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The Story of Sublime’s Mascot, Lou Dog

Bradley Nowell pets Lou Dog on stage. Photo by Josh Koffman.

The late Bradley Nowell of Sublime famously had a pet Dalmatian named Lou Dog who became engrained in the iconography surrounding the band. First heard barking in “Waiting For My Ruca” at the beginning of Sublime’s debut studio album, 40oz to Freedom, Lou Dog traveled with Sublime everywhere they went, and though he died on September 17th, 2001, he is immortal as the music that Sublime made during Bradley Nowell’s lifetime.

Lou Dog was named after Bradley’s grandfather, Louie Nowell, and he lived a life that would have made his grandfather proud. Very much a member of the band, he not only rode around in the van with Sublime and appeared in numerous official press photos, he was also allowed to wander around on stage during shows (rumor has it that he went deaf from this).

There are a number of Sublime lyrics that mention or reference Lou Dog, including a line in what I think is the best Sublime song, “Garden Grove”: We took this trip to Garden Grove, it smelled like Lou Dog inside the van.

Louie is also referenced in Sublime’s biggest hit, “What I Got”, with the iconic lyric “I got a Dalmation, I can still get high”, plus several other times throughout the song. He was also featured on the cover art for the 7″ single version of the track. Additionally Bradley wrote two songs about Lou Dog, “Lou Dog Went to the Moon” and “I Love My Dog”.

Bradley truly did love Lou dog with his whole heart. It is said that sometime during the early 90s, Lou Dog went missing for about a week, and Bradley was so distraught that he spent most of his time lying on the couch crying about the loss of his dog. It was during this time that he wrote “Lou Dog Went to the Moon”, which is his take on the Camper Van Beethoven song “The Day That Lassie Went To The Moon”.

It is also said that Lou Dog had a habit of biting people, and there are many stories about him doing so, even famously biting Gwen Stefani as she walked off stage after introducing Sublime one night at The Phoenix Theatre in Petaluma, CA (their final show).

He reportedly bit the lower lip of the star of the “Date Rape” music video and the band had to pay $5000 for his operation to continue with the video shoot. He also bit Tom Lister Jr., or Tiny, the star of the “Santeria” video.

When Bradley Nowell died of a heroin overdose in bed at the Ocean View Motel in San Francisco, Lou Dog was sitting right there at the edge of the bed. After Bradley’s death, Lou Dog was left to Nowell’s friend Miguel Happoldt, whom he had formed Skunk Records with in 1990.

Lou Dog lived five more years after Bradley’s tragic death, and was eventually laid to rest on September 17th, 2001. He was cremated just like his father, and half his ashes went next to the headstone, and the other half were scattered at sea.

Bradley Nowell with his newborn son, Jake, and Lou dog in 1995.