(Reuters) - Elwood, the Chihuahua and Chinese Crested mix whose unusual appearance won him the 2007 title of World's Ugliest Dog, has died unexpectedly at the age of 8, his owner said on Saturday.
"It was very sudden," said a tearful Karen Quigley, 52, of Sewell, New Jersey, who adopted Elwood in 2006. The homely but lovable 5-pound (2.3-kg) canine died Thursday, on Thanksgiving morning.
"He was in my arms," Quigley said. She said the veterinarian believed he might have had some kind of cancer.
Elwood was dark and practically hairless - except for a tuft of white hair on his forehead - and had a long, protruding tongue.
A breeder had deemed Elwood too ugly to sell and was planning to euthanize him, but he was taken in by one of the breeder's friends. Quigley adopted him in when he was 9 months old.
After winning the annual "World's Ugliest Dog" contest held in California, he developed a legion of fans who sent him letters and postcards. This led Quigley to write "Everyone Loves Elwood," a children's book about self-acceptance.
Elwood had "a magical power to make people smile and laugh" that made him very attractive, especially to children, said Quigley. Elwood would pose for photos with people at charitable events.
"He was the most beautiful dog I've ever seen ... " said Quigley, who has rescued other dogs as well. "He taught children it's OK to be different."
(The story corrects metric conversion in paragraph 2.)
(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski, editing by Ian Simpson and Gunna Dickson)