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Sam: Beloved Ugly

Last week, 14-year-old Sam won "The World's Ugliest Dog Contest" for the third year in a row at the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma, Calif. Sam is so ugly he has been mistaken for everything from a space alien to a burn victim.

"At this point, he's become a celebrity in Santa Barbara," proud owner Susie Lockhee tells The Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen. "But people who don't know him are pretty horrified. They're very horrified that I'm always kissing him. I'm very affectionate with Sammy because I think he's very beautiful. Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder, isn't it?"

Sam's pedigree is Chinese crested hairless, but Lockhee says there is barely anything typical about him.

She explains, "Generally, they're not this large. Generally, they have quite a bit more hair on their head, their tail and their feet. And Sam has about two hairs on the end of his tail, and five hairs on his head."

But there are certain physical traits that got him the Ugliest Dog title, Lockhee points out: "There's like a little line of moles running down his snout. He also has a plethora of blackheads everywhere."

The tiny dog has wrinkled brown skin and a fleshy flap of skin hangs from his withered neck. And then there are the Austin Powers teeth that jut at odd angles from his mouth.

As for his eyes, "Everyone calls them zombie eyes," Lockhee says. "He's just become lined with cataracts in the last few years. So his eyes have turned sort of white and milky. And his ears have been described as little potato chips. He has these claws that my friend calls death talons."

To top it all, Sam, who's pushing 15, has a hernia lump on his backside, too. To put things in perspective, the first year he competed, there was no question in the judges' minds Sam was going to win.

"They said it was a landslide of mythic proportion when Sam won," Lockhee says, "But this year, he had a close call."

Above all, what makes Sam special is that "he's so sweet," Lockhee says. Of her four dogs, Sam is her favorite.

"I've never had a dog this in love with me," she says, "And shortly after I rescued him (I took him in as a rescue), I was diagnosed with cancer. I had to be in radioactive isolation, where you're away from people for almost a week. But they let me take one dog. And I chose Sam. And he just made that time so much fun. He's so crazy. I've just never been this close to a dog before."

Sam enjoys regular gourmet meals of sirloin steak, cheese balls, roasted chicken and flan, so he'll swallow his multiple pills. Sam is suffering from congestive heart failure, lung and kidney problems and has definitely slowed down in his twilight years.