The vet initially thought Cuda had a neurological issue, but upon examination, he declared her healthy. Still, he had no idea why her appearance was so unusual. Relieved she was not in any pain, I took her home and life with Cuda officially began. As she grew, she gained more mobility, and soon she was playing with our other dogs and cats so normally we didn't even see her as different anymore.
A couple of months later we were watching the World's Ugliest Dog Contest winner on TV. Abby was presented as an inbred dog due to her curved spine and I thought, "I can top that!" We jokingly decided to put Cuda into the 2011 contest because her looks were so unique. I wanted to see the reaction of others to Cuda and while we knew she was so cute, we felt she had a chance at winning.
I created a Facebook page for her and began campaigning. I believed Cuda was inbred and that her poor genetics contributed to her odd looks. When I was an animal control officer, I noted that breeders lived next door to one another and often had dogs who were related to each other. I felt their reckless breeding practices included inbreeding dogs who were closely related.
The couple who gave Cuda to me even found her page and contacted me to tell me they found her on Craigslist through an advertisement for pit bull puppies being sold out of a guy's house. They paid $50 for her but only had her two weeks. Perhaps they realized Cuda did not look like other dogs and changed their minds. Perhaps they were just as apprehensive as I was about her future.
Based on my experience with breeders in the neighborhoods I worked in, and the fact that Cuda's original owners got her from a backyard breeder, I touted Cuda as inbred on her page.
I shared Cuda's story everywhere. Soon, she was being featured on pages like PeoplePets and in print through American Dog Magazine. In 2010 there weren't a lot of famous dog pages, and Cuda's popularity began to take off.
Once I learned that Cuda had been born to a backyard breeder and gave some thought to how she almost ended up surrendered to a shelter, my attitude about putting Cuda into the contest changed from lighthearted humor to a mission to educate people about these backyard breeders and urge them not to shop on Craigslist but to adopt instead. Our campaign lasted eight months and we attended many dog-friendly events, made the local news and met a lot of people who absolutely fell in love with my imperfect puppy. We even met Princess Abby and her owner.