By Bill Buchanan
The recent article in the newspaper about the Ojai Art Center lining up dogs for the role of Sandy for its production of “Annie” brought back a lot of fond memories for me. Ava and I had our own Sandy who came to us when Ava played the part of Miss Hannigan in a community theater production of “Annie” several years ago.
Sandy was chosen from several other “actors” at the local Humane Society. He was taken from the pound and given to a local dog trainer to be taught a few simple commands for the show. Sandy learned quickly. In fact, the trainer said he was the smartest dog with whom he had ever worked. He said Sandy learned things in minutes that it took some other dogs hours or even days to learn. Ava came in each night after rehearsal talking about what a wonderful dog he was, and how cute he was, and so on.
During the play Sandy behaved well, and hit all his marks. On several nights, when the young girl playing the lead character belted out her big number, “Tomorrow,” Sandy “sang” along, howling for all he was worth. He was a huge hit.
A few nights before the end of the play, Ava came home with the news of what was to become of Sandy when the show closed. She said the plan was to take him back to the pound for a couple of weeks, and hold an auction for him, with the money going to benefit the Humane Society. Ava was very upset that he would have to go back to a cage after living with the trainer, and being fawned over each night by the entire cast. I thought maybe she was lobbying me to adopt him. I stated emphatically that we already had three dogs (and three cats), were at our dog quota limit, and did not need another one. She asked that he just stay with us during the interim period, and then we would turn him over to the new owner. She begged and I relented, repeating that the situation was only temporary.
The first time I saw Sandy, I was reminded of a line from one of my favorite plays, “The Glass Menagerie,” “… and they also began to smile at me as people smile at an oddly fashioned dog who trots across their path at some distance.” Sandy was definitely that “oddly fashioned dog.” In fact, Sandy was a distinct combination of three different breeds. He had the blocky head and mottled tongue of a chow. His body was muscular and regular-sized with a lovely coat and bushy tail like that of a golden retriever — all sitting atop his short, stubby basset hound legs.
Sandy may have been funny-looking, but he was so affectionate and about the smartest animal I have ever seen. As hard as I tried not to, I fell completely in love with him. Before the three weeks were up, I called the director of the theater and told him I could not possibly give up the dog. I offered to make a nice donation to the Humane Society if we could dispense with the auction and we could just keep him.
So that is how we wound up with Sandy. He spent 15 wonderful years with us. Out of all the dogs we have had, he was my favorite. I still miss him jumping up on the couch, scrunching up his nose and licking my face.
So go and enjoy the play, which starts tonight. You never know, you might be inspired to go to the Humane Society and take home a Sandy of your own.