The life and times of Icky, Sacramento’s award-winning ugliest dog
Sacramento resident Jon Adler woke up in the middle of the night and was startled when, for the first time, he saw his new dog’s face in the moonlight.
He quickly remembered, however, that he was not dreaming, and that the seemingly strange animal was in fact the newest member of his family: Icky, short for Ichabod Crane, named after the awkward protagonist in the The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Adler thinks Icky is a Chinese crested, a rare dog breed, but he doesn’t know for sure. He got him in Oroville, from an elderly lady who had too many dogs.
Icky is ugly. Icky indeed stands out in a crowd. The puppy only has hair on his tail, head and hind-leg kneecap. Adler has to rub lotion and sunscreen on him often because of the fact that he is mostly hairless. And Icky is going through puberty, so he gets breakouts and even warts on the side of his face.
And while Icky is only seven months old to the new world of ugly, according to Adler, it was love at first sight. His mother-in-law even adopted Icky’s sister, who was much prettier, but Adler wanted the “misfit.”
“He may have been inbred,” Adler says of Icky, “[but] I always celebrate differences.”
Some might think beauty contests are for good looks, but Icky was a perfect contestant in the 2010 World’s Ugliest Dog Contest, which was held at the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma, Calif., this past June. Adler’s dog did not take home a ribbon, but he did win first prize in the World’s Ugliest Dog Online Voting.
Adler and his wife, Vikki, have three other dogs: a bull mastiff, a basset hound and a red-and-white Boston terrier. The animal lovers also own an orange-winged Amazon parrot, a cockatiel and an annoying cockatoo. As if those weren’t enough animals in one house, there are also six snakes residing at the Adlers: a python; a boa constrictor; and four baby rattlesnakes, which Adler rescued in Pollock Pines (he plans on releasing them when they are older).
Vikki says getting Icky was all part of a master plan she came up with to get rid of their obnoxious cockatoo.
“I knew Jon had always wanted a hairless dog, so I told him, ‘Find a home for the bird and you can get a puppy,’” she said. It only took him 24 hours to find Icky—and he still kept the bird, too.
The Adlers grew to love animals as rescue volunteers, though over time it became too hard to find homes, as well as too expensive to take care of them.
Adler is a certified health educator for a local nonprofit agency. He not only tries to find animal homes, but also tries to find housing for the homeless population. Adler says he likes to work with the homeless because he remembers the days when he too lived out of Dumpsters.
“I am lucky to get out of that lifestyle and stop my meth addiction,” says Adler, who has been clean for 15 years.
When Adler is not helping others, he’s at home pampering Icky. The unique duo spends its free time watching Pawn Stars and Whale Wars on TV while snacking on Icky’s favorite food, french fries. Icky also spends his days sitting in his yard chewing on leaves.
Last April’s competition was the second ugly-dog contest Icky has participated in. He placed second at the ugliest dog contest held in Butte County. Adler says he entered Icky in the ugly-dog world competition just for good times. “I was just going there to have fun and have funnel cakes,” he says, “but was so busy with the contest that I didn’t even get to eat.”
Icky himself is now internationally famous and has around 600 friends on Facebook. Since the contest, Jon and Icky have been featured in articles all over the world. The Petaluma contest is growing in popularity abroad, so members of the media from as far away as England and Japan attended the event, along with a crowd of more than 3,000.
And the competition was stiff. Adler says another contestant from Southern California was particularly competitive and serious during the contest. In fact, this person’s family breeds ugly dogs.
But while there is always a bad seed, all in all, the other dog owners were friendly and welcomed Icky into the fraternity of ugly. “I was truly amazed at the turnout of contestants and the friendly welcome we got from their owners,” Vikki says. “Icky is truly a dog that grows on you. He is very lovable and always fun to watch.
“Though I am still mystified at how what I call ‘Icky mania’ has taken on a life of its own.”
Icky ended up losing to first-place winner Princess Abby, a one-eyed, hunched-back Chihuahua with back legs longer than the front, which gives her a limp. Past World’s Ugliest Dog winners have gone on to raise money and awareness for rescue animals. If Icky had won, Adler says the prize money would have been donated to the Sacramento Valley AIDS Run/Walk, which takes place in September.
House of Dog, who sponsored the contest, provided the winner with a check for $1,000, a trophy and a year-round modeling contract. Three celebrity judges, including television veterinarian Karen Halligan, actress Christina Moore, Vertical Horizon lead singer Matt Scannell and actor/comedian Jon Reep, chose the champ.
Since the contest, the Adlers have decided to turn the attention Icky has received into something positive and started Team Icky. The team is looking for members and donations for the upcoming AIDS walk. People interested in participating should join Facebook and add Icky the Ugly Dog as a friend to find out more information.
“I like animals more than people, because with animals, you know how they are going to act,” Adler says.
“There were some pretty ugly dogs [at the competition], but I think they are all beautiful.”