Bill Berloni Knows When That Dog Is A 'Star'

 Bill Berloni and “Boomer”

Bill Berloni and “Boomer”

Bill Berloni knows a star when he sees one, but in his case it’s most likely a dog with that “it” factor.

Berloni has been rescuing animals from pounds and shelters for decades, finding them homes and turning them into working actors and, in some cases, headliners.

His first canine gig came when he was an apprentice at East Haddam’s Goodspeed Opera House and he was tapped to find and train the dog that would be cast as Sandy for the world premiere of the musical “Annie” in 1976. That gig launched him into an unexpected career as an animal trainer and behaviorist for pet projects for TV, film and the stage.

He’s been the animal point man for TV’s “The Leftovers,” “Billions” “Sesame Street,” and a host of others. He’s the go-to guy for Julia Robert’s latest film, “Ben Is Back” out in December. (His first movie was for 1981’s “Neighbors” with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd.) And if the script says, “A wolf walks across the stage,” as it did for Ivo von Hove’s Broadway production of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” guess who gets the call? In 2011 Berloni received a special Tony Award for his work with animals on Broadway,

But how does he know when a dog could have that spark of star quality that transcends the rest of the pack?

“I would pick the puppy that is beating up all his brothers and sisters and was trying to climb out of the whelping box. I look for that independent dog who is very courageous and strong-willed.”

But doesn’t that suggest the dog won’t follow direction or will be temperamental on the set?

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 Bill Berloni and “Bowdie” who will star in “Because of Winn Dixie” at Goodspeed Opera House next summer.,

Bill Berloni and “Bowdie” who will star in “Because of Winn Dixie” at Goodspeed Opera House next summer.,