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Web phenom Mr. Winkle spreads pooch Prozac
(CNN) -- Stuffed animal come to life? Hamster with a hairdo? Miniature alien on a mission? Whatever people think Mr. Winkle is, they cannot stop watching, and loving, the mysterious-tongued one when he waddles into their lives.
The pint-sized peculiarity has become a cult celebrity in his Los Angeles neighborhood where he takes frequent walks with owner Lara Jo Regan.
Mesmerized neighbors gasp and stare, unable to figure out the identity of what prances before their eyes. The pooch has been likened to everything from the Japanese cartoon character Pokemon to a cat in a dog suit to the reincarnation of a divinity.
"When some people see me they think I am a deranged woman walking a stuffed animal," Regan said. "What makes him special is that God did not make him just right. He's a glorious mutant, an ubermutt."
What's with his tongue?
Part of Mr. Winkle's bumbling charm comes from an oddly sized mouth muscle, which always hangs from his jaw, even when he sleeps.
"It's either too big for his mouth or his mouth is too small for his tongue," Regan said.
Also important is an infectious positive karma that rubs off on others. One testimonial came to Regan from a couple via e-mail. Having a bitter verbal fight, they happened upon a picture of Mr. Winkle and broke into fits of laughter. The tension soon evaporated.
"The power to inspire, lift people out of their sorrow and woes, Mr. Winkle does that," Regan said.
The dog knows pain. When Regan found him near some railroad tracks five years ago, the abandoned pet suffered from severe mouth, teeth and ear infections.
"I was concerned about this poor little thing by the side of the road. He was scary looking because he was so abused. It took a year to heal him," Regan said.
Part Prozac, part pipe cleaner
His healing now spreads to others.
"He brings so much happiness. He's like a doggie Prozac. I started feeling guilty that I wasn't sharing him with the world," said Regan.
So a few weeks ago she launched mrwinkle.com, the "Home of the Cutest Dog in the Universe." Offering a variety of videos, photographs and anecdotes, the Web site has transformed Mr. Winkle into a national celebrity.
News stations mob his neighborhood. Bookstores schedule his appearance. Online fans order his calendars and posters, which display Mr. Winkle in such poses as a winged angel in the rain and a green-suited alien.
"He's my muse, a photographer's dream," said Regan, a professional photographer who has covered everything from Hollywood to Appalachia for magazines like Time, Newsweek and Life.
"He's much easier to work with than most of the celebrities I've worked with. He's like pipe cleaner. I can put him in any pose and he'll hold it."
Dark side of the dog
Visitors to mrwinkle.com give a common reaction when they see the pictures: infectious laughter mixed with disbelief.
"That's not a real dog."
"The eyes look like they're pasted on."
"He looks evil to me."
Evil? Regan acknowledges that in addition to his saintly personality, Mr. Winkle does display a darker side.
"He has his very dog moments, when he tries to hump everything in sight. He's zen and spiritual, but deep down he might be just a horny little guy," Regan said.
Could Mr. Winkle just be a lonely dog searching for love? Regan believes so.
"We're thinking of adding on our Web site a Winkle wife search, trying to find a female that looks the most like Mr. Winkle," she said.
e-enterprise: A Guy and His Dog Become Cyberstars
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