Shelter dog gets second chance as 'Toto' in The Wizard of Oz

Shelter dog gets second chance as 'Toto' in The Wizard of Oz

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- As part of its 50th anniversary celebration, Murry's Dinner Playhouse in Little Rock has welcomed a special star to the stage.

On a hot Friday afternoon in July, rehearsals are underway for The Wizard of Oz. Archie is a terrier-mix, making his big debut as Toto on the stage. And while he may be a star now, Archie's life hasn't always been over the rainbow.

He’s a natural Toto: taking cues, acting natural, and being very quiet. You wouldn't know it, but one year ago, Archie was living on the streets.

"I went to the shelter and he was there. He had actually been a stray,” explained his trainer, Michelle Mace, who found Archie at the Jacksonville Animal Shelter.

Several people passed over Archie, because of his high energy, and enthusiastic bark. But not Michelle. She saw in Archie a born actor.

"He just had the right look, the right size, and the energy and trainability to be able to do something like this,” the trainer explained.

Archie has spent the last year learning how to jump in to Dorothy's basket, pose during Over the Rainbow, and basically just look cute.

He has charmed his costars, especially Katherine Yacko, who spends the most time with him in her role as Dorothy.

"I just want to play with him all the time, and as this character and being on stage with him, I have to learn to be a little bit more of a teacher, than like his best friend,” Yacko said.

After all, this is serious business. When the curtain rises July 12, flying monkey business won't be allowed. But when the final curtain drops on August 26 for The Wizard of Oz, the adoption process will begin for Archie to find his 'no place like home' forever home.

"Because he was a shelter dog, we just thought it would be great that he could be adopted out to someone after the show is done,” Michelle told THV11.

She went to Murry’s management with the idea and they enthusiastically agreed. While it won't be easy for she or Archie's co-stars to say goodbye, they're hopeful his story will raise awareness and support for other shelter pets.

"There are so many shows and theatrical genres and venues out there that feature animals. Why not make it a mission to get some of these animals out of shelters,” Yacko said, adding Archie has been very easy to work with as live-theatre goes.

"I do hope that other theatres would follow suit to find dogs that are maybe unwanted and give them a purpose. Through the training that they receive, it just makes them more adoptable and more secure as being family pets,” Mace said.

For now, Archie is focused on his big debut, and charming audiences. You can find Archie on Facebook here. There, when the show is over, you'll find an application to adopt Archie.

Michelle is also encouraging those interested to make a donation to the Jacksonville Humane Society in Archie’s honor. For ticket information to see Archie at work in The Wizard of Oz click here.

© 2017 KTHV-TV


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