July 22, 2009— -- Her bug eyes and sweet face captured the hearts of millions of fast food enthusisats.
But more than 10 years after her face first graced a "Yo Quiero Taco Bell" ad, marketing's top chihuahua has died at 15 from a stroke.
"It was very hard to lose her," owner Karin McElhatton told ABCNews.com today. "She was a great little dog."
Gidget, a 12-pound Hollywood dynamo in her prime, was propelled to stardom when Taco Bell's advertisments hit in the late 1990s, featuring the feisty little dog as an insistent consumer of Taco Bell.
The phrase "Yo quiero Taco Bell" -- "I want Taco Bell" in a man's voice -- spawned a series of commercial catchphrases for the chain including "Drop the chalupa" and made its mark on pop culture with T-shirts as well as a line of dolls and toys.
The ad campaign even touched off a chihuahua frenzy with would-be dog owners suddenly becoming very interested in the Mexican breed.
At the height of her popularity as the Taco Bell dog, Gidget traveled by limo and first-class in planes. She even got a seat on the company's private jet for a trip to Manhattan to open up the New York Stock Exchange.
Sue Chipperton, who trained Gidget for Studio Animal Services, said the pooch was constantly mobbed by people when she took Gidget out even though she was careful to make sure very few people knew Gidget was the real Taco Bell dog.
"They could come over and go 'Oh that looks like the Taco Bell dog!'" Chipperton said.
But Gidget, who had lived with Chipperton for most of her life, was never coddled. Chipperton said she was expected to follow commands and was never carried when she could walk on her own.
As a result, Chipperton said, "her personality was that of a big dog."
While the commercials were hugely popular, they eventually nabbed the ire of Hispanic watchdog groups which claimed Taco Bell was promoting stereotypes and demanded the commercials be taken off the air.
The commercials ended so abruptly, Internet rumors that Gidget had met an untimely demise abounded leading to her very own entry on the myth-busting Web site Snopes.com.
Her owner, McElhatton, who owns Studio Animal Services which trains animals for film, television and adverstising, said Gidget -- unique for her "really huge ears" -- just knew when the camera was on her. And she was very particular about who got her attention.
"She was very much a primadonna," she said. "If she didn't like you, she wouldn't give you the time of day."
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Taco Bell Spokes-dog Lived Like a Queen
Taco Bell issued a statement today saying, "We enjoyed working with Gidget and she will be missed by many. Our deepest sympathies go out to her owners and fans."
Gidget, who had previously done an ad campaign for Old Navy, kept working after her stint with Taco Bell ended. Perhaps most notably, she acted alongside Reese Witherspoon in 2003's "Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde" as the mother of Bruiser, the prized chihuahua owned by Witherspoon's character Elle Woods.<
"The whole world was all about her," McElhatton said. "We felt very blessed to have her as a part of our company."
Chipperton said that while Gidget was on set she was very focused on her job, even finding her "mark" on the stage before being told to do so.
"She really did have a concept of being in front of the camera," Chipperton said. "She just had a sparkle."
In later years, McElhatton said the spunky little dog enjoyed a daily sunbath and had her favorite toys and beds -- everything given to Gidget was simply the best.
"She lived," McElhatton said, "like a queen."