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Darrell Huckaby - Long live the king

Come on now. Y'all knew I was gonna write about the dawg today.

That's not a misprint - or a misspelling - because UGA V's Whatchagot Loran? might have been born a "d-o-g" but he earned the right to die a "D-a-w-g" - and a damn good one.

Uga VI, Sonny Seiler's magnificent English Bulldog, who had served as the official mascot of the University of Georgia since Sept. 11, 1999, died peacefully in his sleep Friday evening, three weeks short of his 10th birthday. But don't weep for Uga VI. He packed a lot of living into his 10 years.

For starters, he presided over more Georgia victories than any of his predecessors - including Uga III, who won a National Championship.

Uga VI might not have received as much fame and notoriety as his father, Uga V, who was featured on the cover of Sport's Illustrated as the nation's No. 1 college mascot and will forever live in infamy, as long as there is an ESPN and a craziest sports moments tape for attempting to bite an Auburn player in his privates - but Uga VI did what no other mascot had ever done before.

He not only, as I said, presided over more victories than any other, but also led his team onto the field for three Sugar Bowl appearances, including one in Atlanta, of all places, and three SEC Championship games. That's not a bad record for a "d-o-g" or a "D-a-w-g."

If you aren't a Georgia fan and wonder why all the fuss, I probably won't do justice in my explanation, because it's one of those things that you either get or you don't. But I'll give it a shot.

Uga, you see, since 1956 has been the symbol of the University of Georgia and all things Bulldog. In the year 1956, Frank W. Seiler of Savannah - a second-year UGA law student - and his new bride, Cecilia, received an English Bulldog puppy as a wedding present.

This wasn't just any bulldog, understand. This bulldog was a direct descendent of the white English bulldog that had accompanied the Georgia team to Pasadena, Calif., for the 1943 Rose Bowl game. That made him of royal lineage in the eyes of most Georgia faithful. Sonny named his new puppy Uga, in honor of his school, and the rest, as they say, was history - or almost.

According to the book "Damn Good Dogs" which Seiler co-authored with Kent Hannon, he had no notion of making his wedding gift the official school mascot. But Sonny's wife Cecelia had dressed him up for a fraternity party in a little red sweater with a block "G" - that was Uga she had dressed up, not Sonny - and Uga was such a big hit at the party that the Sigma Chis encouraged the Seilers to take him to that afternoon's football game against Florida State, which they did.

The ticket taker at Sanford Stadium was so enamored by the pure white bulldog in the red sweater that she waved him right into the stadium, as if he belonged - which we all now know he did.

Enter onto the scene the inimitable Dan Magill who, at that time, was the entire sports information department for the university. He had been looking for a dog to replace Mike, the brindle-colored bulldog that had served as mascot from 1951-1955 but had died the previous spring.

Dan Magill saw pictures of Uga at the Florida State game that had been published in the newspaper. He told (Georgia head football coach) Wally Butts about the dog and Coach Butts asked Sonny, who worked part-time in the UGA athletic department, if he would be willing to allow Uga to be used to "create some excitement" for the team by serving as official mascot.

A dynasty was born. Uga I became the patriarch of a royal line of pure white male English bulldogs, each of which would serve as official mascot for the entire University, but especially the football teams - and for more than half-a-century Ugas I through VI have led the team onto the field to do battle and roamed the sideline, providing a rallying point for the thousands of red-and-black faithful gathered for prayer meeting between the hedges.

Seiler's dogs have become so revered that each one is buried in a special vault inside Sanford Stadium - each with his own personalized inscription, denoting his contributions to the Bulldog football legacy and the accomplishments of the teams during their tenure.

The dogs have become more than a symbol to Georgia people, though. They have become celebrities, and the Georgia people have flocked to see them and pet them and be photographed with them - if you can imagine a canine rock star, then you have some idea of what Uga VI and his ancestors have meant to the Bulldog nation. Or maybe not, because Uga is much more significant than any rock star.

So the news of Uga VI's death brought sadness Saturday. But he had done his duty before his demise and provided an heir, whose identity is yet to be revealed.

But we know that he will be Uga VII. Isn't seven a lucky number? Isn't Matt Stafford No. 7? The stars are lining up. When the next Uga leads the No. 1 ranked Georgia Bulldogs onto the Sanford Stadium turf in 65 days, his forefathers will be barking away in doggie heaven.

The King is dead. Long live the King.

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.