2008-07-02 / Editorials

Other Voices

A sad, sad day
Mitch Clarke

Mitch Clarke is executive editor of The Times in Gainesville, Ga. He can be reached at mclarke@ gainesvilletimes.com. Mitch Clarke is executive editor of The Times in Gainesville, Ga. He can be reached at mclarke@ gainesvilletimes.com. Uga VI is dead, and I don't feel so good myself.

I had to paraphrase that line from Lewis Grizzard because, well, it pretty accurately describes how I feel as I write this Saturday afternoon.

If I have to explain to you who Uga is or why so many grown men are sad at the death of a dog, you're probably not going to understand anything I write today.

Uga VI was the beautiful white English bulldog that served as the mascot for the Georgia Bulldogs athletic teams. He was also a beloved family pet to the Seiler family in Savannah that has maintained the Uga lineage for more than five decades.

Uga VI was almost 10 years old, younger than Glory, the black and white springer spaniel that lives at my house. I gave Glory a big hug when I heard the news.

Uga, of course, gets his name from the University of Georgia's initials - UGA.

To those of us who follow Georgia athletics, Uga was arguably the most cherished symbol of the university, right up there with the arch and the chapel bell. A framed photo of Uga adorns my office wall. A photo of Uga and my friend's son, Aaron, sits on a cabinet.

I've gone to hundreds of Georgia games over the years. I've seen Herschel Walker and Buck Belue. I cried when Georgia beat Notre Dame to win the national championship in 1980 because I was so happy. I've talked with Vince Dooley. I was there when we finally beat Tennessee in Knoxville in 2001, and I was there when we beat Florida last year.

I've seen the bad, too. I sat through every game of the Ray Goff and Jim Donnan eras.

Through all the winning and the losing, Uga was always there. God bless the Seiler family for their love and devotion to the University of Georgia.

In Tupelo, Miss., my friend, Tim, and I watched the team arrive at their hotel before an Ole Miss game a few years ago. Uga, without his trademark red jersey, was the first off the bus.

Tim and I both remarked that, in all the years we'd been going to games, we'd never seen Uga without his jersey, and we later called Aaron to tell him we saw Uga naked.

Uga VI's father was a movie star. He was in "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," based on the true story of art dealer Jim Williams, who was on trial for murder, and John Kelso, a reporter who befriends him. Sonny Seiler, Uga's owner, was Williams' attorney.

Early in the movie, Kelso and Williams are walking Uga along the streets of Savannah, and several people stop to pet him or have their picture taken with him.

Kelso questions what's happening, and Williams responds, "No matter what you or I do in this life, we'll never be as famous as Uga."

I got an e-mail from a friend Saturday afternoon. He was upset about Uga's death, but optimistic the lineage would go on as certainly Uga VII is waiting in the wings. And he gave a nod toward football season, just 63 days away.

"Wouldn't it be great to deliver to him, and to UGA VI up above, a national championship this year!" my friend wrote.

Indeed it would.

Whenever one of the Ugas retires and is replaced by his son, the university holds a "changing of the dog" ceremony prior to a game at Sanford Stadium. It is an emotional moment. As the collar is removed from the elder dog and placed on the younger one, the crowd begins a chant.

Sadly, Uga VI didn't live to hear that chant, but it is one that most befits him, the winningest dog in University of Georgia history. I suspect more than a few of us Dawg fans have been thinking it today.

Damn good dog.

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