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Americans love a really ugly dog

Updated on October 4, 2009

Often our society is criticized for placing far too much value on superficial (and unattainable) ideals of beauty and perfection.  We embrace an ideal which is often unrealistic, and it would seem that we prefer our celebrities air-brushed, nipped and tucked, and implanted, rather than naturally themselves.  Women in the media get crucified for weight fluctuations and for fashion missteps.  Even if you're not particularly interested in the entertainment industry, you're most likely aware of who has gained weight, who has had a botched plastic surgery operation, and who has visible cellulite thanks to the glossy magazines in the checkout aisle in the grocery store.  The controversies surrounding Jennifer Love Hewitt's bikini photos, Tyra Bank's swimsuit picture, and Kelly Clarkson's recent heavily air-brushed magazine cover all received a shocking amount of media coverage. It is sad that the worth of a person in the media is often more determined by their body, and their physical appearance rather than their body of work and their personal and professional accomplishments. 

Botox and plastic surgery procedures are surprisingly mainstream, and gone are the days when women hosted Tupperware and Pampered Chef parties in their homes, as these are now being replaced by a surprising number of Botox-centric parties.  I envision a Stepford-ish scenario and to be honest it scares the bejesus out of me.  Just head over to Pam's house, enjoy a glass of wine, and get some botulism injected in your face while your friends hang out and snack on crudite. I was surprised and a little alarmed to find a coupon for discounted cosmetic procedures in my mailbox, lumped in with a grocery circular.  I could buy frozen shrimp on sale, and also get my face pumped full of Restalin or Juvaderm or Botox for a discount, all on a random Wednesday afternoon, if I wanted.

As much as we admire physical beauty and images of perfection, we are also totally in love with ridiculously heinous and bizarre looking dogs.  We're talking animals that look like they have hit every branch on the way down, of the proverbial "ugly" tree.  Dogs with tongues that permanently hang out of the side of their mouths, dogs that are largely bald with funny skin colorations, dogs that appear to be physically ill but are really just that ugly, and dogs which have weird teeth, are all worthy of love and are embraced by our culture.  Sam is probably the most popular ugly dog due to his title of World's Ugliest Dog from 2003-2005 and his shockingly bizarre appearance.  Images of Sam are still widely circulated on the internet and he continues to be a pop-culture icon, still holding a place in the hearts of all Americans who can truly appreciate a super-ugly dog. Sam looked like an angry mutant rat crossed with the Cryptkeeper.  He was pretty much the stuff of nightmares, and we loved him and still continue to love him. Sadly, Sam had to be euthanized at the age of 15 when he began to experience heart failure.  

The World's Ugliest Dog Competition is quite mainstream now due to its increasing popularity and is covered each year on Animal Planet.  Hundreds of internet sites hold galleries of ugly dogs, and many run their own Ugly Dog contests.  Many of the dogs who make the ugly-cut are at least part Chinese Crested, which lends to the baldness and funny skin/coat patterns which are very appreciated by ugly dog experts and afficianados. All of the dogs are unique and embraced regardless of their at times creepy physical appearances.  In terms of ugly dogs, the creepier the better.  Some dogs are so creepy looking they are cute, and others are just heinous.   I think our culture appreciates the novelty of ugly dogs and marvels at their mish-mash of seemingly incompatible genetic traits. I find it fascinating that we readily accept ugly dogs, but have such a difficult time accepting people who appear different, it would seem that it is often easier to pass judgment rather than to appreciate individuals for their unique appearances.  Our perception of human beauty is quite myopic and I find it a little sad that there doesn't seem to be room for a wider variety of characteristics that are able to be appreciated and embraced by our culture.  

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