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'You'll never guess who I'm sitting next to in first class" my brother-in-law texted to his sister.

Joe was sitting on a Delta flight at Detroit Metropolitan Airport on his way to Sydney, Australia, with his partner, Patrick, for a vacation a couple weeks ago. Patrick flies so often for work, he has more sky miles than God, thus the first-class seats.

Because Joe's sister, Bridget, is the only person I know who has a subscription to People magazine (she saves every issue for my twentysomething daughters, at least that's what I claim when I'm caught salivating over the latest Housewives scandal or a bare-chested hottie half my age), she was the ideal person to guess which Australian celebrity Joe was schmoozing with in that effortlessly debonair way of his.

She rattled off: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Mel Gibson, Russell Crowe, Kate Blanchett.

Every single one was wrong. Finally, Joe wrote: "It was … LOL ... the Target bull dog with her owner! She has her own seat right across from us!"

Later Joe told me: Bullseye is the bull terrier's official name for Target but Nikki is her real name. She was curled up and on a red Delta blanket in her own seat and was incredibly docile with her head resting on the arm rest in full makeup and wearing a bright red collar with the Target logo repeated in bright sparkly rhinestones. Kids called out to their parents as if they were in the presence of a boy band. Several of the flight attendants had their pictures taken with her, and the handler "was as kind as her highness," obliging everyone who wanted to pet the mascot.

The flight was to LAX. Bullseye lives on a ranch just north of Los Angeles, and Joe and Patrick took another flight onto Sydney. (Too bad Bridget didn't know this else she would have named the Target dog on the first guess, for sure. ) Anyway, Bullseye's ranch is operated by Worldwide Movie Animals, where presumably other famous canines and their incarnations have resided over the years namely, Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Marley, Toto, Beethoven, Shilo, Milo and Otis, and my personal favorites: Shadow and Chance.

Joe said Bullseye seemed to "get" that she was something of a celebrity; the only time she acted like a regular dog was when meals were being served and her nose followed every one of those trays.

It's a very good thing that Bullseye doesn't think like a regular dog, because last May, a large service dog named Truffles was on a U.S. Airways flight from L.A. to Philadelphia when the golden doodle evidently could not wait. At 35,000 feet, according to one passenger's tweet, Truffles "did what dogs do… smack dab in the middle of the aisle." When the airline crew ran out of paper towels after Truffles' second, um, elimination, the plane had to make an emergency landing in Kansas City because people were getting sick. I am not making this up. One headline read: "Poopapocalypse!" Apparently Truffles' owner offered her inconvenienced fellow passengers Starbucks gift cards as an apology. I'm not sure a cup of coffee would have placated me and I'm a huge dog lover.

Apparently Bullseye was so well behaved she never caused any worry in that regard.

Kristen Emmons, a Target spokesperson, said she was unable to track down the reason Bullseye was in Detroit. But she assured me that Bullseye is "a popular red carpet guest at Target-sponsored events, including award shows, film festivals and community events." Bullseye and "the very elite group of canines that have served as Bullseye" as Emmons put it, have been starring in Target ads for more than 15 years.

In fact, Emmons went on to say: Bullseye has become such a "pop culture icon she was the first animal to be immortalized in wax at Madame Tussauds in New York" That's not counting E.T., of course.

Bullseye is also one of few canine celebs that wears makeup — that red logo around her left eye — whenever she is out in public. Rest assured, Target uses a Humane Society approved vegetable-based cosmetic paint applied by a professional makeup artist who travels with Bullseye wherever she goes.

"Really?" Joe said, impressed that the dog has her personal stylists at her beck and call."Where are they?" he asked.

"They travel in coach," the handler said. Of course. With all the other second-class humans.

mkeenan@detroitnews.com

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