From Stray to Star
Bill Berloni didn’t plan to become an animal trainer or a rescuer of stays and shelter dogs, it just happened. At 19, he wanted to be an actor and his first shot at acting included a directive that he find a dog and train it to be in the show with him. The show was the original premier of ‘Annie’, so off he went to the shelter and found the first ‘Sandy’ for $7. He trained ‘Sandy’ as he would his own dog. The showed bombed but but ‘Sandy’ was a hit!
From there to the Broadway stage and the rest is history. Berloni became a famous animal trainer at the age of 20!
For 30 years, he’s trained dogs for literally dozens of stage shows, not to mention commercials, movies and television even a horse for Elmo. Each and every one of those animals was a rescue.
“When I adopted the first Sandy back in 1976 â€” I’d never been in an animal shelter, and you know â€” as a 19-year-old going into an animal shelter, I’m so appalled by what I saw, that when I adopted Sandy, I made a promise to myself, that if I ever got another animal, it would be from a shelter,” Berloni said.
When he needed many dogs for “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” he held a casting call, open only to shelter dogs.
Berloni’s farm in central Connecticut is a cross between a hotel and a retirement home for his theatrical menagerie. For his birthday, his wife Dorothy gave him a gift certificate for two lamas. (From CBS News)
He claims no magic to what he does but feels he does have a gift. He listens to the animal and lets them know he cares about them. Sounds like a sort of ‘Dog Whisperer’ approach to me and obviously it works for him.
His interest in them has made Berloni the perfect advocate for the shelter dogs he saves. He’s director of animal behavior for the Humane Society of New York.
“It’s sort of a philosophy I live my life for,” he said. “It’s a respect for nature and a respect for others. I don’t come assuming I know anything about a particular dog or whatever. I let them tell me what makes them tick.”
Here he’s just trying to figure out who these dogs are and what they’ve suffered, so they can be matched up with the right homes. Theatrical casting is a little more complicated.
“The procedure is pretty much the same, but I’m looking for a super-dog,” he said.
Like Chico, an abuse case from Newark, N.J., left outside year round as a guard dog.
Or Chloe, the casualty of a divorce, exiled to the concrete floor of a car repair shop before Berloni, an incurable believer in second chances, came along nobody wanted them. But just look at them now. (From CBS News)
He’s won many awards for his work including the American Humane Association Richard Craven Award for the humane training of an animal in a theatrical setting
“Partners in Education,” title presented to Sandy for his humane education efforts, presented by the New York City Public School System, 1982
Dog of the Year Award, presented to Sandy, for his charity work in the humane field, 1981
Capital Area Humane Society “Humane Award” for contribution to the humane society cause, Wahington D.C., 1980
ASPCA Humanitarian Award for our work in the humane field, 1979
American Humane Association Richard Craven Award for the humane training of an animal in a theatrical setting, 1978
Outer Critics Circle Award presented to Sandy for his performance in Annie, 1977
“Sandy Day” was proclaimed in the state of Connecticut by Governer Ella Grasso in recognition of his success and our work for homeless animals, September 24, 1980
You can visit his site, William Berloni Theatrical Animals, to read more about his accomplishments.
Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!