World’s Ugliest Dogs

Ugly Dogs cover“World’s Ugliest Dogs,” by Vicki DeArmon. Lyons Press. $12.95.

Dogs make us laugh, but ugly dogs make us roar. And that’s the take-away you’ll get after finishing this fun-filled volume, written by the producer of the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

The Petaluma, Calif., competition, associated with the Sonoma-Marin Fair, began as a small attraction and has morphed into media frenzy, with photos and feature stories gaining worldwide attention.

The book is packed with factoids – the total budget for the show is $500, not including trophies or prize money; the grand-prize winner receives $1,850 – and photo-packed vignettes of all the show’s titlists.

While looks are the No. 1 factor judges are eying, personality is a key element, too, writes DeArmon. And if you were a betting person, place your money on a Chinese Crested taking the title. Six-time and three-time winners were both Cresteds. Other sure-fire contenders are bulldogs, pugs, Chihuahuas, Shar Peis and mixed breeds.

Ever wondered about the origin of Jay Leno’s Ugly Dog Contest? That’s right: It came straight from the jaws of this Petaluma party.

The show itself is usually a wrap after an hour. It includes Pedigree and Mongrel rounds, with those two winners squaring off for the right to move into the final round against past winners in attendance. The victor is selected from that grouping.

DeArmon’s friendly, first-person perspective and colorful storytelling combine for a breezy read and the kind of rich, upbeat nourishment we can all use in our lives today.