Sunday, February 5, 2012

Icky: Beauty is More Than Skin Deep

The World's Ugliest Dog Contest is held every year in Petaluma, California. People from all over bring their dogs to this king of the contest circuit, hoping for a shot at the current year's title. These dogs have been deemed "ugly" by our cultural standards of what makes a cute pup. Why some of these dogs and their humans want to win the title, though, is undeniably about as beautiful as can be.

Icky the Ugly Dog
Photo credit: Worst in Show
We reviewed the new documentary about this contest in Worst in Show Giveaway. Here's a little secret: the contest is not just about acquiring money and fame. For some, the cash prize can mean a world of difference for charities these dogs and their owners hope to help with the funds. Icky is one such dog.

Now, Icky has yet to win The World's Ugliest Dog title, but he did place second, and garner the crown in both the Trinity Fair and the  Benicia contests. In the latter, he beat out Rascal, whose person proudly parades him all over town proclaiming to everyone he's THE World's Ugliest Dog. Rascal does have a few winnings under his collar, including three years in a row at the W.U.D., so it was a big score for Icky.

Having the awesome opportunity to park our tail-ends and chat with Icky and his human, Jon Adler, we'd like to share with you some of what we learned. To say we're impressed with both this dog and his loving buddy would be an understatement.

Icky and Jon live in Davis, California. Jon says they've never not had a rescue - he's a dedicated animal rescue advocate. We asked Jon a few questions...

Please tell us a little about Icky.
Let's see...Icky is a 2 year old rescue from an animal hoarder in Butte County. He is either Chinese Crested or Peruvian Hairless, as they had both breeds running around.

What compelled you to enter him in The World's Ugliest Dog Contest? Was it his first competition?
He was kinda funny looking as a pup so we entered him into The Butte County Ugliest Dog Contest and they gave Icky second place, and then announced the first place winner was Rascal. Well, I knew of Rascal from The World's Ugliest Dog Contest, so I looked around but sadly - no Rascal. I wrote an email to Dane (Rascal's human), congratulating him on his big win which he won by sending a picture in. (Had I known that I would have photoshopped an extra leg coming out of Icky's head!) A few days later I got a generic email that said thank you for your interest in Rascal, please go to his website, BLAH BLAH BLAH.

Knowing that Icky took second to a ring champion at the W.U.D. contest, I decided to give it a shot. There was a past champion which I had always wanted to meet and I thought this is my chance. So I made Icky a Facebook page, Icky The Ugly Dog, which blew up to over 1,000 fans and won the online vote for the W.U.D. contest in 2010. We went to the contest, met some GREAT people and dogs, but didn't bring home any cash. Being involved with HIV Education and Counseling, I had stated that should we win Icky and I would keep the trophy and the $2,000 prize would go to the Sacramento AIDS Foundation.

So I turned this awesome fan base into supporters of TEAM ICKY at the Sacramento Valley AIDS walk and raised a lot of money. Then the Sacramento SPCA Doggy Dash and so on, and so on, and so on. We got a lot of press for our fundraising events as well as the movie and ended up winning the online vote AGAIN last year for the The World's Ugliest Dog contest!

What would you and Icky say is most fun about the contest? Most interesting? Worst thing about it?
Icky loves to see all of his friends - we really are a kind of fraternity, we all stay in touch (except Dane) and have a great time with the fans! The most interesting is the day after the contest. If you google "Icky the Ugly Dog" you have 80,000 hits from the world wide press - it is crazy! The coolest thing is that when Kathleen's Abbey won, she had no computer, no satellite TV, so she had no idea how big it was. I kept in touch with her and would print off all the news stories from around the world, but she really had not a clue. It was very cute.

The worst thing about the contest is the accusations of abuse/neglect that a few of the contestants have received. People can be nasty without even knowing what the hell they are talking about. These dogs are loved like no others. Hell, even Rascal has a great life!

What organizations does Icky raise funds for?
Well, Sacramento Capitol AIDS Foundation, Sacramento SPCA, and every year I pick a charity that - should we win - the big money goes to. Last year, it would have gone to the Mercer Clinic, which gives vet care and spay/neutering to the Sacramento homeless population's pets. And that's not even counting the West Coast Tour, as we like to call it, of the Worst in Show Screenings which were all held for local nonprofits.

Icky won first place in the Trinity Fair Ugliest Dog contest. Congratulations on that win! And even better, what was it like beating out Rascal in the Benicia Ugliest Dog contest?
Trinity County, believe it or not, was one contest which Dane had never heard of, so Rascal was not there. Benicia was when we went toe to toe - and put our money where our mouths were. And the look on Dane's face after him spending that much money for a second place ribbon was PRICELESS!

