(This morning we welcomed the World's Ugliest Dog to our plaza. No, he's not offended.)
At 5:15 this morning I called the car company to make sure our guest and his owner had been picked up. They had, and I was excited. Elwood was on his way.
Elwood, if you haven't already seen him, was officially crowned the "World's Ugliest Dog" Friday at the Sonoma-Marin County Fair in California. He placed second at last year's contest, so I guess he needed another year to "ugly up".
He's been called "Yoda" and "E.T." One of our interns said he looked like a puppet for the next "Men In Black" movie. Campbell said he looked like a bat. With his tufty white mohawk and squinty sneer, I likened him to the canine equivalent of that seedy character you'd avoid in a back alley at night. (Not that you'd be in a back alley at night.)
Elwood, because his tongue doesn't retract, can only eat out of one side of his mouth. Occasionally, his tongue hits him in the face when he tries to eat or run.
So I was excited to meet him, not just because he's quite the celebrity, not just out of sheer curiosity, but also because part of me felt bad for him and the indignity of being dubbed ugliest of his species.
I wondered if Elwood knows that he's ugly? If, at Friday's contest, he looked around at the other 13 ugly dog contenders and sighed to himself with shame. Or if, hanging out in our green room this morning, he saw the other dogs for our pet exercise segment and wished he was as robust and burly.
As I found out, Elwood's owner, Karen, says it's quite the opposite. She says he has the confidence of any other dog, having his frisky and subdued moments. Dogs treat him no differently because of his looks, and he gets along superbly with cats (perhaps because he also resembles the ugliest of them).
To add to the persona, he wears a stylish collar with his name in faux jewels - the "o"s in "Elwood" in the shape of hearts. And contrary to what you'd think, the ladies fawn over him - including one of our stage managers, and the two women sitting next to Elwood on the flight back from California. Turns out there's no reason to feel sorry for him at all.
At first I thought maybe there was something mean about having a "World's Ugliest Dog" contest, but I realize that's just a human thing. And once you get past the initial reaction to seeing Elwood, whether it's to laugh, or gawk, you eventually embrace the ugly. And that's a great takeaway to his story.
To think, Elwood was going to be euthanized because his breeder didn't think anyone would want him. Now he's a star on the Today show, proving that every dog - even the World's Ugliest - has its day.