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The Magic of Elwood: World’s Ugliest Dog

The Magic of Elwood: World’s Ugliest Dog

Every summer in Petaluma, California, the Sonoma-Marin Fair hosts the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest.  To many animal lovers, the term world’s ugliest dog may seem counterintuitive.  After all, can a dog really be considered ugly?  That would be like saying a baby can have an ugly mug – it just shouldn’t be said!

Award-winning documentary filmmakers John Beck and Don R. Lewis are putting the finishing touches on the documentary – or DOGumentary, as they call it — called Worst in Show which will be released on DVD this year.  It is currently being shown at the San Francisco Independent Film Festival.

Having discovered the trailer for Worst in Show, I got to thinking about a little dog named Elwood.  Elwood is the 2007 title holder of World’s Ugliest Dog and he hails from my neck of the woods – in southern New Jersey. Elwood’s mom, Karen Quigley, doesn’t really think her dog is ugly.  But she was coerced into entering the contest by a good friend.

Elwood came in second place in 2006 but took the crown for 2007.  Instead of resting on their laurels, Karen decided to use Elwood’s fame to help others.  Although he has no formal certification as a therapy dog, Elwood accompanies Karen to schools, nursing homes, hospitals and other events. 

The effect this diminutive creature has on children and adults considered to be outside the realm of acceptable societal standards is nothing short of miraculous.  Elwood is a mere five pounds of Chinese Crested/Chihuahua mix.  He has missing teeth which makes his tongue hang out his mouth and of course the hairless body makes a few human eyebrows arch up in surprise.

When he wears his bling collar — with his name in rhinestones — Elwood knows he is going to work. His attitude lights up all who meet him.   Karen so believed in Elwood’s message that she wrote a children’s book about him titled Everybody Loves Elwood.  The messages it relays are: it’s okay to be different; you don’t have to be beautiful to be lovable and by all means — treat animals well!

Due to Elwood’s celebrity, Karen received a call from a mother a few years ago asking her to bring Elwood to her daughter’s school.  The little girl suffers from Alopecia and the mother thought it might help her daughter to not feel so different and shunned. 

The beautiful thank you note Karen received from the girl’s mother was proof of Elwood’s magic.  The children at her school were now treating her with more understanding and respect, and the girl got a big increase in self-esteem from meeting Elwood.

Elwood inspired Karen to return to college for a degree in special education.  As a teenager it was her dream, but life took her in another direction.   Karen graduated from Gloucester County Community College last year and was asked to give the commencement address, along with Elwood.  She is continuing her educational dream at Fairleigh Dickinson University.  Each donned a cap and gown, and Karen and Elwood stood at the podium and addressed the crowd.

Some excerpts from Karen speech:

“[Elwood] became the face that reminded all of us that it’s okay to be different.”

“Sadly, we live in a world that wants ‘perfection’…we want the perfect home, the perfect car, the perfect children…yet, Elwood reminds everyone that we do not need to be perfect to be loved.   I knew his story needed to be shared – the story of a funny-looking puppy that NO one wanted because he was different, but who believes in himself and the importance of kindness and helping others less fortunate than he is – and, before he knows it….Everyone LOVES Elwood.”

“Elwood and I are a team.  HE is the message and I am his voice.   Elwood is a little pup…but his message is powerful:  the message for ALL of us to be kind and tolerant of differences.”  

I think Elwood is not only magical and beautiful — but inspirational, as well. It’s good to know he and his mom have promoted tolerance and helping others as the by-product of his celebrity.  Elwood and Karen are a real class act!

Related Stories: 

Norm’s Story–From Rescue to Service Dog

Paralyzed Dog Scales Mount Washington in Wheelchair (VIDEO)

Dog, Horse…It’s Good Food for Us


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Photo of Karen Quigley with Elwood at graduation used with permission of Karen Quigley.

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7:41AM PDT on Jun 9, 2013

to walter geesh i wonder why all the X's?!! on a + note way to go elwood and owner, you are some cute!! elwood

10:12AM PDT on Mar 31, 2012

Why ugly? Maybe unusual.

10:01PM PDT on Mar 25, 2012

Of course there are ugly looking dogs (and other creatures) but nothing can beat the ugliness of humans. Their intolerance, ignorance and wanton violence is beyond comprehension. The longer I live the more I respect, admire and love animals. Much nicer than most humans I know and certainly more loving and caring and less judgemental.

God made gardens of different colours, size, shapes and smells because they are so much more interesting than uniformity. Just so with our companions. Whether they be mutts, lurchers or pure bred, large or small, smart or dumb. They give our lives a dimension that otherwise would be sterile.

11:26AM PST on Mar 10, 2011

I`ve met a few people that were uglier than this dog. In fact, the more people I meet whose attitudes and outlooks on life are negative, the more I want to spend time with members of the animal kingdom!!!!!!! Such people are proof of the expression, ``If my dog had a face like yours, I`d shave his ass and teach him/her to walk backwards!!!!!!!!!!!!!``

1:01PM PST on Feb 28, 2011

No life on this planet is ugly. All creations are godly and beautiful. We are all born of the Earth which makes us all equal from the slug to the human being. What is ugly is the cruel intolerants that comes from the primitive minds of mankind.

5:11PM PST on Feb 20, 2011


3:24PM PST on Feb 20, 2011

Yep, beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes all the way to the bone. perhaps we could find a job like that for my X mother in law. Ugly she has in abundance, but the weight difference might defeat the idea. My XMIL refuses to divulge her weight, however last summer while she was swimming "Sea Sheppard" saved her life by chasing off a Japanese harpoon ship. During an interview the Japanese whaler captain claimed they originally took the action "in self defense."

8:15AM PST on Feb 19, 2011

Thanks for sharing~

5:54PM PST on Feb 16, 2011

My Junior is a male Rottweiler and he has an adopted female sibling named Juliet. Juliet an adopted SPCA street dog. She is ugly to many because of her spot baldness and lower teeth jutting out. But despite being half of Junior's size, she orders him around and pester him when he is sleeping. She is the most beautiful princess in my eyes even though many have called her "Ugh". Sometimes I cry, thinking how I will carry on with my life, when she dies. I love her more than my own partner! She may be horrid looking for a female dog but she sure has a good hold on my heart. :D

6:35PM PST on Feb 13, 2011

Inner beauty counts way more than what they look on the outside.

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