Can the Bulldog Be Saved?

The short, brutish life of the bulldog is putting the future of the breed at risk.

  1. In the first half of Georgia’s football game against South Carolina in 2009, Uga VII, who had been dozing on a bag of ice in his air-conditioned sideline doghouse, was cajoled onto the field to pose for pictures with some cheerleaders and Gov. Sonny Perdue. Uga (pronounced UGH-uh) wore his trademark red Georgia jersey and spiked red leather collar, and he looked bored as an ESPN cameraman shoved a camera in his wrinkly, smooshed bulldog face.

    His modeling complete, the country’s most famous dog mascot appeared ready to nap again. “Sometimes he thinks he’s a lap dog,” explained his owner, Sonny Seiler, a prominent Savannah lawyer and the mercurial 78-year-old owner of the University of Georgia bulldog mascot dynasty. Seiler bears a striking resemblance to the Georgia bulldogs he has cared for since 1956. He has a round, droopy face and wide, slumping shoulders, and his courtroom antics are often described in words associated with bulldogs: Georgia Magazine said he possessed a “barrel-chested bravura,” while John Berendt wrote that Seiler “thunders and growls” in his best-selling nonfiction book, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” in which Seiler defended a wealthy antiques dealer charged with the murder of a young hustler.

    Before the game, I sat with Seiler in the front of his S.U.V., which was parked in its usual spot near the west end of Sanford Stadium. The car’s rear door was open, allowing fans a close-up look at the state’s most famous pooch. Not that there w...