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Yo quiero Doggy Heaven: Taco Bell icon dies at 15

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Gidget the Chihuahua, who achieved pop-culture immortality in the “Yo Quiero Taco Bell” ad campaigns run by the fast-food outlet in the 1990s, died of an apparent stroke in Santa Clarita, Calif., on Tuesday while watching television. She was 15.

US Weekly broke the news on Wednesday, quoting the dog’s owner, Karen McElhatton, as saying Gidget “lived like a queen” and “had a great life.”

tacobellTaco Bell is a unit of Yum! Brands Inc., whose stock shook off the bad news and rose 30 cents to $33.68 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Gidget starred in Taco Bell ads for two years, beginning in late 1997. “She” became a “he” in the spots, which depicted the canine on a quest for Taco Bell fare. The tagline “Yo Quiero Taco Bell” (I want Taco Bell) passed into the lexicon, and Gidget became an instant celebrity. She showed up at movie premieres, on magazine covers, and even at the opening session of the New York Stock Exchange. A toy version sold briskly at Taco Bell’s 6,000 outlets. But the $200 million ad campaign did not do much for Taco Bell sales, and the company dropped Gidget after complaints from franchisees.

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