Remember Elwood, the 2007 winner of “The World’s Ugliest Dog” competition? The celebrity he gained from his title was transformed into a most inspiring lifetime of giving back to others. Elwood’s message was: its okay to be different, love yourself and others, and be tolerant of someone who doesn’t look like you. He has a children’s book written about him called “Everyone Loves Elwood” that expounds upon his message and reminds people how important it is to be kind to animals.
Elwood’s mom, Karen Quigley, rescued Elwood when he was 9 months old. A woman rescued him from a breeder who was planning on euthanizing the pup because he was considered too ugly to sell. When she needed to surrender her animals to NJSPCA, Karen’s friend –an SPCA officer — called her to ask her to intervene. The rest is history!
Elwood was a very healthy 8-year-old dog. Unusual looking, yes, but all five pounds of him was full of love, gentleness, caring and kindness. A Chinese Crested-Chihuahua mix, he had traits from both breeds. He was hairless, except for a small tuft of white hair that looked like a Mohawk style hairdo and a tongue that perpetually hung down from the left side of his mouth. Karen explained he never grew any teeth on the lower left side of his mouth, which is why his tongue constantly escaped his jaw. And, verbal communication Elwood-style wasn’t barking; he chirped!
Like any smart and kind creature, Elwood didn’t use his celebrity for personal gain. He parlayed it into doing good deeds for others. Visiting schools, hospitals and other group activities, Elwood sent his message of love, caring and tolerance to all.
In his lifetime, Elwood attended more than 200 charity events for non-profit animal organizations and other causes. He assisted in raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the groups, most of them about animals. He became a global sensation, appearing on CNN, Regis and Kelly, Dogs 101, The Rachel Ray Show, The View and numerous and others. The diminutive darling even inspired a six week lesson plan for 36 Brazilian elementary students on the topic of “Respect for Differences.”
Sadly and suddenly on Thanksgiving morning, Elwood crossed the Rainbow Bridge while being held in his mom’s arms, Elwood’s favorite place to be. Days before, he stopped eating and after various tests veterinarians thought he most likely had pancreatic cancer. He went home to live his last days with his mom and eight other four-footed siblings – one of them being a pot-bellied pig!
The Magic of Elwood Lives On
The legacy of Elwood will live on. Friends of Karen and Elwood were so devastated at his death that they decided to establish a scholarship in Elwood’s name as a way of continuing his selfless work for people and animals alike.
Karen is a special education teacher at Gloucester County College located in Southern New Jersey and teaches in the recently developed ACT (Adult Center for Transition) program. Elwood retired from attending charity events earlier this year, but made many visits to classrooms of all types during his working days. It seemed natural –with Karen’s choice of profession— to have a scholarship established for the students she teaches at Gloucester County College. Aside from financial need, scholarship awardees will be required to have done something to make the life of animals a little better, such as volunteering at a shelter.
As Karen mourns Elwood, she is receiving an enormous amount of emails sending condolences and stating what a wonderful impression Elwood had made in their lives; some from as far away as Taiwan, Portugal, Sweden and Australia. It will take some time but Karen vows to answer each and every email personally. She does some each evening after work. “Elwood was a symbol of acceptance for those who appear different,” said Karen. “The kids always got it [Elwood’s message] but the adults had to be taught.”
If you like Elwood’s message and are interested in joining those people who want to keep his legacy alive, you can find out more about Elwood’s Scholarship Program and on his Everyone Loves Elwood website.
Farewell, little man. You were blessed to find your forever home with a mom as wonderful as Karen. I’m sure you know that the feeling was reciprocated. It will be difficult without you, but Karen has faith that she will see you again. It sustains her through her grief. So, slip into her dreams every now and then to let her know you still love her as much as always. Elwood, you were a true champion!