The new ugliest dog in the world is… Mr. Happy Face

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The world’s ugliest new dog is a hairless Chinese Crested Chihuahua mix named Mr. Happy Face, who was entered into Friday’s contest on a whim.

Mr. Happy Face’s tuft of hair, wide eyes and hanging tongue captured the affection of his owner, Jeneda Benally, and the pageant judges. She and her dog won the grand prize of $1,500 and a trip to New York to appear on NBC’s “Today” show.

Benally, who lives in Flagstaff, Ariz., and part-time on the Navajo Nation reservation, was in California to record a pilot for his new Native youth radio show. She brought some of the youngsters with her, and one of them pointed out the world’s ugliest dog contest in Petaluma and urged her to participate. She decided to take Mr. Happy Face, who needs a diaper and can’t walk well, to the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds, carrying him in a stroller.

During the first adoption attempt, Benally’s original choice was adopted five minutes before he arrived at the shelter. So she asked for the “oldest, most unadoptable dog” and they brought out Mr. Happy Face. The vet gave Mr. Happy Face six weeks to live, but Benally has had him for almost 10 months.

“I said I was going to give him the best life possible. I wanted to return the love I felt from him,” Benally said.

The world’s ugliest dog contest, back after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, was hosted by longtime KZST radio morning show DJ Brent Farris. He and the judges had a blast describing the dogs as the judges evaluated them for the title sought. They were looking for ugly but adorable features, such as horse teeth, underbite, or weird colors. One of the judges was a dog named Bean.

Each dog was presented on the Kiwanis stage with its own theme song. One of the eight contestants, Monkey, and his owner chose “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley.

“Bean is intrigued by Monkey’s male pattern baldness,” Bean’s owner said.

“I’m impressed with her bad manicure,” said another judge.

Mr. Happy Face’s song was “Oh, Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison.

Second place went to Wild Thang, a Pekingese with a wild coat, big eyes, 4 inch legs and a wrinkled muzzle. He and owner Ann Lewis received $1,000. A distemper survivor, whom she got from another rescue dog in the home, 6-year-old Wild Thang, was adopted by Lewis, a retired dog breeder from Coos Bay, Oregon.

“All the dogs are adorable,” said Lewis, a former Los Angeles resident. “He is my heart.”

The third place winner was Monkey, a gray Brussels Griffon rescued at 6 months from a hoarding situation by Scotch Haley of Pleasant Hill. The price was $500.

Haley said the hoarder has 80 dogs, “and unfortunately the owner barked them, so she just squeaks.”

“She has more clothes than me, and shoes,” Haley said.

The contest also has a special “Spirit Award” based in part on the dog’s life story, which this year went to Morita, whose theme song was “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder. The “Beardless Mexican with the silky braids of an Afghan” is available for adoption and was presented by Yvonne Morales on behalf of Compassion Sans Frontières.

Morita was rescued from a Mexican beach where she was eating scraps with 33 other dogs, Morales said.

You can reach editor Kathleen Coates at [email protected] or 707-521-5209.

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