The competition was going to be stiff. So Ashley Dutka pulled out all the stops.
She put her dog, Chupacabra, in a spiked harness and groomed his white mohawk. To give his ego an added boost, she played "Eye of the Tiger" from the "Rocky III" soundtrack on repeat all the way to the big show.
The Mexican hairless dog, also known as a Xoloitzcuintle, vied for the title of Ugliest Dog in a contest Saturday at Grace Baptist Church in Montebello.
"I told him, 'You can do it! You're the ugliest!'" said Dutka, a hotel worker from Montebello.
Chupacabra was one of nearly 30 other hounds in the neighborhood competition, which also awarded prizes for Cutest Dog, Best Dog-Owner Look-Alike, Biggest Dog, Best Costume, Best Trick and Best in Show.
The contest was a celebration of family pets, including many who were rescued from breeders, the streets and previous owners who had abandoned them. Few could qualify for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City, but this event was not about proving a bloodline.
"We're showing the world we love our dogs no matter what," said Michael Aldapa, a longtime community organizer from Boyle Heights who put on the show for the second time with help from aunts and uncles. "They're all part of the family."
One by one, the canines paraded onto the church auditorium stage — some wearing wigs, glasses, tiger costumes and overalls. The audience hollered, laughed and cooed.
There was Loki, a 4-year-old French mastiff from East L.A. who weighed close to 200 pounds; Precious Boy, a fuzzy 10-week-old Maltese-poodle mix who wore a pink dress because that's the only outfit that fit his tiny frame; and Chola, an 11-month-old Jack Russell terrier said to have a penchant for the homeless, perhaps because she was once without a home herself.
Sizing up the pack were six judges: community leaders, business owners, a city commissioner and a high school cheerleader. Proceeds from the $5 entry free went to help the church.
Three years ago, when Aldapa held the event for the first time, the undisputed star was a three-legged dog named Tripod who had been rescued from the streets of Compton. The brown long-haired mutt won Best in Show and Best Trick, for howling on cue with his owner.
Tripod was rewarded with a basket of gifts 10 times his size. It was packed with treats, chew toys and a big dog bed.
"He was spoiled with treats for a long time," said owner Rosa Bautista, who lives in Van Nuys.
On Saturday, Tripod came ready to pass his crown to the next big winner.
That was big Loki. When the emcee placed the coveted Best in Show trophy next to him, Loki rolled over and stuck his legs in the air.
"He's exhausted," said his owner, Luis Medina, an East L.A. resident who installs home entertainment systems. "This was a lot of hard work."
A few feet away, Chupacabra joined him onstage with his own trophy by his side. It read: Ugliest Dog.