World’s Ugliest Dog turns bleary eyes on helping reservation dogs
Mr. Happy Face will help raise funds for other animals that, like him, got off to a rough start

Mr. Happy Face, crowned the World’s Ugliest Dog on June 24, 2022, at the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma, California, relaxes at his Arizona home with his owner, Jeneda Benally, a Dine musician and activist. An elderly dog with a string of health issues, he is going to help raise support for other shelter and rez dogs. (Photo/Jeneda Benally via ICT)

Mr. Happy Face, crowned the World’s Ugliest Dog on June 24, 2022, at the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma, California, relaxes at his Arizona home with his owner, Jeneda Benally, a Dine musician and activist. An elderly dog with a string of health issues, he is going to help raise support for other shelter and rez dogs. (Photo/Jeneda Benally via ICT)

FLAGSTAFF — Diné musician and activist Jeneda Benally wanted something special for her birthday last year, so she went to the local animal shelter and asked for the “oldest and most unadoptable dog.”

That’s how Mr. Happy Face joined her family at their spacious ranch in Flagstaff, Arizona, along with the horses, sheep, rams, ducks and her mother’s Chihuahua.

“The staff prepared me for what I was about to see as they brought out this 17 year-old, hairless, toothless, hobbling dog,” she told the Today Show on NBC June 27.

“Despite being from a hoarder situation and being abused, he looked happy to me and made me smile. That’s when I knew I should call him Mr. Happy Face,” she said.

Mr. Happy Face is bringing smiles to a lot of faces these days since winning the World’s Ugliest Dog competition in California on June 24. He’s now a multi-media star with an Instagram account, @mrhappyface_wud, and a new title, Ambassador of Kindness, with a mission of helping elder dogs and rez dogs find a better life.

He’ll be touring with Benally’s band, Sihasin, this summer, doing meet-and-greets along the way to raise funds for the Tuba City Animal Shelter, where he came from.

“This is about respecting elders and adopting old dogs,” Benally told ICT News. “Mr. Happy Face is doing what he can with his platform … to bring awareness to rez dogs not having resources and accessibility to vaccines and spay and neuter clinics.

“And if we can create a little bit of kindness, a little bit of compassion towards each other, we can make the world a whole lot more beautiful.”

Defying the odds

A cross between a Chinese Crested and a Chihuahua, the elderly canine has tumors as well as neurological issues, requires a diaper, struggles to stand up and walk with his bowed legs and has a tilted head.

His long, pink tongue hangs out the side of his mostly toothless mouth.

It’s truly a face only a mother could love – and she does.

“I vowed that day, he would be so loved that he would never remember how awful his previous life had been,” she told the Today Show.

“Love, kindness and mommy kisses have helped him defy the anticipated short life that we all expected him to have with our family.”

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