When Janeda Banelly was looking to adopt a dog, an animal shelter in Arizona gave her a warning before she saw Mr. Happy Face.
“I was warned [he] could be inbred because he was so ugly,” she said in a statement. “The shelter staff tried to prepare me for what I was about to see.”
That was last August, when Banelly decided to adopt the then-17-year-old dog, reasoning that he “needed a second chance and deserved to be loved.”
Less than a year later, Mr. Happy Face is famous. On Saturday, the little canine won first place in the annual “World’s Ugliest Dog” competition, a tongue-in-cheek pageant held at the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma, California. The event returned this year after being canceled twice in a row due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the shelter’s warnings, Banelly knew pretty quickly that this was the dog for her.
“When I first met him, he was the happiest creature that I had ever met. He hobbled up to me and chose me,” she said. “I vowed that day, he would be so loved that he would never remember how awful his previous life had been.”
Mr. Happy Face, whose contest bio does not specify his breed, wasn’t expected to live long after his adoption. Regarding his longevity thus far, Banelly chalks it up in part to the “love” and “kindness” he’s received.
His hobbies, she says, include “being fearlessly adorable,” invoking his “elder privilege” over other pets in the household and “eating stinky things.”
This year’s first runner-up was a puppy mill survivor named Wild Thang.