Owner Bev on life with Mugly: World's Ugliest Dog
Mugly's owner Bev reveals more about life with the World's Ugliest Dog and how Britain's newly crowned champion is putting his fame to good use.
Founded with the aim of promoting rescue dogs and raising awareness of animal welfare, The World's Ugliest Dog Contest celebrates unconventional beauty among the planet's pampered pooches, in an annual event held at California's Sonoma-Marin fair. This year eight-year-old Mugly, already having claimed the title of Britain's Ugliest Dog, became the first ever UK contender to cross the Atlantic and battle it out for best in show.
Channel 5 documentary Mutt Ugly: World's Ugliest Dog follows Mugly and owner Bev on their journey, from early preparations at home in Peterborough to the moment of victory in the US. Here Bev reveals more about their travels, why she decided to enter Mugly into the competition and how Britain's newly crowned champion is putting his fame to good use.
Firstly, congratulations to Mugly for winning the World's Ugliest Dog Contest! Did you ever expect he might scoop the title?
The British thing is taking part, and I knew that the Americans would be more competitive, but I kind of hoped that we would win. I’d seen some of the others on the website, and I thought, ‘He hasn’t got a chance really. He’s not ugly enough.’ But then the more I learnt about the whole competition and the fact that it’s about promoting rescue dogs, and the fact that it doesn’t matter what they look like, it really sold it me.
You don't really believe he's ugly, though, do you?
I can’t really see the ugly. I see different. His little face, I just fell in love with the first time I saw it.
Mugly’s a rescue dog, isn’t he? What drew you to him in particular?
I saw a photograph of him when he was three weeks old, and I phoned them straight up and said, ‘I want that dog.’ At that point they weren’t sure whether they were going to put him to sleep because they were unsure of his potential health problems because he should really – thank goodness he hasn’t – have liver, skin, eye and teeth problems. He’s missing a load of teeth, but he’s never had them so he eats at the back of his mouth, so feeding him is quite funny. But he’s had no health problems. He’s just so cute I had to have him.
How long had you been following The World's Ugliest Dog Contest before deciding to enter Mugly?
He was declared Britain’s Ugliest Dog in 2005 by a newspaper, and from then I was aware of the World’s Ugliest Dog competition so followed it and thought about possibly going over to enter. Because of the restrictions in travelling with dogs it wasn’t an option, but they’ve been relaxed now, and I thought because he’s eight if we don’t go now we never will or might not be able to.
You mentioned Mugly being named Britain's Ugliest Dog. How did that come about?
There was a photograph of [Sam, the 2005 winner of The World's Ugliest Dog Contest] in the paper, and I must have been bored I think, because I sent an e-mail to the newspaper saying, ‘I don’t know why you printed pictures of him; there’s one living in Petersborough!’ Within 10 minutes they were on the phone.
For anyone not familiar with The World's Ugliest Dog, tell us about the contest in a nutshell.
It’s about a lot more than what [the dogs look] like. It’s about their personality, their looks and everything that the rescue system stands for. When we got over there [Mugly] had to have a health check; we had to do a red carpet walk (which I ended up calling the Walk of Shame, because that’s what it felt like), and then we went onto the stage, where we greeted by a pet psychic who tried to read his thoughts! Then we had to put him on a table for the three judges. There were three stages: the first stage was the pedigree class, and then they had a mutt class, and then the winners of those two went head to head. And from that they bring on previous winners, and so the final is previous winners plus the new champions.
Mugly was the first ever British entrant into the competition. What kind of reaction did that provoke?
The public loved it; they really enjoyed having us there. For me that’s the important thing. It’s the people Mugly responds to the most. A lot of the other people had very pretty dogs, but they just want to enter them into a competition.
How did Mugly cope with the journey? Did he get any special treatment?
He had to go in cargo because we don’t allow them to travel in the cabin. I think I was more worried than he was. I think he had a bit of a bark. It’s a long flight; he just went to sleep, and he was very pleased to see me at the other end!
Now he's become something of a household name, tell us about a typical day in the life of Mugly.
I tend to walk him in the evening because we get less attention. Once a week we go into a children’s home and visit the children there, and that’s really nice because they’ve built up a bond with him and they respond really well to him. We also go into schools and do a scheme called ‘Read to Dogs’ where the reluctant readers read him a story; they then forget that they’re being taught because they’re just sitting reading a story to a dog, and he loves their voices. He just curls up with them, so their treat at the end is to have a little play.
Mugly also has his own wardrobe, but there's a reason for that, isn't there?
Mugly has to wear clothes because he has no fur on his body at all. Usually they have a coat of downy fur; he has nothing, so every little breeze he feels the cold. He also gets sunburnt so he wears factor 50 sun cream; he gets moisturised. The clothes have become fun really, especially with the children when they have their dressing-up days.
What can you tell us about Mutt Ugly and how the show came about?
Wanting to go over there do this is an expensive process and also requires an awful lot of planning, and to have someone there to follow your journey is really quite special because Mugly’s eight years old – I’m not naïve; he’s not going to live forever – but I will have the most amazing DVD at the end of this to say, ‘This is my road trip with Mugly, when we went to America to win The World’s Ugliest Dog Contest 2012.’
What have been your most memorable experiences, both of The World's Ugliest Dog Contest and filming Mutt Ugly?
A lot of it's the fact that we were walking around America with my dog, which was really a bizarre thing to do. The upside of having a film crew with you is that you get to go in places that you wouldn’t normally be allowed with dogs! The other big memory is that moment when she said, ‘The Brit has won it.’ The complete disbelief, and you think, ‘What an ending to a fabulous road trip!’
Will you and Mugly return to America to defend his title?
Absolutely not. Not in a million years! For me I’m not competitive, so he’s won; he can get no higher than that. I think the experience that we had from winning needs to be shared amongst other people.
What's next for Mugly?
I would very much like to do some children’s books. I think he’s a really good character, and with the first day at school, first aeroplane flight, first day at the dentist, we’ve got all these little experiences that could be translated into [stories]. He’s such a character, even if [it] was a drawing of Mugly it would be just as effective.