THE world famous Maremma dog who helped change the fate of Warrnambool's dwindling Middle Island penguin population has died suddenly.Esta became the furry face of the successful world-first trial in 2005 as part of the team of Maremma guard dogs used to protect Middle Island's penguins from foxes and other predators.Since then, the four-year-old dog has featured in a range of Australian and international television shows and magazines about the trial which has boosted the little penguin population from just four in 2005 to more than 50 in 2008.Esta died on Friday night after she ran onto the road outside her Warrnambool home and was hit by a car.From Canadian television to a German dog magazine, Esta's owner David Williams said she took the media attention in her stride."She was just a great dog," Mr Williams said. "She did a lot of media and met a lot of people and I guess through the project touched a lot of people's lives."Esta overcame many obstacles on her road to stardom, mainly her fear of water which grew into a love of the beach."When she was a puppy she was terrified of a ripple and hated swimming, but once we went out to the island a few times she got used to it. She was like that," Mr Williams recalled. He said Esta loved nothing better than a long walk on the beach with Mr Williams' other dog, Rufus, who she often herded into the water.As Warrnambool's most famous dog, Esta helped to educate children and adults about the Maremma project with appearances at Fun4Kids, schools and as part of Coast Action/Coast Care's Holiday programs.Esta is set to make one more media appearance later this month when an ABC Landline episode filmed before her death is screened.