With a lolling tongue, googly eyes and a head of spectacularly stringy gray-white hair, Jeneda Benally’s Chihuahua-mix pooch would probably strike anyone as an excellent contender for the world’s ugliest dog. On a hot day in Petaluma Friday, it became official.
The inaptly named “Mr. Happy Face” triumphed over nine other scrawny, goofy, scruffy competitors at the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest at the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma. The annual contest has been held for nearly 50 years, and returned from two years of COVID-19 hiatus just in time to provide some comic relief to developments including the U.S. Supreme Court’s Friday decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The Ugliest Dog (we refuse to refer to him as Mr. Happy Face, in the interests of journalistic accuracy) won the $1,500 grand prize and an appearance on NBC’s Today show. The collective attractiveness quotient for New York City will doubtless plummet by at least 10 points when the hairless Chinese crested-Chihuahua mix arrives in town to appear on the show.
Second prize went to Wild Thang, a Pekingese, according to the fair’s website.
While the contest winner’s visage doesn’t exactly match up with his name, the evidence suggests that he is a very lucky—and, indeed, happy—critter.
The circumstances of the Ugliest Dog’s adoption are enough to make even the most cynical of humans throw down an “Aaaaaaw!”
In August 2021, Benally visited a local shelter in hopes of adopting a dog. Because of Mr. Happy Face’s, er, lack of photogenic qualities, “the shelter staff tried to prepare me for what I was about to see. I saw a creature who … needed a second chance and deserved to be loved. Mr. Happy Face was born into our family at the age of 17 years,” Benally said in a statement on the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds website.
The 17-year-old dog suffers from a number of health conditions and wasn’t expected to live more than a month when Benally adopted him. But now, 10 months later, he’s still around.
All together now: “Aaaawwww!”