Lifestyle & Human Interest

Meet 'Mr. Happy Face,' a Rescue Dog and the 2022 Winner of the 'World's Ugliest Dog' Title


There’s a breed of dog for everyone. Whether you want something snuggly, adventurous or strong-willed, there’s likely a breed out there who would love to share your lifestyle and interests.

And it’s not just cute pups people are after. Sometimes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and many owners claim that their dogs are so ugly they’re cute.

But for those who can acknowledge the truly gremlin-esque features of their pups, there’s the annual “World’s Ugliest Dog” competition held in Petaluma, California.

“For nearly 50 years, the World’s Ugliest Dog® Contest has been a testament that the pedigree does not define the pet,” the webpage for the competition stated. “Dogs of all breeds and sizes have warmed our hearts and filled our lives with unconditional love. This world-renowned event celebrates the imperfections that make all dogs special and unique.”

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While some find such a competition heartless, it offers unusual dogs a platform that celebrates their unique features and aims to raise awareness of the need for adopting all kinds of dogs.

“The annual World’s Ugliest Dog® Contest is not about making fun of ‘ugly’ dogs, but having fun with some wonderful characters and showing the world that these dogs are really beautiful!” the page stated.

The top contenders for 2022 included many rescues from puppy mills and shelters, and many of the breeds present were those often considered odd-looking: Pekinese, Chinese crested, Brussels Griffon, pugs, Mexican hairless and other dogs with alopecia were all represented.

But no one could beat the dog who ultimately came out on top: Mr. Happy Face.

The elderly pup has a goofy crooked smile and a tongue that won’t cooperate, only adding to the overall effect of his scraggly mohawk and otherwise hairlessness. A cross between a Chihuahua and a Chinese crested, Mr. Happy Face has come a long way from being used as a breeder to spending his twilight years in comfort.

Owner Janeda Banelly adopted the dog from an Arizona shelter last year, and wrote about his transformation as part of their entry.

“Mr. Happy Face joined our family in August of 2021,” the dog’s bio read on the webpage for the competition. “When I arrived at the shelter, I asked to see a particular dog that, fortunately for me, had just been adopted. I asked if there were any other dogs that were similar to that one.

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“There was in fact, another dog there who was much older and had health issues and I was warned could be inbred because he was so ugly. The shelter staff tried to prepare me for what I was about to see.

“I saw a creature who was indeed old, needed a second chance and deserved to be loved. Mr. Happy Face was born into our family at the age of 17 years old.”

Not exactly a spring chicken, the dog had a multitude of health conditions, tumors and came from a horrible hoarding situation. Veterinarians warned Banelly that he was basically a hospice case, would need medication for the rest of his short life and would likely only live a few more weeks.

But Banelly was already sold the moment Mr. Happy Face approached her.

“When I first met him, he was the happiest creature that I had ever met,” she wrote. “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. Love, kindness and mommy kisses have helped him defy the anticipated short life that we all expected him to have with our family.

“His hobbies are being fearlessly adorable, invoking his elder privilege amongst his four-legged and three-legged fur siblings and eating stinky things. Mr. Happy Face’s goals are to have a longer tongue than Gene Simmons and a more dashing snarl than Billy Idol.

“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.”

Now Mr. Happy Face can truly rest on his laurels in his retirement. Not only is he a winner of this year’s Ugliest Dog title, but he truly won by finding a home with Banelly where he will be spoiled for the rest of his days.

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