LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Thousands of fans of the Fox animated comedy series "Family Guy" signed a petition on Monday demanding that the network and show's creator bring back a beloved talking-dog character whose death stunned viewers in the latest episode.

Brian, an unconventional family dog that talks, drinks alcohol, dates women and is an aspiring novelist, has been a major character since the pilot of "Family Guy" in 1999, appearing in more than 200 episodes.

The show, which is set around bumbling buffoon dad Peter Griffin, his feisty wife, Lois, teenage children Chris and Meg, and Machiavellian baby Stewie, is known for its raunchy humor and often draws criticism from watchdog groups such as the Parents Television Council.

Episodes often feature characters in compromising or inappropriate situations. The Emmy-nominated series is in its 12th season and averages 6 million viewers an episode.

In Sunday's episode, the Griffin family is left distraught as Brian dies with the poignant final words: "You've given me a wonderful life. I love you all."

The family hold a funeral and shared memories of its beloved four-legged friend, with Peter saying, "Brian wasn't just my dog, he was my best friend in the whole world."

Later in the episode, the family adopts a new dog, smart-talking Vinny, voiced by "The Sopranos" actor Tony Sirico, who quickly becomes a part of the family, even winning over Stewie by the end of the show.

Representatives of the Fox show declined to comment to Reuters on Brian's death.

(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Peter Cooney)