The Ugliest Dog in the Prettiest House

Dane Andrew and Rascal have won fame in the world of canine celebrity. In their off hours they enjoy quiet times in their Sunnyvale Eichler. Photo by Ari Mirabedi

If you’re sitting at a curbside table at a downtown Palo Alto crêperie with the officially declared world’s ugliest dog on your lap, you might expect – or even hope – that passersby would grimace, look away in horror or embarrassment, or try not to stare.

Instead, a young woman walking with her boyfriend breaks into a smile, and her eyes brighten as she takes in the oddly asymmetric visage, its tongue lolling out of the mouth, with wispy, wiry hair seen only on the head of its otherwise bald body.

Meet ‘Rascal the Ugliest Dog,’ which his owner assures us is the six-and-a-half pound animal’s official name.

But that’s the secret to the dog’s success.

“For an ugly dog, I’m looking for ugly-cute. I’m looking for unique characteristics, a sense of personality from the dog. Just a dog that really stands out with its unique qualities,” Nina Jimenez, one of the judges at the recent 23rd annual Del Mar Ugly Dog Contest, told a TV interviewer.

It can take a few minutes to get past the shock of Rascal's appearance before getting to know the true soul of this loving dog. Courtesy of Dane Andrew.

You guessed it. Rascal won. The victory, according to the press release, “a living world-record setter after six Ugliest Dog Contest wins, seven-time trophy winner, and current champion in three different Ugly Dog Contests, including first place wins at the Fort Bragg, Sacramento SPCA, and the Del Mar Ugly Dog Contests."

But Rascal Deux does more than win small-city contests. He appears on TV shows ('America’s Got Talent,' 'The Tonight Show') and starred in a music video by up-and-comer Athena Andreadis (as her love interest, naturally), regularly attends dedication of new sidewalk stars in Palm Springs, and is a frequent, specially invited guest at many fundraisers in the desert.

Rascal and owner Dane Andrew live together in a Sunnyvale Eichler and also share a second home in Palm Desert.

Alan Alda, Adam West (Batman), Barbara Eden ('I Dream of Jeannie'), and George Takai ('Star Trek') have all hobnobbed with the hound, whose owner, Dane Andrew, is himself a bit of a celebrity hound.

Paris Hilton is one of many celebrities who has gotten up close and personal with Rascal. Courtesy of Dane Andrew

Dane, a well-spoken celebrity interviewer, actor, photographer, classic car collector, Civil War re-enactor, and dedicated animal welfare proponent, has been in the ugly dog business far longer than his ugly dog – for 42 years in fact, since he got his first ugly dog at age 11.

First there was Chi Chi, then Mai Tai, then Lady Pink, then Rascal, then Rascal Deux (who is not related by blood to Rascal 1, despite the resemblance). Prior ugly dogs owned by Dane have met and posed for photos with other celebrities – including Donald Trump.

The first Rascal even appeared in a zombie movie.

In person, while enjoying a salmon crepe, Dane comes across as an easygoing, sincere guy who cares for the mostly hairless animal It’s easy to believe him when he says he’s not milking the ugly dog circuit to pay the bills or make a fortune.

The funds he generates through Rascal from prizes (which don't add up to much) and other forms of marketing, Dane says, go to animal welfare groups, often in whatever town hands out the prize.

Dane and Rascal in front of their Sunnyvale home. Photo by Ari Mirabedi

"I have always related more to animals than people," Dane says. "I think in a lot of ways they were always friendly, and they all seemed to like me and know what to expect.”

As for Rascal, Dane says, “He’s my handsome boy, actually.”

“The first reaction is, he’s ugly,” Dane says about people encountering Rascal. “But really quickly, within minutes, they’re petting him and they’re saying, you know he’s really cute. He has so many redeeming qualities – he really grows on them quickly.”

Shy in public, at home Rascal “spins around and gets excited. He likes to sleep under the covers if he can,” Dane says. “He likes to always be touching you somehow. He likes to be somewhere close.”

The first Chinese Crested dog Dane owned came to him via mom for his birthday. He’d been expecting a boxer, a breed the family had owned before.

Dane and Rascal spend much time together in their Eichler, which has retained many original features, including in the kitchen. The house is from 1963. Photo by Ari Mirabedi

“My mother, I don’t know where she found it, she gets me a little Chinese Crested-type dog who looks like a little elephant,” Dane says. “He had been abused, he had stitches his eye. She said cover your eyes, and I hear barking, and when I uncover my eyes I see this…I was kind of shocked because I had never seen anything like that before.”

Within a year Dane and Chi Chi made their first appearance on national TV. A few years later the first ugliest dog contest happened, to be replicated many times over.

Dane, who studied TV and film production at De Anza College in Cupertino, won a degree of fame as a celebrity interviewer, thanks in part to O.J. Simpson. Dane was doing standup-with-a-camera video interviews when he ran into the football star years ago at a golf tournament.

Can I interview you tomorrow O.J., the young Dane hazarded?

“He said sure and he actually showed up. I was impressed that the two people who actually showed up when they said they would – and they could have just easily forgotten or not cared – were [former Vice President] Dan Quayle and O.J. Simpson.”

Dane and Rascal are currently working on a movie to star the dog along with Cheeta the Chimp. Proceeds will help fund animal rescue, Dane says. Courtesy of Dane Andrew

The interview, O.J.’s last before he was arrested on charges of homicide, put Dane on the map. It was shown thousands of time, “with my name on it, and I’m on camera with him the whole time.” For years he interviewed celebrities for such programs as ‘Inside Edition’ and ‘Access Hollywood.’

Today, besides enjoying and restoring a collection of eight or nine classic cars, including two ‘Cudas that were used on the TV show ‘Nash Bridges,’ Dane is directing a childrens' film starring Rascal – ‘Skanky Doo,’ a 17-minute retro ghost story with talking animals, including the chimpanzee Cheeta, who also lives in a mid-century modern house, in Palm Springs. There will also be mermaids. Many celebrities Dane has met over the years are contributing their talents for voice-overs and cameos, including Sally Kellerman and Elke Sommer.

Rascal enjoys living in Dane’s Eichler home in Sunnyvale – the seventh Eichler Dane’s lived in in that city. His parents had various reasons for moving.

“I don’t know if I can live without an atrium,” Dane says, recalling how he grew up thinking all houses looked liked Eichlers. “I thought everyone lived in one. To me that was a normal house. Then, going to school and going to a friend’s house, I thought, this is a strange house. Where are the windows? To me it was strange, people living in these boxes.”

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