Owner of SweePee Rambo, the blind Chinese crested who took home this year’s crown, has hit back at reports judge gave ‘extra points’ for an oozing sore
In the end, it all comes down to a little bit of pus.
Whose leg it graced, however, is a matter of controversy. Did it ooze from SweePee Rambo, the shivering little hunk of canine flesh crowned 2016 World’s Ugliest Dog? Or Neal Gottlieb – ugly dog judge, ice cream entrepreneur and one-time competitor on the reality show Survivor?
The answer could be, “Yes”.
The flap began Friday afternoon in the northern California town of Petaluma, where 16 homely hounds were carried on stage at the Sonoma-Marin Fair by their proud human companions. They were vying for the ugly crown, $1,500, international recognition and an all-expenses-paid trip to New York.
SweePee was the hands-down favorite, having reached the ripe old age of 17. The minuscule Chinese crested is blind. Her arthritic hind legs are permanently bowed, her spine bent at a 90-degree angle, her teeth mostly missing. She is often incontinent. Other than the sprig of hair the breed is named for, SweePee is bald.
This is how the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, newspaper of record in Sonoma County, described SweePee’s victory: “Judge Neal Gottlieb seemed particularly impressed with a sore on SweePee’s leg, noting dogs get extra points for ooze.”
Four days later, a scathing email arrived at the Press Democrat, and at the Guardian, which published the Associated Press story, which quoted the Press Democrat story, which paraphrased Gottlieb. “Extra points for ooze.”
“I am horrified!” began the unsigned email addressed to the Guardian. “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 !!!” it continued. “And 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?!?!?!”
Whoever sent the email did not respond to a request for comment. Jason Wurtz, SweePee’s owner, said the email had been sent by a friend. Reached late in the day, he insisted that the pus was a case of mistaken identity.
Wurtz said the open sore belonged to a dog appropriately named Icky: “Icky had acne real bad, and the owner popped it on stage on the judge’s table and it grossed everyone out.”
Gottlieb did not respond to several phone calls. But contest footage replayed on Good Morning America Saturday shows him clearly saying, “There’s an open wound on this dog.” It is not, however, possible to see which dog he’s talking about.
The founder of Three Twins Ice Cream was himself brought down by an open sore. He was kicked off of Survivor: Kaôh Rōng, which aired in 2016, because of a raw, red wound with a wet looking, white center.
“It first came up like a pimple on Day 15, but then it just took on a life of its own,” he said in an item on the Survivor website. “I had this big open wound, but there was no knee pain.”
On Tuesday afternoon, the Press Democrat reached Gottlieb and pressed him about his on-stage comments. The judge back-pedaled a bit. “Sore” was changed to “scrape” in the online story. And an editor’s note was added:
“A judge who inspected the winning dog, Sweepee, said he noted a wound on the dog’s leg during the contest. The judge said ‘scrape’ is a better description of the wound than ‘sore.’ The story has been updated to reflect the judge’s assessment more precisely.”
Asked about the controversy, Press Democrat managing editor Ted Appel declined to comment.