We have just returned from this year's Ugliest Dog Contest..the grandaddy of them all..at the Sonoma-Marin FAir in Petaluma, Ca. It was bigger and more exciting than ever! I think the most media ever seen there before was a local NBC affiliate from San Fran and a local newspaper man. ....WELL...all that has changed after SAM's miraculous climb to fame via the internet. There were doggies from as far as Wash. D.C., Florida, New Jersey. Arizona and Philadelphia's "Fishtown". The media frenzy was overwhelming! We started the day of the contest with a 9 a.m.glamour portrait sitting for Tator and me put on by Animal Planet. Mark got to be in one also. Then to the Animal Planet personal T.V. interviews. Breakfast and doggie water and treats were readily available in the V.I.P (very important pooch) room. Then onto the next venue at the historic and charming old adobe Petaluma Visitor's Center. Here, we got to mingle with other contestants and it was so fun to finally meet the other dogs and owners that we have seen on the voting site. Everyone took turns in a sort of round-robin getting photos and interviews taken for German T.V., a very famous London Tabloid (The Daily Mirror), Japanese news, Geraldo Rivera at Large, and the piece-de-resistance...People MAgazine...not only People Magazine BUT with world reknown photographer, Mary Ellen Mark. Her presence caused quite a stir and she was so great to work with. She kept saying "beautiful, beautiful", as she snapped away. She requested I hold TatorTot like the "Madonna and the child".."now kiss her". It was fun to feel like a model! The temperature that day was more tolerable but still in the 90's. We arrived the afternoon before and the gauge read 109 degrees...horrible..although it was one of the first times I have ever seen Tator stop quivering with cold! A few hours for Tator to rest and then off to the fairgrounds. It was completely taken over by media and excitement. Animal Planet had a wonderful set-up with red carpets for the dogs to pass down and more individual interviews just as you were going up to the judges. I am a REAL fan of PeeWee's but I also fell in love with PeeWee's "mini-me", Elwood. I knew Tator was too cute so I was rooting for one of them for ugliest mixed and knew it would be between Lucille Bald, Victoria or Archie for the first prize in pedigree. I hadn't thought Archie had much of a chance from just his online voting pic BUT when I saw him in person, I thought WOW!! He's got a chance! I was thrilled to see PeeWee take top honors for the mixed breed and then knew it would be between Archie and him for Ugliest Dog of 2006. Archie won. NOW is the tough part...to be crowned WORLD"S Ugliest Dog, Archie would have to face off all surviving champions of former years. (You can only win a year once and then return in the "ring of champions". This gives a new dog a chance to move up each year.) SAM, of course, wiped out all competition in sight all three years that he attended the contest and I am sure he would have taken down Archie as well had he been present. Many there agreed with me on this one. So, please watch People this week and check out Animal Planet's special in October. They will even do a tribute to our SAMMIE, the Ambassador Extraordinaire of ugly dogs everywhere!!!