With many of us still recovering from the loss of Bambi's mother, another animated animal has bitten the dust. Serious but lovable talking dog Brian from hit US comedyFamily Guy met his maker in a dramatic episode 'Life of Brian'. In an emotional farewell, the dog, who has been with the show since its pilot in 1999, said: "You've given me a wonderful life. I love you all." Cue Twitter meltdown.
Bring back Brian
With major news networks covering the story, it didn't take long to go viral. A central figure throughout the satirical cartoon's history, the writers of the Fox programme were learning the hard way just how cherished their character was, but perhaps a little too late. Within a few hours of the episode airing, a petition went online on Change.org, demanding that the show's creators bring back the fan favourite.
Just a couple of days later, it had 30,000 signatures and the number is still rising. The author of the petition moaned, "They killed America's dog!" Clearly the writers' decision to kill off a mainstay of one of the century's most popular TV shows had touched something of a nerve.
Who let the dogs out?
While fans bemoaned the loss of Brian, the Griffins were quick to find a new pooch. After a period of mourning, they hopped down to the rescue centre and met their new best friend Vinnie, voiced by Sopranos actor Tony Sirico. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the fans were not quite so quick to welcome him into their homes, with many tweeting that the show would never be the same.
Faced with such a dramatic response, executive producer Steve Callaghan immediately went on the defensive, telling E! Online, "Our fans are smart enough and have been loyal to our show for long enough to know that they can trust us. We always make choices that work to the greatest benefit of the series."
A dog is for life
Brian has been there from the very start, with series creator Seth Macfarlane coming up with the character at around the same time that he dreamed up the whole show. In fact, having also voiced Brian since the show started, Macfarlane is particularly close to the ever-popular character. The dog's dynamic with the other central characters, including evil baby Stewie, immature patriarch Peter and unrequited love interest Lois, has been a major feature of the long running show's popularity and, some argue, a key part of its success.
It has been suggested that given the show's history of bringing characters back from the grave, we may not have seen the last of Brian Griffin. While this would undoubtedly be one of the best Christmas gifts fans could hope for, the creators have not confirmed a future return. Amazing resurrection aside, it seems the erudite pooch might be gone for good.