1. Long ago, before stars like Lil Bub and Boo were on the scene, a different kind of animal reigned.
3. This dog had strength. This dog had poise. This dog had a tongue that wouldn’t stay in his mouth.
5. As the internet was in its infancy, Mr. Winkle captured the hearts and minds of an unsuspecting early-2000’s public.
7. Before long, he could barely go out in public without attracting a crowd of adoring fans and paparazzi.
8. Without warning, he was forced to come to terms with his new-found celebrity.
9. Soon he was on tour across the nation, living the life of a rockstar.
10. Mr. Winkle rubbed elbows with some of the biggest stars of his time…
12. Here he is on the red carpet with Kevin Nealon and Caroline Rhea.
13. Here he’s patiently allowing Rosie O’Donnell a momentary embrace.
15. Groupies on the road were a constant temptation for the young star.
16. “I was just trying to figure out who I really was, you know? But everywhere I turned, there were cameras,” Mr. Winkle later said of that chaotic time in his life.
17. “The fans, they only wanted one thing, and what they wanted wasn’t who I really was,” he said.
18. “They’d come up to me with all of these questions, and all of these assumptions about who I was and where I was from, and it was just exhausting.”
19. “All these perceptions, I just lost sight of who I was, and what I was doing with my life,” he said.
20. Fame became too much to handle. Like so many celebrities before him, Mr. Winkle developed a drinking problem.
22. He began missing tour dates, frustrating fans and colleagues alike.
24. His demons began to take a toll on his health, and Mr. Winkle quickly backed away from the limelight.
25. At the insistence of loved ones, Mr. Winkle quit showbiz entirely.
26. “I started focusing on what really mattered in my life, family and friends,” said Winkle regarding his life after fame.
27. “Do I miss the glory days, the glitz and glam? Sometimes. But I like where I am now in my life.”
28. Every once in a while Mr. Winkle will come out of retirement for the sake of a good calendar. His new one for 2014 is available now.
Check it out here.
29. But we’ll always remember him as a trailblazer, a star that shone brighter than any before him.
Check out Mr. Winkle’s guardian’s photos here.