New Ugliest Dog in the World is... Mr. Happy Face

Top honor at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds went to a Chinese crested-Chihuahua mix adopted 10 months ago after being given 6 weeks to live.|

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

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

Benally, who lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, and part time at the Navajo Nation reservation, was in California to record a pilot of her new radio show about indigenous youth. She brought some of the youth with her, and one pointed out the Ugliest Dog in the World contest in Petaluma, and urged her to enter. She decided to bring Mr. Happy Face, who needs a diaper and can’t walk well, to the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds, transporting him in a stroller.

When first looking to adopt, Benally’s initial choice had been adopted 5 minutes before she arrived at the shelter. So, she asked for the “oldest and most unadoptable dog” and they brought out Mr. Happy Face. The veterinarian gave Mr. Happy Face six weeks to live, but Benally has had him for nearly 10 months.

“I said I’m going to give him the best life I can. I wanted to return the love I was feeling from him,” Benally said.

The Ugliest Dog in the World contest, returning after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, was hosted by Brent Farris, longtime radio morning show DJ at KZST. He and the judges had good fun describing the dogs as the judges sized them up for the sought-after title. They were looking for ugly yet lovable traits, such as buckteeth, an under bite or odd colors. One of the judges was a dog named Bean.

Each dog was presented on the Kiwanis stage to their own theme song. One of the eight competitors, Monkey, and his owner chose Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog.”

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

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

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

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

“All dogs are lovable,” said Lewis, a former Los Angeles resident. “He’s my heart.”

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

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

“She has more clothes than I have, 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 Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely.” The “Mexican hairless with the silky tresses of an Afghan” is available for adoption and was presented by Yvonne Morales of Santa Rosa on behalf of Compassion Without Borders.

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

You can reach Staff Writer Kathleen Coates at or 707-521-5209.

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