Sonoma-Marin Fair World's Ugliest Dog Contest

IF EVER... there was an eye of the beholder-type situation, it is the one that unfurls, with a bark and a yippity-yap, in Petaluma each June. That's when the World's Ugliest Dog Contest trots across the stage of the Sonoma-Marin Fair, and humans cast a "fun" online vote for the hound with the most memorable mug. The spirit of the competition, which has been wagging its furry tail for a quarter of a century, is very much in sweet fun, and no pooch is made to feel unpretty. Rather, the Ugliest Dog contestants are showered in hugs and attention, given both by their attentive owners and a clamoring public. And, boy howdy, does that public clamor; hundreds upon hundreds of people vote for their favorite dog ahead of the Petaluma showdown, and adoring fans showing up in person to get an up-close eyeful.

For while many an event may stick "world's" on the front of their name, to lend some oomph, the Ugliest Dog Contest qualifies: It is famous around the planet, and the news crews descending upon the fair bear witness to that. If you want to bear witness now to some of the cutest waggers taking the 2014 stage, you can, on the voting page, and you can also vote through 10 p.m. on Thursday, June 19.

THE FIDO FIELD: We mean, just. How to choose? You gaze lovingly upon Boogie, a Pekingese/Lhasa mix with "not so much fur" or Grovie, a Pug who is an Ugliest Dog Contest regular, and you just don't know where to throw your dog-loving weight. The stories are as touching as the faces, and you'll leave the for-fun voting site wishing you could have given all a push, or at least a cuddle. For "Ugliest" is subjective but a loving animal face is not: We humans recognize when a beastie is kind of eye or gentle of soul. And, truly, that's what people will be out watching for, when the Friday, June 20 affair takes the stage in Petaluma. Gentle souls and cute, lopped-over-to-one-side tongues.

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