I write frequently about my dog Oliver.
He is loyal. Intelligent. A good eater (lately into ripe strawberries from my garden). Brave. Well, loud and aggressive, anyway, and I think he’s secretly a bit of a chicken.
We got Oliver as a baby from a dog rescue family that was fostering his ma, a seemingly unadoptable, classic yellow cur. Father: unknown. In a White Plains kitchen squirmed eight chubby balls of fur, attached to eight wagging stumps of tails. It was January. We had run out of time to find adolescent Maud a puppy birthday present. Ollie was it. He might be a beagle, from his coloring. Who knew?
We found everything he did delicious even though he smelled bad and was so snaggletoothed he needed a lot of dental work. His lip was partly cleft. He waddled. Most of all he didn’t play well with others. All he did in obedience class was bark at his classmates. He once found a warren of rabbits and killed them all. His genetic origins, it seemed clear, spanned the basset hound and the pit bull.
Still. Ferocious as he is, he can be the picture of docility. Smiles over the shoes he brings when we come in the door, earning his nickname the Jolly Rancher. He can be mellow, even soulful.
He’s was a flaming redhead for Halloween when he was about a year old.
Clownface, I call him.
Whatever else he is, he’s unique.
And so it is that I became shocked and miffed to see this year’s Ugliest Dog in the World paraded across a stage in California and then making the talk show circuit in New York. The contest has taken place for 25 years, and the Chinese Crested breed, which is hairless, usually triumphs. Not this time.
Walle came from Chico, and they were calling him a cross between a basset hound and a boxer. One judge said that Walle looked like “he’s been Photoshopped with pieces from various dogs and maybe a few other animals.”
Walle didn’t look like any other dog, everyone said, with his pudgy gait, chunky paws, large head, lowrise posture, oversize nose.
Well, you tell me. Is Walle unique? Or did we finally locate one of Oliver’s vanished siblings? More to the point, is the dog who won the laurels ugly?
Because Oliver is beautiful.