News / World

Broadway-bound dogs have had dramatic life

Peter and Lilly’s story is worthy of a Broadway play.

The amber-coloured bloodhounds were found tied to a tree in North Carolina about two months ago with no food and no water, apparently abandoned.

They were taken to a shelter. But there was no room for the dogs, so the shelter contacted Ontario Bloodhound Rescue which was able to find a foster family in Clinton, Ont.

“Their number was up, they were slated next to be euthanized,” said Shawn Leslie, a Hamilton member of Bloodhound Rescue.

Five weeks ago, Peter and Lilly made the long trek from the U.S. to Clinton, which is just south of Goderich.

Then, two days ago, Leslie got a call from Bill Berloni, a Tony-winning animal trainer for theatre, TV, film and commercials, who operates William Berloni’s Theatrical Animals from his farm in Connecticut.

He’d heard about Peter and Lilly, seen their pictures and liked what he saw.

He proposed meeting the dogs in Hamilton, because it is closer than Clinton, and having them audition for a theatrical production of The Christmas Story (remember the Red Rider BB gun and the dogs that grabbed the Christmas turkey?)

“What he was looking for were not so much highly trained dogs. He was looking for friendly, social dogs. They fit the bill perfectly,” she said.

Berloni drove straight from New York City on Saturday afternoon, arriving Sunday morning. His deadlines were shockingly tight and his need was high but he was worried he wouldn’t find two bloodhounds with easy dispositions at a shelter. He only uses dogs from animal shelters but had never had to come to Canada in the search for undiscovered canine stars.

“I just got the call four weeks ago and we start rehearsals in October,” Berloni said. “It opens Nov. 6. It was complete serendipity that Peter and Lilly were available. It’s funny they came here all the way from the South in the States and now they’re headed for New York.

When showbiz calls, Leslie knows how to answer — especially if it means a higher profile for bloodhounds, which too often find their way into animal shelters because of their size and needs, not their personalities.

Ontario Bloodhound Rescue is a non-profit founded originally by Georgette Hanna of Simcoe. Leslie became involved when Hanna asked her to foster two bloodhounds.

“I took two in and fell in love with the breed,” said Leslie. “I’ve been taking care of bloodhounds ever since.”

The organization along with another rescue group has saved about 150 bloodhound dogs in five years.

When Peter and Lilly’s case Broadway run is over, Berloni will take them to the Connecticut farm, where he has neary two dozen other dogs. He suspects they won’t be there for long.

“I won’t keep dogs I think will make great family pets and these guys would easily fit into a family,” he said.

Leslie and her rescue bloodhound Hoss have just finished helping the Burlington band Walk Off the Earth shoot a music video for an upcoming CD launch.

“It’s fantastic, not only is this an amazing opportunity for Pete and Lilly, but it exposes thousands to shelter dogs. It helps others. Shelter or rescue dogs are not problem pets.”

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