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Youkyung Sophie Roh

Common App ID: 5700338

I was in the middle of disentangling myself from the confused mass of tails
and furry legs when my phone beeped loudly.
Now I should first point out that trying to check a text message while
keeping the phone out of the reach of fifty-something overexcited pooches,
sidestepping a fight that had suddenly broken out between two overlarge
huskies, yelling over your shoulder for the photographer to follow you, and
looking for the person in charge of this one chaos of a competition all at the
same time is no easy task.
But somehow I managed. Patting myself on the back for picking my way
out of the confusion unscathed, I read the message: “thought of u while buying
cat food. thx sophie for covering the contest today! - sam”
Of course, at one point in my life, I would never have imagined myself
covering a story on a dog contest, much less an “Ugliest Dog” contest.
But I had to fulfill my duties as the Pets Editor. When I first applied for an
internship position at the OC Register, the job description seemed to fit me well
enough: non-allergic to fur, animal-lover, and writer. And a whole page in the OC
Register devoted to pets? True, I hadn’t known that such a section existed
before, but it sounded interesting.
But boy, did I underestimate the load of work that lay in store for me.
Readers would write e-mails to Pet Tales (the online blog) with frantic
messages, such as: “Help! What do I do if I run into a coyote while taking a walk
with my adorable puppies?!?” I would then calmly write back that the best way
to prevent a coyote attack is to keep the dogs on a short leash, and, should the
coyote become aggressive, the reader should try to appear bigger and make a
lot of noise. Then I would update an interactive map of recent coyote sightings.
When the movie G-Force came out, I was bombarded with questions about
guinea pigs. I spent half the morning convincing parents of excited children that
they should think carefully before deciding to adopt a guinea pig, which, after all,
is a very sensitive animal. One more guinea pig saved from a fate worse than
death: the grubby fingers of a toddler. Go me!
But not everything was as light-hearted. We had also uncovered the truths
and lies behind puppy mills, which, despite its horrible abuses of animals
(constant confinement, malnutrition, forced breeding of females until they are
killed, utter lack of adequate veterinary care / ventilation / socialization that
result in unhealthy and socially incapable animals), continue to feed into pet
stores at the malls, with any proposed form of legislation against them in
California vetoed by a certain governor with a bodybuilding/Hollywood
In between updating the notices on auditions for Cesar Milan’s show Dog
Whisperer, I had also, of course, shared my condolences with the fans of the Taco
Bell dog, who passed away this summer.
And now, I was at my first independent assignment, the OC’s Ugliest Dog
Competition—which I thought was a very bizarre competition to start with.
It was, I thought as I saw five poodles—each with gaudy costumes and
colorful hair—strut down the stage after their owner, just another scene of
superficiality (hello, Paris Hilton and her pampered dogs). Pets, after all, serve as
the perfect outlet to flaunt our wealth in this materialistic society. Perhaps now
the people were exhibiting the “ugly” dogs as a collector might present a
particularly “exotic” piece.
But even as I watched each owner and dog march proudly onto the stage,
I began to reevaluate my initial cynicism. Of course, Paris Hiltons do exist out
there. Yet I could not help smiling when a long-tailed Chihuahua, named Teddy
Youkyung Sophie Roh
Common App ID: 5700338

Kenney Jr., waved with a short paw before scurrying across the stage after his
owner, Ted Kenney. And surely the giddy expression on one owner’s face as he
tried his hardest to imitate his dog in the Most Lookalike division arose from
something much deeper inside.
And this something, I believe, had to do with the most basic human desire:
to love and to be loved. A dog has not been called man’s best friend without
reason; it is perhaps the only thing that would shower us with a truly
unconditional love and trust. While another man may still remember the hurt we
have dealt him years ago, a dog will still wag its tail and lick our faces each and
every time we see it, even after we shoo it away. Hence the worries about
coyotes. Hence the cries of outrage in response to the puppy mill article. Hence
the ridiculous amount of money spent for the pets. And hence the Ugly Dog
Competitions in which owners were proud to flaunt the exquisite beauty of their
dogs that no one else could appreciate.