Courtesy of Dawn Goehring
06/03/2010 at 03:07 PM EDT
After a decade-long career in show business, former World's Ugliest Dog winner Miss Ellie has died. The 17-year-old hairless Chinese crested, who lived and worked with owner Dawn Goehring, died of natural causes.
Goehring's troop of 14 rescue dogs
perform shows at Tennessee's Comedy Barn Theater, as well as local schools, libraries and senior centers. Miss Ellie, equipped with little other than the ability to sit and shake, acted as the mascot during shows and thrived when there were plenty of laps to sit on.
"She was especially great in pet therapy, and would go from lap to lap to lap," Goehring tells PEOPLEPets.com. "Seniors would argue over who got to hold her."
Goehring was looking for a hairless dog when her local shelter contacted her about Miss Ellie. Before being rescued, Miss Ellie had lived in a garage with no attention or outside contact. "She was basically a throwaway dog," Goehring says.
When Miss Ellie first saw Goehring, all she did was sit, with her tongue hanging out of her mouth. It was love at first sight for Goehring, and for most others who met the canine.
"People fell in love with her immediately. Everybody wanted to touch her, and the minute somebody would hold her, they would melt."
Though she loved people, Miss Ellie had little interest in other dogs, all except one, named Dallas.
"She had one strong buddy. Out of all the dogs, Dallas was the only dog she would ever play with. He's gone over to her crate a couple times and looked for her, " Goehring says. "He looked after her."
In the past few years, Miss Ellie had become something of a local hero in Tennessee, with her own official day and fans that recognized her at the airport. Through Miss Ellie's participation in the Ugliest Dog
and Cutest Dog contests, which helped get her story on Animal Planet's Dogs 101
, Goehring was able to raise funds to donate to animal rescue efforts. She is starting a new campaign
to raise a million dollars for her local animal shelter by the end of the year.
"If everybody just gave $1," Goehring says, "it would help animals, keep animals alive, keep animals off the street." Leave your condolences for Goehring in the comments below.