A 9-year-old bulldog named Zsa Zsa was crowned the winner out of 14 contestants at the 2018 World’s Ugliest Dog competition held last Saturday in Petaluma, California. The event, now in its 30th year, promotes pet adoption by celebrating the unique looks and personalities of dogs rescued from puppy mills and shelters.
Zsa Zsa’s family had driven over 30 hours from Anoka, Minnesota, to take the prize, and with her broad shoulders and massive underbite, the senior pup was definitely the center of attention as she strutted onto the stage.
“I had very high hopes for her,” Megan Brainard, Zsa Zsa’s mom, told Today. “She is very unique.”
No this isn't a pic of me this Monday morning…Zsa Zsa won the "World's Ugliest Dog" contest this weekend in Petaluma. I love her! pic.twitter.com/oBSiXRD4Ni
— Mary E. Coleman (@Mary_reports) June 25, 2018
However, the bulldog, named for the actress and socialite Zsa Zsa Gabor, wasn’t always appreciated for her appearance. Zsa Zsa’s life began far from the spotlight at a Missouri puppy mill. For five years, the dog was used for breeding, until her owners decided to get rid of her in 2014.
She ended up in the care of Underdog Rescue, a rescue based in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.
“We got her spayed, got her dental [work] done and brought [her] back to health,” Shannon McKenzie, founder and director of Underdog Rescue, told The Dodo. “She is extra special because she is pretty unique.”
After years of mistreatment, it took Zsa Zsa some time to understand that she was finally safe and to adjust to life as a pet.
“She was a real crab with other dogs when we first rescued her, but I think she was just uncomfortable,” McKenzie said. “It took a long time to get her fully back to health, and now she lives with other dogs and is doing great.”
When Zsa Zsa was finally ready for her first real home, Brainard and her husband Jesse saw her listing on PetFinder. After a long application process, McKenzie was confident she had found the perfect match for Zsa Zsa.
“You just kind of know when there’s a family who’s the right fit, and that they’re going to take really good care of the dog who has never had anybody and truly deserves it,” McKenzie said. “You kinda just know in your gut that it’s all going to work out the way it’s supposed to.”
— Kaisha 🍝 (@penguin_ford) June 25, 2018
The Brainards had the same gut feeling that Zsa Zsa was the missing piece to complete their family — and winning the competition further shows just how far the little dog has come.
“From the moment we saw her beautiful face, we knew we would be her forever home,” Brainard said in a press release. “We are so excited for her. She deserves this.”
Congratulations to the 2018 #WorldsUgliestDog Contest WINNER Zsa Zsa! Charming the judges with her beauty and talent Zsa Zsa pulled in front of the pack, taking this year’s crown at the #SonomaMarinFair! @pawscouttag pic.twitter.com/pVAXgT3BzZ
— Sonoma-Marin Fair (@SonomaMarinFair) June 24, 2018
After a round of media appearances in New York City, Zsa Zsa will travel home with a very large pink trophy — matching her lolling tongue and pink nails — and $1,500, along with a donated prize match for Underdog Rescue.
While she may be the ultimate underdog, Zsa Zsa is finally appreciated for who she truly is — quirks, drool and all.