Perhaps it was Scooter’s resemblance to a glossy black jelly bean that earned him the title on Friday night as champion of the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest.
Or maybe it was his shock-headed, mohawk-like hair — strands that stood high in defiance of gravity — that pleased the judges in Petaluma, Calif., at the Sonoma-Marin Fair.
His tongue hangs loose from his mouth. His hind legs are reversed. His wee and gray tail is wispy.
And he sure is easy to love, the judges concluded.
“In the cutest way possible, he kind of reminds me of a hairy hippopotamus,” said Catherine Liang, one of the judges in the competition.
In a contest that promotes the adoption of dogs and celebrates imperfection — see the 2022 Chihuahua mix winner with his head askew; the 2019 king, Scamp the Tramp; the 2016 champ, Sweepee Rambo — the judges awarded the top prize this year to a 7-year-old dog that had been counted out for his appearance.
Scooter, a Chinese Crested, had been brought by a breeder to animal control in Tucson, Ariz., to be euthanized.
But he was ultimately rescued and given a “chance at finding a good home and a fairly normal life,” according to his biography.
“Today Scooter is not only surviving but thriving,” his biography says. “He has no idea that he is any different from any other dog.”
After being named the champion, his owner, Linda Elmquist, hoisted him high, his belly splotched and wrinkled.
Ms. Elmquist had loved him at first sight and felt like she could really help him.
Scooter uses a wheel cart by his hind legs to move around more easily, but he can also balance and walk with just his two front feet.
“It was a little sad at first to see the condition he was in,” Ms. Liang said. “But the more we got to interact with him, we realized how truly adorable and loving that animal is.”
What ultimately endeared Scooter to the judges, she said, was how he was “able to take care of himself.”
Still, years of walking on his front legs have taken a toll, and he now needs to take more frequent “rest stops, propping himself up on his butt, which he uses as a tripod,” according to his biography.
About two months ago, he got a new cart to help with his mobility.
Wheels or no wheels, the crowd at the contest did not care. They clapped for him as he was brought onstage. He wobbled. He winked his dark eyes. He flashed his ever-hanging tongue.
Scooter was, in the estimation of the crowd and the judges, a winner.