All dogs deserve love and a happy life, even the ones that look a little strange. Often times “ugly” dogs are passed over in favor of more conventionally cute pups, but they still have a lot of love to give.
That’s the message of the annual “World’s Ugliest Dog” contest at the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma. While the name sounds a little mean, it’s all in good fun and meant to promote the adoption of shelter dogs, even the ones that have unique looks.
And on Friday, this year’s winner was announced: Chihuahua mix Mr. Happy Face was celebrated as top “ugly” dog, reigning supreme after a lifetime of obstacles.
According to his bio on the contest’s website, Mr. Happy Face was adopted by his owner, Janeda Banelly, from a shelter during the pandemic. The shelter told her they had a 17-year-old dog suffering from health issues who needed a home.
“I was warned [he] could be inbred because he was so ugly,” Janeda wrote. “The shelter staff tried to prepare me for what I was about to see.”
Mr. Happy Face isn’t what you’d call traditionally cute: his askew-head, a “mohawk” full of gray hairs and and long, stuck-out tongue give him a uniquely strange appearance.
On top of that, he has neurological issues that make it hard to walk, he requires a diaper, and he had a number of tumors. Janeda was told he only had weeks to live.
But still, she was moved by his story: Mr. Happy Face was rescued from a hoarding situation, and he survived “deplorable” conditions, surviving off anything he could. But despite everything, the dog never lost his spirit.
“When I first met him, he was the happiest creature that I had ever met,” Janeda wrote. She knew immediately that she could give him the love he deserved.
“He hobbled up to me and chose me. I vowed that day, he would be so loved that he would never remember how awful his previous life had been.”
Thanks to her love and kindness, Mr. Happy Face defied the odds and survived. Despite his quirks, including sounding “just like a Dodge Ram diesel truck reviving an engine when he is elated,” Janeda loves her “fearlessly adorable” dog.
And now he’s won hearts all over the world, thanks to the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest.
The contest has been held annually for almost 50 years (though the last two were canceled due to the pandemic), giving “ugly” dogs a chance to “bask in the limelight,” according to a press release. The contest is not meant to mock ugly dogs, but to spotlight them and encourage people to consider adopting this special dogs.
“Since the 70’s, the Contest has been a testament that all dogs do not have to meet AKC pedigree standards to be man’s (or woman’s) best friend,” the press release says.
Most of the contestants were rescued from shelters and puppy mills. All the contestants are healthy, as they have to get clearance from a vet first.
With his “ugly” looks and inspiring backstory, Mr. Happy Face beat out some tough competition and took the top prize.
“It was clear and obvious Mr. Happy Face deserved to be champion,” contest judge Debra Mathy told the New York Times. “All the obstacles this dog overcame physically and in his past life — it’s amazing.”
A Pekingese named Wild Thang took second place, winning over judge and NBC correspondent Kerry Sanders for its resemblance to a Tribble from Star Trek, and a 12-year-old Blue Factor Brussels Griffon named Monkey placed 3rd.
“She was rescued from a hoarding situation 11 years ago and is living the best life a dog could have ever since,” Monkey’s owner wrote in her bio. “Best dog anyone could ever ask for and I have been the lucky one to have her!”
But it was Mr. Happy Face who stole the show and hearts around the world. Janeda hopes her dog’s story will inspire others to open their hearts to “ugly” and special-needs dogs.
“I believe that this humble soul is also being an example, in subtle ways, to help humans realize that even old dogs need love and a family too.”
Mr. Happy Face might be the world’s ugliest dog, but he’s also totally beautiful! ❤️
Share this dog’s heartwarming story if you believe all dogs are worthy of love.