From Shelter Dog Facing Death to New Broadway Star

The new canine star of the musical Annie was 24 hours away from being euthanized by a Houston shelter when William Berloni spotted her online.

The animal trainer was looking for a dog to play Sandy. A dog called Bruno fit the bill. Unfortunately, the label on her photo said she was male. However, after reading the description, Berloni was convinced she had to be saved.

According to, he forwarded the photo to Arielle Tepper Madover, one of the producers of Annie. She agreed the dog had to be rescued.

Berloni says, “So I adopted her sight-unseen. I didn’t think she was a candidate for Sandy. Her description was so sweet and she looked very much like the original Sandy that we were just saving her to find her a home.”

When Bruno (now called Sunny) arrived in New York, Berloni saw she was a good possibility for the role. Four months later, he has his new canine star, along with an understudy, Casey. That dog is also a shelter dog, from Nashville Tennesse.

When the musical first opened in 1977, the original Sandy was a shelter dog. Berloni saved her a day before she was to be put down, and she went on to star in nearly all of the show’s 2,377 performances. The dogs who starred in the four national tours and the anniversary productions were also from shelters.

Berloni told VetStreet:

For the last 35 years, I’ve been only using shelter dogs for productions. Because dogs in shelters, there’s nothing wrong with them. They’re actually great, and they make great stars on Broadway and great stars in your home.”

The new production opens on Broadway in October 2012. This time Pedigree dog food is partnering with the show to try to raise $1 million “to help dogs find loving homes.” For every ticket sold through December 31, 2013, the dog food company will donate $2 to its Pedigree Foundation.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock


Mark Donners
Mark Donner3 years ago

Valentina R. Dogs and other pets are absolutely better off roaming the streets than to be inmates and victims of "shelter" murder camps in America. American "Kill shelter" workers are essentially criminals. For your information, In Italy is AGAINST THE LAW to euthanize pets except in terminal disease cases, and they do deal with that just fine. Try telling that to US government sponsored animal murder camp workers.

Valentina R.
Valentina R3 years ago

@ Mark Donners

Are you crazy or just brainless? There is no reason for shelters to exist? My God, the things I have to read on the internet!

Angela Padovani
Angie P3 years ago

Thanks for saving these shelter dogs.

.4 years ago

great story,thank you for sharing

Fiona T.
Past Member 4 years ago

Hope this can help raise the awareness of animal welfare

Gloria Morotti
Gloria Morotti5 years ago


federico bortoletto

Grazie per la bella storia.

Sandra H.
Sandra Haddock5 years ago

Here in Jacksonville, the shelter keeps the animals as long as they can, but they don't have the funds to feed and medically care for any animal indefinitly. No one likes to see an animal put down, I don't even like to hear of it, but it's reality. Those of us who can afford to give do, those who don't can't. At least the animals aren't left in the streets wounded, starving, or frightened. Three of the facilities here are 100% no kill shelters, but they are usually full. It's people who let their animals loose to breed who are causing this, that's why it's so important to spay/neuter our pets as well as obey the city leash law. I don't think the people who work in the shelters are murderers. As many times as I've been to the shelters here, I've never seen an animal abused or mishandled.

Mark Donners
Mark Donner5 years ago

why do they call them "shelters". They should be called murder camps. There's no reason for their existence other than to stroke the egos of human murderers. No respect for people who work in "animal control" or "kill shelters".. they're just criminals who like to kill

Valentina R.
Valentina R5 years ago

Good ending for this lucky mutt. Shelter dogs ftw! As Anita said, "Spay, Neuter, Adopt....always!"