowd. When Peruvian Inca Orchid Sipan proudly addressed the audience with his elegant stance, we couldn’t help but cry out in admiration.
Competing in two classes — pedigrees and mutts — a winner was decided on from each to go head to snout against each other for a $600 cash prize. The 2012 winner was then hedged against previous years’ Ring of Champions to be declared the World’s Ugliest Dog.
One of my favorites was Reggie, a mixed breed rescue whose patchy coat, dangling tongue, and bug eyes won my heart. The competition was ruff, with Chinese Crested and U.K.-based therapy dog Mugly winning the pedigree class and 10-year-old Mexican Hairless mix Creature earning the blue ribbon for the mutt category.
Placed side by side, Mugly topped Creature for the 2012 title, and became overall champion against 2002 winner Rascal and 2010’s reigning matriarch Princess Abby to become the World’s Ugliest Dog. It was a British invasion of the gnarliest kind, but we all agreed that everyone at the contest was a winner even if they didn’t take home a prize.
Long live Mugly, the Ugliest Dog in the World!
Photos by Liz Acosta Photography