UPDATE: Scamp the Tramp, the hero of this article, has won this year's World's Ugliest Dog Contest in Petaluma.
One little dog with scraggly hair, gray dreadlocks and bug eyes is making a big difference in the Sebastopol community.
Scamp the Tramp, a certified therapy dog and a returning contestant in this year’s World’s Ugliest Dog Contest, has been cuddling his way into the hearts of many as a volunteer with the Sebastopol Area Senior Center, Park Side Elementary School and the Sonoma County Humane Society.
The tousled-looking 8-year-old dog has come a long way since being found on the streets of Compton, living off of Taco Bell handouts.
Yvonne Morones, whose previous dogs Munchkin and Nana snagged the World’s Ugliest Dog title, discovered Scamp in 2014 when she was scanning through Petfinder, an online animal adoption service.
“His face came up, and it was just instant love,” Morones said. “I looked at that face and I said, ‘Oh my God, that’s my boy.’”
Last year Scamp was the runner-up in the ugly dog contest and brought home a giant, pink second place trophy adorned with a crown of golden paws. He also won the spirit award for his community volunteer work.
“We’re hoping he’s going to be a champion,” Morones said. If they do win they will get flown out to New York to be on the Today Show.
The 2019 contest is slated for the weekend of June 21 at the Sonoma Marin Fairgrounds.
Lending a paw
Morones said they have fun participating in the contest, but Scamp’s favorite job is his volunteer work.
Since he came home to Morones’ Santa Rosa residence, he’s been volunteering at the Sebastopol Area Senior Center with the adult day program.
Laurel Anderson with the Sonoma County Council on Aging, the group that runs the program, said a lot of the participants are frail, isolated and may be experiencing memory loss, so having a dog come and sit in their lap provides a nice activity.
“The seniors just love him,” Morones said. “They look at him and they just laugh … and adore him.”
Scamp’s other job is at Park Side Elementary School, where he listens to first graders read to him in Annie McEvoy’s class.
“She comes in with this crazy stroller for the dog.stroller for the dog. My kids have a little cubby with a basket of books at their reading level, and those are the books she reads with the kids,” McEvoy said.
Morones said Scamp’s favorite book is “Go Dog Go.”
“The children love him, and he jumps up and licks their ears and snorts in their neck and licks their face, and they call him a fuzzy watermelon,” Morones said.
McEvoy said that the thing kids like the most about Scamp is that he’s a good listener.
“He’s so excited to see each kid and to sit down and get to work,” McEvoy said “First grade is a magical time, and there is so much room for sweetness there and he brings that out in them.”
At the end of the year, Morones creates a reading dog diploma for each student and gives them each a small gift.
Morones and Scamp also man the doggie kissing booth at Analy High School’s safe grad night. Scamp, whose tongue has a tendency to droop out of his mouth, provides congratulatory dog kisses for the graduates.
Morones said some graduates come up to her and reminisce about their experience reading with Scamp years before. She said one student even came up to her and told her that she still has her reading dog diploma on the wall.
“It is just an unconditional love that the seniors and students have with him,” Morones said.
When Scamp isn’t in the classroom or at the senior center, he’s at the Sonoma County Airport. He has a TSA clearance and provides free therapy to stressed passengers.
Scamp and his canine colleague Katie Rose, a toothless chihuahua, walk around the terminals, sit in passengers’ laps and, with Morones’ help, give out Snoopy tattoos for kids.
Morones praised Scamp for having such a wonderful temperament.
“They’ve got to have the right temperament, and you never know what you’re getting when you don’t raise the dog, but he just took right to it,” Morones said. “The song by Bob Marley, ‘One Love’ came on and I thought, that’s just you. Bobbing your head, listening to Bob Marley… and just being so accepting.”
McEvoy said her class will be rooting for Scamp in his attempt to take home the trophy in the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest.
Morones said the contest is a special event because it celebrates all dogs no matter what size, shape, color or amount of hair or teeth.
“The ugly dog contest is a celebration of dogs that wouldn’t normally be adopted… because they wouldn’t win a beauty contest,” she said.
Morones said if Scamp wins this year his name will be changed from Scamp the Tramp to Scamp the Champ.