Senior Rescue Dog Finds Forever Home After Starring In High School Play

Written by: Kellie Stevens

April 6, 2016

We hear about stars being found in some very unusual ways, but how about a rescue dog in a shelter? It may not have been a Broadway debut, but Dahlia the 8-year-old Sharpei “mix” was the luckiest girl when Queen Anne’s County High School was searching for a dog to star in their production of “Annie” and landed on her.

Emily Miller, director of the Animal Welfare League of Queen Anne’s County, told My Eastern Shore MD:

“When one of the teachers with the musical sent out an email to her neighbors looking for a dog to use in the play, one of our board members saw the email and immediately thought of using a shelter pet.”

Miller went on to say that it was a great example of organizations in the community working together and really brought additional exposure to shelter pets. The high school was able to employ a dog without needing to pay for one, cutting their costs, and Dahlia was able to show off her star skills to find a forever family. She was even featured on local television station WMDT 47’s “Pets on the Plaza.”

Despite Miss Hannigan’s orphanage not being “zoned for dogs,” Queen Anne’s County High School made an exception for Dahlia. She did have to remain on the leash during the play because she was too curious about all the excitement to stay in one spot for long, but when Annie (played by senior Hannah Schauber and sophomore Regan Candella) asked Sandy to sit and prove that she’s really her dog, Dahlia was more than happy to hit the mark.


Dahlia the 8-year-old senior shelter star with her “adorabull” underbite

BarkPost spoke with Ginny Williams, the board member who got the email and had the idea to use a shelter dog for the play. Williams told us that she knew they needed a calm dog that was good with kids, and Dahlia fit the bill perfectly.

When asked about her breed (because she clearly looks like she has some Pit Bull in her), Ginny told us:

“We never told the high school that she might be a Pit Bull ‘type’ dog because of the stigma, but we do think that’s part of her mix. I myself had bought into the hype and was afraid of them before I met one, but then I was amazed by what magnificent animals they are.”

Dahlia, an owner surrender, had been at the shelter for around two-and-a-half months. She was described by Emily Miller as being a “sweet as can be senior shelter dog” that was surrendered by her former family when they lost their home. She is dog-friendly and indifferent to cats, so she really just needed someone to step up and give her a good home.

Dahlia and Annie

Dahlia performing onstage with Hannah Schauber as Annie

ENTER STAGE RIGHT: Marilyn Hooper of Centreville, MD. Marilyn told The Star Democrat:

“[I] had read about Dahlia in the newspaper and went to see the show… Dahlia was so good onstage, even amidst all the hubbub.”

The very next day, Hooper visited the Animal Welfare League of Queen Anne’s County to meet Dahlia in person and take her for a walk. She had called ahead of time to ask if anyone had inquired about adopting her, and surprisingly the answer was “no.”


Hooper told The Star Democrat that she has a soft spot in her heart for rescues and had been looking for a dog to adopt since her last rescue passed away. She understands the timing is important, telling the newspaper that:

“It needs to be right, for both the dog and the potential adopter. There are so many good dogs in shelters, it’s just a shame.”

Marilyn Hooper had been waiting for over a year to find that perfect dog for her. Being over 70 years of age herself, she had no desire to get a puppy and go through all the training. She needed to make sure it was a dog that would walk well on the leash so she didn’t have to worry about a potential fall. She visited the shelter several times to meet dogs, but none of them “seemed to hit her.”

When she saw Dahlia in the paper and then the play, she was impressed by how calm the dog was.

“There was so much going on in that last performance with kids getting awards, and Dahlia never barked or anything. She was just so calm and laid-back.”

Dahlia and Annie cast

Dahlia and the cast of Annie

It turned out that the timing was finally right for Marilyn to adopt her perfect dog. They arranged a home visit so Dahlia could meet Katie, Hooper’s rescue cat. Hooper related that she understands it can be hard to find a dog that is OK with a cat, and several of the dogs she inquired about at the shelter weren’t able to live with them, but Dahlia “had no problem fitting in with Katie.” Ginny Williams, who had brought the dog for her home visit, and Hooper agreed that Dahlia didn’t need to go back to the Animal Welfare League that day because she was perfectly at home already. Williams had even brought her food and crate along, knowing it was meant to be.

Dahlia and Marilyn

Marilyn Hooper knew that Dahlia was just the dog for her

Marilyn told us that she and Dahlia have been enjoying lots of walks together and she is looking very forward to a “long and happy relationship” with her new rescue. She said she is just as calm as can be, never barking — even when other dogs bark at her — and Katie the Cat has warmed up to her in the week since she has become part of the family. “They kind of sniff each other now, or at least there’s no more hissing,” says Hooper.

Marilyn told us the only thing she doesn’t love about Dahlia is that “she snores, a lot!

Ginny Williams revealed to BarkPost a surprising and happy story that we hope becomes a trend in the rescue world:

“This is the second Pit Bull ‘type’ dog that we have adopted out to an older widow that lives alone. Not that we want to perpetuate the stereotype that Pit Bulls are mean because so many aren’t, but they do look a little intimidating and that makes these women feel a bit safer.”

Marilyn Hooper told us that she may not be the prettiest dog, and she was adamant about her being mostly Sharpei, but said that she’s really just a “Heinz 57 and more” mix of a dog. Dahlia’s underbite and tooth that sticks out looks a little menacing sometimes, so she likes to make sure it’s covered up in her pictures because she’s not “menacing” at all. We thinks it’s one of her cutest characteristics, and we love hearing happy stories of Pit Bull “type” dogs who prove that pitties make the best pets.

Marilyn and Dahlia

It’s already clear that Dahlia loves her new owner Marilyn

In addition to Dahlia finding her new home, the Animal Welfare League also received a happy surprise in the mail last week. The Queen Anne’s County High School Theater Department collected $183 in donations during their production of “Annie” to give to the shelter.

We hope that everyone that saw that production and how wonderful Dahlia behaved was inspired to rescue their next pet! There are so many loving animals all around the world that have been given up due to unfortunate circumstances that bear no reflection on their personality or potential.

If you would like to check out other dogs the Animal Welfare League of Queen Anne’s County has available or to make a donation, please go to their website or check them out on Facebook.

Featured Image via My Eastern Shore MD & The Star Democrat
H/t: My Eastern Shore MD and The Star Democrat


Written by: Kellie Stevens

April 6, 2016

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