Bill Berloni, Trainer of Dog Actors, Stars in New Reality Series

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Bill Berloni

As part of its month-long “Pawgust” dog-themed programming event, Discovery Family is debuting the new reality series, “From Wags to Riches with Bill Berloni.”

Each hour-long episode will show Berloni working as a dog actor trainer as well as in his role as the director of animal training and behavior for the Humane Society of New York.

Berloni has trained dogs for Broadway shows, movies and television ever since he was 19, when he trained Sandy — a rescued pound pup — for the original 1977 Broadway production of “Annie.” Coming full circle, Berloni trained another Sandy (also a rescued pound pup) for the 2014 “Annie” movie remake.

He also trained his own Poodle mix, Bowdie, for the part of Nana in “Peter Pan Live” on NBC last December. It was the first time an actual dog, not a costumed actor, played the role. And according to most social media users and some critics, Bowdie pretty much stole the show from the rest of the cast — including much-talked-about Christopher Walken as Captain Hook.

Every dog Berloni has ever worked with has been rescued from a shelter.

“When I was assigned to find the first Sandy, there was no budget for it, and somebody said they have cheap dogs at the pound,” he told Classicalite. “The day I went looking was an eye-opening experience. I had never been to an animal shelter. I never knew that animals were abandoned and abused and had an expiration date when they’d be put to sleep. That day, I made a promise to myself that if I ever got a dog I would get a rescue dog.”

Berloni “is truly a unique breed: a brilliant trainer with a big heart,” said Tom Cosgrove, general manager of Discovery Family Channel, in a press release. “This new series will charm the entire family with adorably gifted animals, larger-than-life characters and the amusing chaos that comes with owning a veritable backyard zoo.”

The “backyard zoo” Cosgrove refers to is the sanctuary for retired dog actors at Berloni’s home in Connecticut. Berloni, his wife Dorothy and daughter Jenna currently have 26 dogs as well as 15 other pets, including ducklings and a donkey.

“From Wags to Riches with Bill Berloni” premieres Aug. 6 at 9 p.m. (8 p.m. Central Time) on Discovery Family.

Photo: PR Newswire

This story was originally posted March 30, 2015.