Originally created 06/04/06

Animal shelter dog is claimed by studio



Lady Luck smiled on a resident of the Aiken Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' shelter.

Lady, an 18-month-old mixed breed, recently was selected from thousands of dogs listed on www.petfinder.com to be trained for a stage production at Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla.

Before she left for her new home last month, Aiken's top dog received an unprecedented send-off. Mayor Fred Cavanaugh presented the pooch with a Golden Bone to the City.

"I can never recall adopting out an animal that's going on to a career like this," said Barbara Nelson, the president of the Aiken SPCA.

Lady, sporting red and green bandanas around her neck, seemed unimpressed by her newfound fame.

Scott Stringer, a trainer with Birds and Animals Unlimited, marveled at Lady's going-away party.

"This is the first time we've ever seen this," he said.

He said the part-terrier was selected by the studio because she looked like Max, the dog in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

"If they ever decide to do Grinch II, she'll be one of those animals," Mr. Stringer said.

Filmmakers use two or more animals to play the same part, he said, because different animals have different skills.

While she's waiting for a movie role, Lady will appear on stage with other four-legged actors in a new Universal Studios show.

"The idea is to show the audience how a production with an animal is actually done," Mr. Stringer said.

Although Lady will live at Universal Studios, he said, she will be taken home with trainers from time to time.

Kristina Stoner, the manager of the Aiken shelter, said Lady came to the organization in December when a woman who was moving could not keep her.

She said Lady underwent testing and behavior training while at the shelter.

"When she would see another dog, she'd be aggressive," Ms. Stoner said. "I think it was fear-motivated."

She said they first learned that Universal Studios wanted to adopt Lady in mid-April.

Only 20 percent of animals that find homes nationwide are adopted from animal shelters, Ms. Nelson said.

Mr. Stringer had no doubts that Lady has the makings of a star.

"You can train anything with love and patience," he said.

Reach Betsy Gilliland at (803) 648-1395 or betsy.gilliland@augustachronicle.com.