ATHENS -- To the Bulldog Nation, the Uga mascot is royalty, the lineage anointed to represent the University of Georgia. But to the Seiler family, the English bulldogs are family pets. That is sadly evident at times such as these.
Uga VII passed away suddenly Thursday morning at his home in Savannah. At 4 years old, he was practically a pup and had served as Georgia's mascot for not even two full football seasons when he unexpectedly succumbed to heart problems.
"As you could imagine, we are devastated," said Swann Seiler, daughter of Uga owners Sonny and Cecelia Seiler. "He was such a sweet dog. This is a very hard day."
Uga VII, or "Uga VI's Loran's Best" as was his registered name, was latest in the 54-year line of mascots owned by the Seilers. To them, he was much more than an emblem.
"Mother woke up this morning and said she thought Uga didn't feel too good," said Swann Seiler, her voice quivering. "Daddy got up with him and he could tell something was wrong. We have a vet [Sonny Lester] that's practically on-call just for Uga and he was there in five minutes. They took him to a [veterinary] hospital quick as they could but he didn't make it."
“We are all in a state of shock,” Sonny Seiler said. “We had no warning whatsoever.”
In fact, Seiler said Uga VII had just been given a clean bill of health from the UGA vet school a week earlier.
Uga VII's sudden passing causes a predicament. There will be no time to find his replacement before Saturday's home game against Kentucky. So the Bulldogs will have to play without a bulldog.
"I think the Bulldog Nation will understand," Swann Seiler said.
It has been done before, as recently as 2000 when it was determined Uga VI couldn't make the 10-hour flight to Hawaii for the Oahu Bowl.
The Seilers plan to have an interim dog in place for the Georgia Tech game on Nov. 28 in Atlanta. That dog will also represent Georgia at its bowl game but won't necessarily become Uga VIII. A thorough search of Uga's VII's extensive brood of heirs will commence as soon as possible.
"There's lineage out there we can depend on in unforeseen cases such as this," Swann Seiler said. "That's what we intend to do. Right now we're just trying to get through the next couple of days."
Georgia has played under interim mascots before and done quite well. In 1986, Otto was called to fill in for his younger brother Uga IV, who had injured a hind knee jumping off a hotel bed. He went 3-1 and remains then-coach Vince Dooley's all-time favorite mascot.
In the meantime, the two-legged Bulldogs vow to soldier on.
"You never think something like that could happen that quickly but it certainly did, " Georgia coach Mark Richt said before Thursday evening's practice. "It's sad we won't have him on the sideline anymore."
Uga VII, the biggest of the line at 56 1/2 pounds, made his sideline debut against Georgia Southern in the season opener on Aug. 30, 2008. He compiled a record of 16-7 during his tenure, the shortest for any in the Uga line.
Burial details have not been finalized. The mascots are interred in a mausoleum built in the southwest corner of Sanford Stadium. Georgia is the only university in the nation to bury its mascots within the confines of its stadium.
"Uga has gone the way of all great bulldogs ... up in the sky," said Loran Smith, Georgia's longtime sideline radio reporter and the man for whom the late mascot was named. "I'm not a very good prognosticator. I wrote a story on him for the game program this year and I said he was going to be a lucky dog because he's number seven."
Stated UGA president Michael Adams: “Uga VII was both a family pet and a symbol for millions of fans. And besides that, he was just a sweet dog. We will miss him.”
-- Alexis Stevens and Andy Johnston contributed to this article.