Sam, the hairless Chinese Crested who called Santa Barbara home and who so famously held the title “World’s Ugliest Dog” for three consecutive years, passed on to the great doghouse in the sky in 2005. His spirit lives on, however, both as an Internet celebrity and as the mascot of Sam’s Doggie Dude Ranch. The latter was created by Sam’s owner, Susie Tautrim, after she moved from Santa Barbara to her husband’s Gaviota ranch and realized the space’s potential as a setting for city dogs to go native.
In addition to separate facilities for big and small dogs, a converted horse barn where they can escape heat and cold, and fenced-in play yards designed to prevent them from leaping or digging out, the real attraction of Sam’s Doggie Dude Ranch would have to be the opportunity for its guests to pretend they’re ranch dogs. If owners sign a special waiver, dogs can romp and play outdoors in ways they can’t on sidewalks and pavement. “They can chase squirrels and they can roll in horse manure : It’s like a doggie paradise,” Tautrim explained. For those interested, canine bliss in the form of a full day bounding after four-wheelers and splashing in horse troughs can be purchased for $35.
For Tautrim, Sam’s Doggie Dude Ranch helps to perpetuate the legacy of an animal that less generous souls might have found hard to embrace. “I think the Sam phenomenon has helped people realize that they could love older or uglier dogs,” she said. She’s also willing to accept all makes and models of dogs at her kennel-those beautiful all over and those beautiful on the inside only-though she cautions that she will personally approve each one in order to prevent any unsociable pooches from spoiling the laid-back atmosphere.
Those interested in a tour of Sam’s Doggie Dude Ranch or making a reservation there should visit samsdoggieduderanch.com. And those who simply want to remember Sam’s unique face can visit Tautrim’s blog at samugliestdog.typepad.com.