Editor’s note: This story was originally published in the Ledger-Enquirer on March 7, 2003
When Sonny Seiler first saw the white English bulldog that became the patriarch of the most famous line of mascots in college sports, he was anything but impressed.
"Frankly, I was disappointed,'' Seiler admits, recalling the scene 47 years ago.
Seiler and Kent Hannon wrote a book "Damn Good Dogs."
In 1956, Seiler attended law school at the University of Georgia. He had agreed to accept the dog as a wedding present from Frank Heard, who knew Seiler's new wife, the former Cecilia Gunn, from Columbus High.
As a loyal Georgia fan, Seiler liked the idea of taking in a white English bulldog puppy a pet, even though he says, "Cecilia and I were poor; we could barely afford to feed ourselves --- but we couldn't afford not to accept the gift.''
So members of the Gunn family drove the 4-month-old puppy from Columbus to Griffin, Ga., where the Seiler newlyweds accepted the gift.
"He was at an awkward age,'' Seiler said of the puppy. "He was tall and gangly. He had not filled out. Nevertheless, we took him home and cared for him. By September, he had filled out.''
The young Seiler had no idea the young puppy would become the first Uga in the line of Georgia mascots, which continues now with Uga VI.
Enter former Georgia coach Wally Butts and former sports information director Dan Magill.
"I was working for Coach Butts in the ticket office, as a student ticket agent for all sports,'' Seiler said. "I could study in the afternoon and sell tickets if anybody wanted one.''
Before the first game of the season, Cecilia Seiler bought a child's red sweater, stitched a black G on the chest, and put the sweater on the puppy. They left the dog at a fraternity house, and members decided the dog would be a hit at the game.
"We took him into the stands and he attracted a lot of attention, including some from some photographers,'' Seiler said. When Magill, always looking for a publicity angle, saw the puppy's picture in a newspaper, he told Butts the bulldog would make a good mascot.
The next thing Seiler knew, he was being summoned to Butts' office.
"That scared the hell out of me,'' Seiler said. "I was thinking 'I can't afford to lose this job.' ''
Instead, Butts asked if Seiler could have his dog serve as the team mascot.
There is another Columbus angle to the birth of the Uga line of mascots. Seiler said one of his classmates, Billy Young III of Columbus suggested, "If I had that dog, I'd name him Uga.''
Seiler recounts, "I said 'Billy, that's the smartest thing I've heard you say.' ''
The Columbus connections are described in detail in the book.
Seiler says he expects Young to be at the new Barnes and Noble at Columbus Park Crossing for a book signing Saturday.
All the pictures, clips and notes that Seiler saved through the years helped him write the book.
Seiler, who lives in Savannah, Ga., rose to fame with his Uga mascots. Seiler successfully represented Jim Williams in the Savannah murder trial made famous in the movie "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil."