Northside SF
In the pursuit of ultimate ugliness

Is Ratdog ugly enough to compete on the
largest stage in the world?

photo: courtesy of Simone Alexander
Some people have called our Chihuahua mix, Ratdog, ugly, but others say he’s endearing. There is a very fine line between gorgeous and hideous. Just look at some super models without makeup. My publisher, Susan, suggested I enter Ratdog in the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest, held every year during the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma. This year is the 23rd competition, and the first prize is $1,000, which comes with the coveted Ugly Trophy and a yearlong modeling contract from House of Dog, which also comes with another $1,000. It’s Ratdog’s chance to earn some money to pay us back for all the vet bills, treats, doggy toys, and food – because although he weighs only 16 pounds, the dog can eat!

Last year, Princess Abby – a Chihuahua with a missing eye, mismatched ears, stooped over like a frightened cat, and with a strange walk because her back legs are longer than her front – won out of 25 dogs, the crème de la crème of the ugliest dogs worldwide.

Ratdog is a rescue who came to us through a bizarre chain of events. His first owner, a friend of mine who has been dead for six years now, gave him to the Santa Clara Humane Society, where I randomly discovered him and saved him just days before he was headed for the doggy gallows. Ratdog is deaf and yips and yaps all the time at vibrations, like garbage trucks, motorcycles or the wind.

Some may think I named him after the Grateful Dead Bob Weir’s band, but I named him Ratdog because he resembles a large white rodent. He actually looks more like an opossum. I considered naming him Pogo, but no one would understand the connection, so Ratdog it is.

Ratdog was evidently starved at one point during his life. Consequently, he’s more food-centric than any animal I’ve ever seen. Have you ever witnessed hyenas gorging uncontrollably on Animal Planet? Ratdog consumes things most pooches won’t even sniff – like garlic, tangerines, bleu cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, skate, prawn tails, and live snails. He especially loves the “pope’s nose” of a roast chicken. He eats bones completely. As of last year, he stopped eating foie gras, out of respect for the ducks he encounters once in a while at the park.

He loves to be cradled in your arms like an infant, but only by people he knows really well. If another dog tries to mess with him, Ratdog will bite the offending mutt without hesitation. He’s a tough little guy.

Ratdog is older now, probably more than 100 in human years. But he still loves his walks, although he has his limits. When we walk past our gate after the first leg of our standard half-hour walk, Ratdog stops and plants his dirty little discolored paws on the sidewalk. His walk is over and he’s not going another step. He looks so pleased when I retreat back home, opening the gate and ending our walk short. 

Ratdog is also quite popular, especially with the ladies. One female friend actually tried to buy him from us for $500. She was writing the check. Can you believe it? What makes this ugly little mutt so darn endearing? Everybody who knows me is always asking about him: How’s Ratdog? What’s up with Ratdog? Why didn’t you bring Ratdog? They rarely ask about our other dog, Shelly.

What is the attraction? Maybe it’s because he really is the ultimate underdog. His bark is so annoying, it makes you want to scream. He’s licked his front paws so many times over the years that they’re orange-colored. He’s always a tad stinky, even right after a bath. He’s got “death breath” 24/7, and before we had to pull all his teeth, they were always a shade of light brown.

Last year, my wife and I made a five-minute movie for a short film contest here in San Francisco. It was called, Our Last Dinner with Ratdog, starring you-know-who. The finished product was terrible, it hurts us to watch it now, but Ratdog was great. Making the film was a learning experience to say the least – half the crew was drunk, my spouse got into it with the director, and the entire process cost me major bucks I didn’t have. But Ratdog was awesome. He hit his mark every time and was a real trooper. You can see the film on You Tube, but if you covet five minutes of your life, pass. It’s the Heaven’s Gate of short dog films.

So stay tuned as this stinky little mutt hopes to cash in on his ugliness. Everyone – human or animal has that one thing to share with the world – and Ratdog has his looks … or lack of them!


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