Air Bud is dead. Mostly.
Known offscreen as Buddy the Wonder Dog, the star of last year's demi-hit Air Bud passed on peacefully in his sleep Tuesday, losing a year-long battle to cancer, Daily Variety reports today.
Buddy was believed to be about 10 years old (people time).
But Air Bud--the character, the movie franchise--lives on. A sequel to the family flick, Air Bud 2: Golden Receiver, is already in the works, starring Buddy No. 2 and human actor Gregory Harrison.
A replacement pooch was required when the original Buddy was diagnosed with synovial cell sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, in January 1997. The disease cost him his right hind leg, which was amputated shortly after he wrapped shooting on his Disney feature film debut.
So as not to unduly worry the movie's target audience (i.e., kiddies), the Magic Kingdom sat on the news of their three-legged basketball-playing dog until late last summer--after Air Bud's theatrical release.
At the time of the announcement, a Disney spokeswoman said Buddy was in good spirits, even if he was down a leg. "He can still shoot baskets," the studio publicist said.
Basketball was Buddy's ticket to big-screen stardom. In Air Bud, he played a golden retriever (well, he was a golden retriever) who befriended a little boy and pitched in on the kid's roundball team as its furriest member.
Ever the athlete, Buddy also enjoyed soccer, hockey, baseball and football, where the retriever played receiver, according to Variety.
Other credits include: numerous TV guest appearances, including Late Night with David Letterman, Full House and America's Funniest Home Videos.
He is survived by nine puppies and his owner, Kevin DiCicco.