Canine contest makes comeback

The BMD’s Ugly Dog Contest returned after a 30-year hiatus.

Linda Sexton wanted to be perfectly clear on one thing: there is no such thing as an ugly dog.

“I love all dogs,” said Sexton, the organizer of the Bohemia Mining Days Ugly Dog Contest. “They are all sweet. But somebody had to win.”

After a 30-plus-year hiatus from BMD, the once popular Ugly Dog Contest was back in action at Coiner Park on Saturday afternoon. With nine doggos participating in four categories — ugly dog, owner/dog look-alike, best costume and best trick — Sexton provided constant affirmation to the pups that they were all winners. 

But ultimately, the one true winner for ugliest dog was the 19-year-old Yorkshire Terrier named King Leonardo. With tufts of hair sticking in different directions, the blind and toothless dog sniffed the competition — a dog named Honey — before unanimously taking home the first-place trophy. 

King Leonardo’s owner, Connie Thornton, had no intentions of entering her dog in the contest and certainly did not think he would have a shot at winning.  

“I didn’t make the decision, my son did,” she said. “I didn’t think he was ugly, but I said ‘OK. Well now, I’m kind of proud of him.’”

Surprisingly, this wasn’t Thornton’s first foray into the ugly dog contest. With this victory she is now, she estimates, a five-time champion at BMD. 

“Years ago, I had this dog that was really ugly and she won the ugly dog contest four years in a row,” said Thornton. “One of my girlfriends told me at that time, ‘Connie, you saved that dog’s life because nobody else would have.”

When asked what kind of dog it was, Thornton replied the dog was a little of everything: “Just a ‘Heinz 57.’”

While King Leonardo walked away with the grand prize, the most crowd-pleasing category was the owner/dog look-alike. Walking across the gazebo stage with a matching head of blonde curly hair was the two-year-old dog Bonnie being escorted by two-year-old human, Adaline. The pair took home the first-place trophy.

“For two years, we’ve always compared the two of them as twins,” said Katie Humphries, Adaline’s mom. Bonnie belongs to her sister-in-law Ashley Kemp and together Kemp and Humphries knew they had to enter.

“About two days ago, I saw the Ugly Dog Contest and was like, ‘Oh, there’s a look alike? I’m going, I think we could win,’” said Kemp. 

Winning best costume was 12-year-old Summer Crosby and her dog, Litten. The duo dressed in their wedding best with Summer in a white dress and Litten wearing a coat and tie. Completing a litany of tricks including sit, lay down, shake, high five and beg, Isabel Edelblute and her dog, Jeeves, took home the crown in the best trick category.

After the awards and dog treats were handed out, organizer Sexton was still ready for more.

“I love all dogs. I can’t pass a dog without petting them, so being a judge for a dog contest is just utopia for me,” said Sexton. “I would love to see it continue and I would love to do it next year.”

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