LOS ANGELES - Princess Abby is missing one eye and a lot of fur. She's got rabbit ears, a camel's back and a kangaroo hop. She has mismatched legs, an inverted floppy front foot and a twisted tail.
Add a pile of personality and some unusual dance moves and the 6-pound Chihuahua easily won the title of World's Ugliest Dog at the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma over the weekend. For those very same reasons, she also claimed the heart of owner Kathleen Francis.
"To other people she is ugly, and kids in the neighborhood in the beginning were kind of scared of her," said Francis, 67, who lives in Clearlake, about 110 miles north of San Francisco. "But I think she is beautiful through and through."
Five months ago, Francis gave a neighbor a ride to the vet's office and first saw the dog - flea-infested, malnourished, not long off the streets where she'd been picked up by the local humane society.
"I just loved her," Francis said.
Francis was coming off a few rough patches herself. A few months earlier, she'd finally found a minimum wage job at Kmart working the night shift. Despite a 40-mile commute, she felt lucky to have a job. At the vet's office, she renamed the dog Princess Abby (she's an avid Dear Abby fan) and started making adoption plans.
Francis spotted a flier for the World's Ugliest Dog Contest advertising a free checkup from celebrity vet Karen "Doc" Halligan and signed Princess Abby up.
After three rounds of competition, Princess Abby won $2,600, a modeling contract and $1,000 worth of clothes and doggy gear from contest sponsor House of Dog in Los Angeles, a photo shoot with pet photographer Grace Chon, a trip to New York for appearances on the morning talk shows and a 6-foot trophy.
"To win, oh my gosh. I was shocked," Francis said.
Princess Abby cinched the victory when she started dancing for treats on stage, said Vicki DeArmon, marketing director for the fair and producer of the dog contest. Usually the dog with the most personality wins, DeArmon said.
A majority of the dogs entered in the contest were rescues and at least half were hairless Chinese crested dogs. Halligan said most of Princess Abby's problems were caused by inbreeding, telling the crowd the dog was the perfect poster child for having pets spayed and neutered.
Dancing isn't the only trick Princess Abby knows. "She likes to sleep," Francis said. "I'm no spring chicken so we are well matched. We both like to sleep as much as we can."
After Friday night's contest, Francis couldn't get the trophy in her car, so she put the top of her old convertible down and drove off.
"All I could do was laugh and act crazy," Francis said. "People were honking and waving. I felt like, 'Here she comes, Miss America.'"