Lucky Number VII
Uga VII inherits the spiked collar
Fans might do a double take when they see Uga VII for the first time: Weighing in at 56 pounds, with a decided V-shaped wrinkle above his eyes he’s the spitting image of his father.
Uga VII was scheduled to make his public debut on Aug. 30 before the Bulldogs home opener against Georgia Southern University.
“This will be the oldest one we’ve ever started,” says Sonny Seiler (BBA ’56, JD ’57), who owns the 3-year-old white English bulldog. “He looks enough like his dad that a lot of people will mistake him for Uga VI.”
Uga VII is the latest in an unbroken line of UGA mascots that stretches back to 1956, beginning with Hood’s Old Dan. The English bulldog puppy was given to Seiler and his wife Cecelia as a belated wedding gift and subsequently named Uga. The dog attended the 1956 season opener against Florida State in a jersey Cecelia made, and after his photo appeared in the newspaper sports information director Dan Magill knew he’d found UGA’s new mascot. Coach Wally Butts made the offer to Seiler, who was working in the ticket office, and a dynasty was born.
Fifty-two years and five Ugas later, VII was called to duty after Uga VI unexpectedly died. Like previous mascots VII is a solid white male, although that’s not a requirement.
“If we didn’t have a white male it wouldn’t bother me to go with another dog as long as it’s Uga’s puppy, because I know they have good genes and are coachable,” Seiler says.
For the Seilers the dogs are not just mascots—they’re members of the family. Swann Seiler (AB’78), her brother Charles and sisters Bess Thompson and Sara Story grew up with the dogs and are still involved with taking care of the Bulldog Nation’s most prominent symbol. While Cecelia handles meals, baths and trips to the vet, Swann is the go-between at Picture Day and on game days, getting hundreds of people a 30-second photo op. And Charles (AB ’83) has been Uga’s sideline handler since the age of 14.
The UGA School of Veterinary Medicine oversees Uga’s health care, and the family makes every effort to keep the dogs in top health. He eats dry food, twice a day at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., Seiler says, and never gets table scraps or sweet treats.
“Keeping these dogs is an around-the-clock deal, but when you’ve done it as long as we have and everybody pitches in it’s not that hard,” he says.
The average lifespan of an English bulldog is eight years, so the Seilers have made this transition before—mourning the passing of a beloved pet while ushering his successor into UGA history. And though they hope each Uga serves for many years, they always have a backup dog just in case. After Uga IV injured his leg, brother Otto finished the 1986 season, earning praise from then- Coach Vince Dooley for providing “bench strength.”
“A lot of people don’t know we have a backup dog,” Seiler says. “There might not always be a Sonny, but there will always be an Uga.”
Uga is bred often enough to preserve the line, but no Uga-sired puppies are ever sold. Uga candidates live with the Seilers or their friends, who return the dogs if they’re called to assume the mantle of mascot. Once the family decides on the dog, their choice is submitted to the President’s Office and the athletic director for approval.
Though Uga VII will soon enter a world very foreign to the one he’s known since birth—frequent travel, roaring crowds, constant demands for his attention—Seiler says he’ll handle it with dignity, just like his predecessors.
“English bulldogs by nature are gentle,” he says, “although they look ferocious.”
Damn Good Dogs! The Real Story of Uga, the University of Georgia's Bulldog Mascots by Sonny Seiler and Kent Hannon