My entire family disapproves of the breeding of dogs until such time as there are no purebred dogs in shelters, which at current count is around 40%. But breeding unsound dogs, which he brags about - the fact that Rascal is the fourth in the dynasty, as he puts it, "a direct descendant of Chi-Chi, the original World's Ugliest Dog" - makes me sick.

In the film, they mention that Rascal has yet to add Icky as a Facebook friend. Are they Facebook buddies yet?
No, but I think he has spies! And Icky wouldn't accept him as a friend at this time anyway. Although, I have thought about challenging him to a cage fight in which the loser retires and make it a fundraiser.

What is Icky doing these days?
In the off-season, Icky kicks it at Starbuck's, lays in bed, plays with his fosters when we have them, and gets more love than he can stand.

Jon, is there anything that you'd like to add?
It's been my experience that the dogs that need us the most are the ones with the most to give. And unfortunately, those are the ones that are the last to be picked and the first to be put down. So we all need to keep doing our part.
- - -
CindyLu and I have no doubt that Icky could not possibly be loved more than he is, both by his family and fans alike. His sweet face, that cute little tuft of hair on his otherwise bald knee - he's a beautiful star and a shining light in this sometimes darkened and discriminatory world. He uses what he's been given in this life to better the lives of fellow dogs in need. Jon works with a rescuer who pulls dogs from death row, saving the lives of some of the most precious dogs on this planet.

Their latest foster, Lovie, was rescued by this woman an hour before he was scheduled to be killed, and lovingly nursed back to health by Jon with the help of funds donated through Chip-ins to cover Lovie's medical expenses. You can meet Lovie at his Facebook page - Lovie Adler. Two months ago, Lovie was a frightful mess with mange and kennel cough. Today, he's healthy and looking forward to going to his forever home.

Beautiful is as beautiful does.


  1. Icky's family sounds fabulous. I'm just as disturbed to read that Rascal was bred for this. A champion line of Ugliest Dogs? :( I also like his thinking that breeding should be put on hold until all the purebreds from the pounds are adopted.

    Personally, I have a soft spot for the Peruvian hairless, Chinese crested, and other "ugly" dogs. I vaguely remember dogs like pugs, bulldogs, english bull terriers and sharpeis being considered ugly before they crossed the threshold and became cute. To me, it makes no sense at all. It's like saying one race is more attractive than another.

    Anyway, enough crabbiness for one morning! Congratulations to Icky! Reading his story, I think it's well deserved.

  2. I really liked Icky and Jon in the movie. They seem like good folks and they obviously love their dog. Paws Up Icky!

  3. Greetings,
    Yes, tis I, Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet star. I have taken over the peeboard, oops, I mean keyboard of my human's computer because I felt compelled to leave one of my eagerly anticipated and sometimes rambling comments....
    Anyway, I do not notice anything remotely ugly about Icky. In fact, I think Icky is a lovely looking dog and I could see the two of us posing in a photo together.
    Still, the intentions of winning the so-called, apparently, highly coveted, World's Ugliest Dog Contest, does demonstrate, that behind this, are good intentions for good causes. That's got to be paramount. All animals are beautiful, all different and all equal. All should be cherished and not left to a fate not worth thinking about. Yet, for some weird reason, I wish Icky the very best in winning.
    And Icky, if you have read this comment, you will realise your day just got better knowing that Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet star, felt obliged to leave a comment to a gorgeous dog like your good self. Yes indeed, a bit of extra pawblicity from me. Arf! Arf!
    Pawsitive wishes and doggy kisses, Penny xx

  4. Great article! Icky and his family are top notch !!!

  5. Hi! I posted about Worst in Show today too. Icky seems like a cool dog and your interview is great to understand him and his family even more. High Paw, Icky!

  6. We don't see nuthin'wrong with Icky an'mom thinkz all dogz r boo-ti-ful. She lovez tu watch the World's Ugliest Dog.

    By the way, over on our blog, we haf an award fer you.
    Shiloh'n Shasta

  7. I liked your interview with Icky's owner. Labeling a cat or dog as ugly is pretty pathetic- but if entering them into "ugly" contests, provided they are truly loved and cared for by their owners, raises funds for the worthy causes that you have mentioned in this post, then I'm all for it.

    Besides, I think he's a lot cuter than some of the humans we got around these parts. Geesh!


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