GREENVILLE — Peanut has the face of a squashed bug, the coat of an old mop and a pair of splotchy feet completely free of hair.
The 6-pound dog is hideous enough that when his owner posts his picture on Facebook, people ask her to take it down. A veterinarian once asked, “Why would you get this dog?”
But Peanut isn’t unattractive thanks to the fickle ways of nature. He caught on fire under the care of his former owners, leaving him without eyelids, lips or fur on his extremities. And in June, Holly Chandler will strut her homely survivor across a stage in San Francisco, where he is a candidate for the proud title: World’s Ugliest Dog.
“His face would scare most,” said Chandler, 26. “I fell in love with it.”
The contest aims to broaden the traditional standards of canine beauty. Mismatched ears, missing legs and tongues that loll permanently are common features of the annual pageant. Contestants come from hoarders and puppy mills, and wear names such as Icky and Gus.
Chandler, an engineer in Greenville, discovered Peanut at a shelter in Washington last summer. He’d been dropped off in rough shape nine months earlier, and Chandler doesn’t know whether the former owners left him at the door or delivered him in person.
Peanut had been treated for a skin infection before she took him, but he couldn’t recover. Chandler took Peanut to seven or eight more vets before one finally discovered through a biopsy that he’d been burned. Nobody knows the circumstances, but Chandler figures it’s unlikely that anyone would abandon a dog after an accidental injury.
But even after he developed a sweet demeanor, playing with toys, stacking his dog beds to make them more comfortable, Peanut struggled to find acceptance. People asked why she didn’t put him out of his misery.
“If they don’t know his story,” she said, “they see him as this really hideous dog.”
So Chandler settled on the contest idea as a way to spread the word about abused animals. On the stage, he could be a four-legged billboard for life beyond cruelty. For the first time, people would see him and applaud.
The trouble: It cost $2,500 to travel to California with Peanut and a friend – $250 just for the doggie flight. She turned to the charity-seeking site gofundme.com, asking for $1,400 in aid. She got it within days.
“Peanut, your story has me in tears,” wrote donor Sarah Paul. “I adopted my JRT Jezabel from a rescue in NC. She was used as a bait dog for a dog fighting ring. I don’t know what makes some people do such evil things to our companions who cannot protect themselves. I hope that you have a wonderful trip and spread awareness wherever you go.”
Compared with some of the past winners, Peanut is a long shot. He still has two eyes. You can tell whether he’s walking in or out of a door. But he wears his rocky history like a coat of armor, where a medal would fit perfectly.