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The World's Ugliest Dog And The Case Of The Libelous Oozing Sore

Jason Wurtz holds his dog SweePee Rambo after winning the 2016 World's Ugliest Dog contest at the Sonoma-Marin Fair on June 24 in Petaluma, Calif. Wurtz tells <em>The Guardian </em>there were no oozing sores on his prize-winning, unprepossessing pooch.
Jason Wurtz holds his dog SweePee Rambo after winning the 2016 World's Ugliest Dog contest at the Sonoma-Marin Fair on June 24 in Petaluma, Calif. Wurtz tells <em>The Guardian </em>there were no oozing sores on his prize-winning, unprepossessing pooch.

SweePee Rambo is ugly. Really, really ugly.

You can note that she's mostly bald, with a wispy mohawk. You can laugh at her sticking-out tongue. You can describe her as scrawny and bow-legged, blind and incontinent. You can dub her "a "shivering little hunk of canine flesh," as The Guardian puts it, and you can call her the World's Ugliest Dog — she won that title fair and square this year, after two years of coming up short.

But don't slander the creature: She's not marked with unsightly oozing sores.

SweePee Rambo competes in the World's Ugliest Dog Competition in 2015. SweePee won the 2016 version, after coming up short in two previous years. And she did it without help from an oozing sore.
Josh Edelson / AFP/Getty Images
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SweePee Rambo competes in the World's Ugliest Dog Competition in 2015. SweePee won the 2016 version, after coming up short in two previous years. And she did it without help from an oozing sore.

This story of ugly-dog libel begins with Rambo's victory at the World's Ugliest Dog contest in Petaluma, Calif.

A local newspaper, The Press Democrat, covered the triumph, of course. They noted that judge Neal Gottlieb "seemed particularly impressed with a sore on SweePee's leg, noting dogs get extra points for ooze."

The Associated Press picked up the story, citing the oozing sore in the headline. The Guardianran the AP text.

And then the angry email arrived. The Guardianquotes the missive, which it says was sent not only to the British paper, but to the Press Democrat, as well:

"I am horrified!You wrote that my dog, SWEEPEE the winner of the worlds ugliest dog has oozing sores! That was not my dog. There was a dog there that had terrible sores but that was not my dog! This kind of lie makes me look like an irresponsible pet owner.

"People are commenting about how horrible I am online !!! ... [This] really has taken away a really cool thing for me and makes me embarrassed. I want this fixed immediately and want an apology. Where did you get this bad information from?!?!?!"

The Guardianresponded by sending a reporter to chase down the truth.

The case is more complicated than it seems: That email? Notsent by SweePee's owner, according to, well, SweePee's owner. But the allegation of libel is, it appears, well-founded.

Head over to The Guardian to read the whole saga, which includes — we are not making this up — the story of the controversial judge's own experience with a competition-defining oozing sore on Survivor, as well as canine acne-popping and a dog named Icky.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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