My friend Uga VI is dead.
His death is not exactly a shock - he was old for a Bulldog - but the news hit hard. Of all the Georgia mascots, he was the most special for a special reason. He was named for me.
I can remember when his owner, Sonny Seiler, called nearly 10 years ago and told me that Uga VI's kennel name would be "Whatchagot Loran." Naturally, I was overwhelmed. You can only imagine the feelings I got when I would see him on the sideline
When he took the field with the cheerleaders, good feelings washed over me. I couldn't help it. When the network cameras would focus on him, it made me proud and stimulated feelings of great affection. I was immodestly given to pointing out our connection to sideline announcers like Tracy Wolfson of CBS and Holly Rowe of ESPN.
I was there when his grandfather put on a tux for the Heisman trophy banquet when Herschel Walker was awarded college football's highest individual honor. I went fishing with his grandfather, too, on Sonny's boat, "Silver Britches." Once, when I went to see his great-grandfather at the Selier's home on Dutch Island, he wet my pants leg.
"You are now a member of the family," Sonny said with a laugh.
While I have known all the Ugas and have celebrated countless Georgia victories - milestone wins like eight SEC titles and the 1980 national championship - Uga VI, the biggest of the Ugas, was the one I spent the most time with.
Last summer, I went to see the Seilers and stayed overnight. Uga VI slept down the hall and kept waking me up with his heavy snoring. I didn't mind. He would snore and then awake with a garbled grunting sound. I think I could make out what he was saying: "To hell with Tech."
On Saturday, Sonny called with the news about Uga VI's death. It was a disheartening call. I felt I had lost a close friend. And I had.
This was news I had not anticipated, thinking we would have one last season together this fall. He would have been 10 years old if he had lived another three weeks. That's a long life for a bulldog. Nevertheless, it hurts to give him up.
Losing your namesake who is universally popular with college football fans across the country brings a tear to your eye. You see, Uga is important to those who follow the game - not just the passionate Georgia fans. It is always uplifting to see fans of other schools, with their team colors prominently displayed, stop to have their photos made with Uga.
Over the years when I traveled and my relationship with the Bulldogs surfaced, there was always considerable interest in Georgia football.
There was Herschel Walker, of course. You lead a team to the national championship and win the Heisman trophy and football fans know plenty about you and your school. And people have always been interested in the hedges.
But the thing most fans I meet from other sections of the country are most intrigued by is the reverence we hold for our mascots. They find the treatment of Uga fascinating.
They are amused by the big red fireplug, which was Uga's chariot for escorting him to the sidelines for years, and they are charmed by the fact that the dogs are buried in Sanford Stadium.
On Monday, the Seiler family brought Uga VI to Athens for interment in the Uga family cemetery at the southwest corner of the stadium, just a few feet from the famous hedges.
As we say goodbye to Uga VI, I propose a toast to former Athletic Director Joel Eaves. He was the one who suggested to the Seilers that Uga I be buried in the stadium. As time went by, Uga I's descendants got the same treatment.
At every home game, the Seiler family drives its big red station wagon down to the stadium and takes a bouquet of flowers to the cemetery, which contains all the Uga grave sites in memory of the mascots buried there.
On Aug. 30 when Georgia plays Georgia Southern to begin a new season, I think I will ask the Seilers if I can place the bouquet in the Uga cemetery in memory of my namesake. My friend, Uga VI.
A damn good dawg.
Loran Smith is co-host of "The Tailgate Show" and sideline announcer for Georgia football. He is also a freelance writer and columnist.