Out of a field that included a “hairless mutant” with no teeth and a crooked face, a creature that resembled “a hyena or mandrill baboon,” and a canine with a “gorilla-looking head,” a Chihuahua mix named Mr. Happy Face emerged on Friday as the foulest of them all, winner of the 2022 World’s Ugliest Dog contest.
Mr. Happy Face, who once lived in abusive and neglectful conditions with a hoarder, has tumors and neurological issues, requires a diaper, struggles to stand upright or walk, and holds his head askew.
Yet he has reached the age of about 17, sports a natural mohawk and makes a sound “like a Dodge Ram diesel truck” revving its engine when he is happy, according to an online biography.
“It was clear and obvious Mr. Happy Face deserved to be champion,” Debra Mathy, one of the contest’s judges, said on Saturday, adding that the judges did not even bother debating who should win. “All the obstacles this dog overcame physically and in his past life — it’s amazing.”
The dog and his owner, Jeneda Benally, won $1,500 and a trip to New York City to appear on the “Today” show.
The contest says it promotes the adoption of dogs, even ones that might have “missing fur, crossed eyes, duck waddles or mismatched ears.” Eight dogs walked the red carpet at the event, which is held during the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma, Calif., and has been going on for nearly 50 years. It resumed on Friday after being suspended in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic.
“They’re promoting rescuing dogs, that all dogs regardless of their appearance deserve to be loved,” Ms. Mathy said.
When Ms. Benally adopted Mr. Happy Face from a shelter in Arizona, “the shelter staff tried to prepare me for what I was about to see,” she wrote on the contest website. Mr. Happy Face had lived at the shelter for “quite some time” and a veterinarian estimated that he had only a few weeks, or at most a month, to live.
“I vowed that day, he would be so loved that he would never remember how awful his previous life had been,” Ms. Benally wrote. In his new home, Mr. Happy Face has already made it to 10 months.
Second place, with a prize of $1,000, went to Wild Thang, a survivor of distemper who is now toothless, with a perpetually protruding tongue.
Wild Thang was an “adorable mess,” Ms. Mathy said, adding the dog “looked like 50 pounds but only weighed six pounds, because it was all fur.”
Previous contest winners include Scamp the Tramp, “a dog of unknown breeding with beady eyes, no teeth and short stubby legs” in 2019, as well as Martha, a Neapolitan mastiff with “droopy red eyes, uncontrollable drool and baggy skin” in 2017.
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