World’s Ugliest Dog Competition Gets Uglier Than Expected
by Hayley Nielsen
I went to the Sonoma-Marin Fair’s annual World’s Ugliest Dog contest expecting to leave with pictures of ugly dogs, but I also left with the surprising knowledge of discourse in the ugly dog competition circuit.
Yes, I said circuit.
This isn’t just a contest people decide to enter on a whim. The owners of the ugly dogs take the competition seriously.
Maybe a little too seriously.
A few hours before the actual judging began, several of the dogs and their owners hung out in the audience area and greeted fans.
I was psyched and ready to pet some ugly dogs. The first dog I met was Scamp, whose hair naturally spun itself into dreadlocks, making him look like a UC Santa Cruz sophomore trying to “find himself.”
Monkey, a dog with a sweet, bubbly personality and a sassy green manicure to match, tried to eat some of my food. She stared up at me intently, hoping I’d give in and throw a few fries to her. I was unironically honored. After all, she’s a contestant in the most prestigious competition I’ve ever been to.
Josie was my personal favorite in the competition. She permanently looks like how I feel after a stressful day at work.
The highlight of my time at the competition was definitely meeting Icky, an effortlessly cool and confident dog, and Jon, Icky’s owner.
Jon mentioned to me that “all of the contestants are like this weird-ass fraternity.” I was immediately intrigued. I didn’t realize the dogs’ owners were close. It was touching: a group of people brought together by their love for their ugly dogs.
“We actually met for lunch before this,” he said. “We’re all a little bit off our rocker, so we get along pretty well.”
Well, not all of them.
“Fuck Dane. You can quote me on that.”
Jon is referring to another contestant in the competition. Dane owns Rascal Deux, a Chinese Crested. I asked Jon why he felt that way.
“Because he breeds ugly dogs for the purpose of his own personal notoriety and I personally think that’s pretty douchebag-ish.”
Indeed, most of the other dogs are rescued, meaning their owners found them in pounds and through rescue organizations. Some, like Jon’s other dog, Zoomer, were days away from being euthanized when they were rescued.
It isn’t against the official rules of the World’s Ugliest Dog competition to enter a dog that wasn’t rescued. However, there are some discrepancies in the press release that Dane himself handed to me. This is a direct quote from that press release:
“Rescued, Rascal Deux is a 5.yo naturally hairless, 7. lbs. crazy critter, with Einstein hair, crooked face, and born without many teeth, some call him Bat Dog, Space Alien or a Chupacabra.” In the same paragraph: “Rascal Deux is ‘Ugly Dog Royalty’ being 5th generation to carry on the ‘Ugly Dog Dynasty’ with Dad, Rascal who won Worlds Ugliest Dog in 2002.” It goes on to mention Rascal’s Great-Grandfather, Chi Chi, and both of his Grandmothers, Lady Pink and Mai Tai. Several of these dogs have won the contest in the past.
If a dog truly was rescued, wouldn’t you be unaware of its lineage?
Jon wasn’t kidding when he told me: “behind the scenes it’s a lot more cutthroat than people realize.”
The actual contest itself was tamer than what apparently goes on behind closed doors. The dogs looked happy and comfortable, either walking down the red carpet and enjoying the attention, or being held in their owner’s arms. You can tell these people really love their dogs. Several carried them like babies and let the dogs lick their faces.
The winner was Sweetpea Rambo, a 17-year-old blind and deaf Chinese Crested, who I’m not entirely convinced is a dog, but rather a bat with paws.
There are some who may take issue with the contest. I’ve seen several people criticize the name of the contest, thinking it’s mean to call a dog ugly.
You know what?
We’re all a little ugly. Let’s celebrate it.
Hayley is an aspiring screenwriter and a Bay Area native. Her hobbies include drinking literally any kind of wine you put in front of her, tweeting minor celebrities and staring lovingly at stranger’s dogs. She hopes to one day write for a television show that will make you laugh, or at the very least make you chortle softly to yourself.
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