This 1-year-old dog may look different, but she wants to be loved all the same

Julie LeRoy wasn’t expecting to do much more than refuel her car when she pulled into a gas station of her North Carolina neighborhood, but fate had other plans.

LeRoy, an animal control officer, was on her way home at the end of a workday last April. Still wearing her uniform, she was approached by a couple holding a dog.

“They mentioned that they lost their apartment and they rescued this dog from a breeder,” LeRoy tells “I didn’t ask for details because I didn’t want them.”

The conversation, which started as hesitatingly inquisitive, turned into a plea for help. One look at the puppy told LeRoy that she would need to do something. “Her physical deformities were just –there was nothing right,” LeRoy says. “She had a curved spine. Her feet were two different sizes. When she breathed, her ribcage looked like gills. She had a huge underbite.”

She had been named Cuda because she looked like a barracuda, but the sight of the strange-looking pit bull was too unpleasant and the couple planned to give her up. LeRoy immediately started sending text messages to her husband, who, at home with their four dogs, protested.

“Eventually, he texted back and said, ‘Do what you’re going to do. You’re going to do it anyway,’” LeRoy says.

Cuda was given a thorough medical examination, vaccinated and spayed. LeRoy was told that Cuda had congenital deformities, but they weren’t causing her pain. LeRoy believes that the deformities are a result of inbreeding, and has spoken out against the practice.

Now a year old, Cuda has become a lovable cuddlebug who loves children. Her profile has also been elevated thanks to a campaign to get her to this June’s World’s Ugliest Dog contest at California’s Sonoma-Marin Fair. It will cost $2,500 to get Cuda and LeRoy to California for the competition, and LeRoy has started to collect donations to help fund the trip.

“Anything that we collect beyond that will go to pit bull rescue,” LeRoy says. “She’s just an amazing little dog. Someone wrote to me asking me to stop calling her congenitally deformed and to call her a congenital miracle.”