When Grimpy slid out of that dying womb, she spent her first three hours of life in a garbage can. Inbreeding across multiple generations brought us ever closer to taking home World's Ugliest Dog gold, and this dream had almost been crushed like so many hollow dog vertebrae under the wheels of a passing recumbent bike. We buried the five puppies in a backyard mass grave, only to have a jagged fang quiver at us later that afternoon from beneath a thick crust of expired soup and coffee grounds. The larger-than-average chunk of afterbirth we had so carelessly tossed aside and dropped a few times on our way up from the basement had transformed into Grimpy, Internet sensation, beloved pet, and World's Ugliest Dog five years running.
Success would not come instantly, as if Grimpy's mother had been a slot machine that dispensed fame, blood, and dog corpses out of its gleaming chute. Like any of your classic "ugly" breeds, raising Grimpy to go up against the likes of former title holders like Doogie Bowser and Dash, the Legless, Skinless Bloodhound required years of pruning, as you would with a bonsai tree that occasionally tries to suffocate itself. Most enthusiasts just don't understand it takes nearly 17 years of aging to produce the desiccated, warty flesh necessary for the big leagues of dog ugliness competitions. And even though Grimpy's eyes lacked the thick and milky cataract glaze that brings in extra points and dry heaves from the judging booth, her pupils would often bleed independently. This alone brought Grimpy even more acclaim than Pringles, a Boston Terrier that moved along the ground solely by means of massive, uncontrollable seizures.
The complications that arise from the care of a World's Ugliest Dog can often be staggering. Nature has a way of letting a creature know that its Golden Corral buffet of genetic disorders and birth defects shouldn't be passed on to future generations, and this message is often expressed by the animal "acting out." When a dog finally understands that every look it receives from another living thing is tainted with a mix of pity and revulsion, the results are heartbreaking. We've had to remove every throw pillow from our house after Grimpy buried herself under mounds of them and snarled at any hand that tried to let oxygen flow into her suicide den.
Yes, this inborn death impulse means that bottle feeding is the only way to go, since there's no quicker final exit for a World's Ugliest Dog than face-down in a dish of tap water. In the biz we call this "kissing the lady of the lake," and it can destroy over a decade of work in just a few seconds. The closest we ever came to losing Grimpy was finding her limp body curled up on the passenger seat of an Oldsmobile idling in our attached garage. Luckily, we snatched her from that naugahyde prison just in time, and without disturbing my late husband, whose note specifically requested that we not disturb the car in any way.
We World's Ugliest Dog Owners put ourselves through hell for that thousand-dollar grand prize, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't worth it when I catch one of Grmpy's eyes looking up into mine, as if to say "You're the best, mom -- now how about putting that water dish back on the floor?" Too bad for Grimpy that flattery will get her nowhere. We're hanging in there for the 2013 competition in six months, and something about that new coat of eczema tells me that Grimpy's in for at least one more gold medal before those weekly blood transfusions stop working their magic. Maybe then that nasty Doctor Mike down at the animal hospital will have to eat his words about how no dog that lived through the entirety of the O.J. Simpson trial should still be traveling cross-country for regional competitions. Well, Doctor Mike, Gold medals talk, and while Grimpy can no longer walk, we have this little cart we push her around in. Your move.
After years of being misunderstood, I had hoped we finally had "our" story. I was wrong.
He had a yellow inflatable tube around his waist, the kind with a comical duck head. There was a tiny fish in one of his hands, and a trident in the other. In the background a squirrel wearing shades was water skiing.
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