Martha, the Neapolitan Mastiff and queen of ugly, will pass on her title of “world’s ugliest dog” when a new dog is crowned at the Sonoma-Marin Fair World’s Ugliest Dog contest in Petaluma this Saturday. And despite having to relinquish her crown, the 125-pound pup is quite content at the prospect of retiring to her bed in the quiet town of Penngrove.
With billowing, saggy jowls, red eyes and a tendency to produce long strings of glistening drool and gas, Martha easily took home the title at last years’ World’s Ugliest Dog contest and since then, has had quite the eventful year.
After winning the title, she and her foster parent, Shirley Zindler of Sebastopol, gained national attention and were flown to New York to appear on the “Today Show” where they were featured on the show and met with correspondents including former news anchor, Matt Lauer.
While some dogs may be excited about receiving the copious amounts of attention, belly rubs and milk bones that come along with being a crowned winner, Martha instead enjoys the simple life. The highlight of her time as “world’s ugliest dog” has been settling into her new country home in Penngrove.
“She has an amazing life now. She lives on 11 acres with a pond and has fun with her buckets (the unique pup likes to pick up and carry around old plastic buckets for fun),” Zindler says. “She has a big cushy bed, gets cuddles and plays with the other dogs.”
Zindler says Martha’s new parents are fond dog lovers and enjoy giving the laid-back dog lots of love.
“Her life is incredible now compared to before,” Zindler said.
Last year Zindler, who is also the president of Dogwood Animal Rescue in Santa Rosa, spotted Martha for sale on Craigslist for only a couple of bucks and she and her friends noticed the discoloration of her eyes and realized she needed help.
The four-year-old was in chronic pain and was going blind in one eye and was most likely going to be used for breeding purposes at a puppy mill until Zindler rescued her.
“She was a foster dog and someone adopted her right before the event. Since she was healing up from her surgeries I was still fostering her and getting her healthy and days before the contest I was looking at her jowls and entered her just for kicks,” Zindler said.
After Martha unexpectedly (hairless Chihuahuas with under bites typically win) took home the tile, a fundraiser event was held in order to help cover the costs of her expensive vet bills and the event ended up raising money for Martha and for other dogs like her.
Zindler hopes this pup fairytale can come true for other dogs who may have had a rough time and she believes the contest is a great way for dogs of all shapes and sizes to find their forever home.
This is one of the reasons why the contest is significant for dogs like Martha since the worldwide event advocates for the adoption and adoration of all dogs.
“Some of these animals may have been inbred, born into puppy mills, or not adopted and that is why we are advocating for all of these animals,” says Christy Gentry, media spokesperson for the Sonoma-Marin Fair. “It is both heartbreaking and heartwarming.”
For instance, Santa Rosa contestant Scamp, was found in a Los Angeles animal shelter without a “no kill” policy and was an hour away from being put down until he was rescued.
“It is the Cinderella story for dogs,” Gentry said of the contest.
As Martha continues to live out the happy ending of her Cinderella story, it is still unclear who the title might go to and Rohnert Park Animal Shelter Director, Mickey Zeldes, says this year there aren’t a lot of local contestants.
“There aren’t any local (Rohnert Park, Penngrove, Cotati) entries… but it brings in a lot of people and it is a funny, high-profile event. And it is not for everyone, the dogs are hideously insane,” Zeldes said laughing.
While they may be “hideously insane,” they are also beautiful at heart and as the old saying goes, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Besides, who doesn’t love a sweet drooling mess who will love you unconditionally?