The Little Sock Puppet That Could

SAN FRANCISCO (06/14/2000) - As the highly competitive online pet-store sector begins to shake out with Pets.com picking up some of the pieces of shuttered Petstore.com, the celebrity status of Pets.com's irascible sock-puppet mascot seems set to attain Taco Bell Chihuahua-like proportions. But how did a sweat sock with a watch around his neck, a lopsided look, and ears attached by safety pins become such a hot ticket?

Here's a look at how the pattering pooch rode to fame and brought Pets.com along for the ride.

August 1999 - Pets.com launches a national ad campaign featuring a sock-puppet puppy. The "Because pets can't drive" slogan enters the American lexicon.

November 1999 - A 36-foot-tall balloon replica of the mascot joins Garfield in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.

January 2000 - Walt Disney, parent company of the ABC Network, buys a 5 percent stake in Pets.com.

January 2000 - Pets.com pays $2.5 million for a 30-second ad aired during the Super Bowl.

February 2000 - The feisty pup is interviewed on ABC shows Nightline and Good Morning America. Neither show mentions Disney's stake in Pets.com.

March 2000 - The celebrity hound hosts Oscar coverage for Go.com's "Mr.

Showbiz," an online guide to entertainment news. Disney owns Go.com.

March 2000 - Fame comes with a price for the sock puppet as Triumph, the uncouth dog puppet that has been a fixture on Late Night With Conan O'Brien for three years, appears on the show to suggest that the Pets.com puppet is nothing more than a copycat.

April 2000 - Pets.com strikes back with a lawsuit against Triumph's creator, Robert Smigel, claiming defamation and trade libel. In retaliation, the bad mannered Triumph stages a bogus press conference on Late Night and offers a mock apology to Pets.com. The suit is still pending.

June 2000 - A Pets.com replica puppet is sold online for $20 a pop, in response to more than 10,000 e-mail messages that the company has received from fans.

Sales are limited to three pups a person. The company site also offers other "puppet gear," including $50 wristwatches, clothing and drinking bowls for pets.

June 2000 - Pets.com will release a new line of mascot stuffed animals and finger-puppet key chains at the Licensing 2000 International show.

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