ATLANTA -- Uga VII, the white English bulldog mascot for the University of Georgia's football team for almost two seasons, died Thursday of heart-related causes, the dog's owner said.
The 56-pound dog, nicknamed "Loran's Best," after longtime UGA sidelines reporter and Albany Herald guest columnist, Loran Smith, was known as a laid-back mascot who seemed oblivious to crowd noise during boisterous games and would sit patiently as excited fans snapped photos of him. He often roamed the sidelines in a shirt with a 'G' stitched on it, sometimes resting on a bag of ice to cool off in his customized dog house.
The school said there would be no mascot at Saturday's game in Athens against Southeastern Conference rival Kentucky, but that a wreath will be laid on his doghouse on the field's sidelines. Sonny Seiler, the dog's owner, said he likely wouldn't name a replacement until next year.
"We are all in a state of shock," Seiler said in a news release issued by the university. "We had no warning whatsoever."
The 4-year-old dog made his debut as the mascot in August 2008 after his father, Uga VI, died of congestive heart failure. He had big paws to fill -- Uga VI was the school's winningest mascot, racking up a 87-27 record, seven wins in nine bowl appearances and a pair of Southeastern Conference championships.
But Seiler said the dog distinguished himself in his own way.
"He was 10-3 last year which is not bad for a freshman," said Seiler. "Uga VII was not as active or mischievous as his father but more distinguished. He realized his role when he put his shirt on. He was well-behaved and always appreciated the significance of his role."
The dog was the latest in a line of mascots that have been featured on the covers of Sports Illustrated, Time, Newsweek and in several movies. He also was a compelling symbol for football fans across the nation, said Damon Evans, the school's athletic director.
"Just as his ancestors, he had captured the hearts of college football fans everywhere as the country's No. 1 mascot," Evans said. "He had been truly embraced by all those who follow the Georgia Bulldogs across the country. We will miss him dearly."