There's something odd about the eyes. And instead of 'arf' he says "woof."
Otherwise he's the same old Sandy you remember in the funny papers, best friend to orphans, terror to cops, watchdog of silver linings and Depression Daddys who could spare a dime.
But if nightly at the Kennedy Center he is barking the house down in the Broadway-bound show, "Annie," by day he is the Horatio Alger of dog-dom whose own true story beats anything the orphan might tell:
Abandoned at an early age, he was rescued within hours from certain death, catapulted to easy street, pampered like royalty, introduced to a President and, ultimately, claimed, by a procession of self-proclaimed "rightful" owners.
All that and his own four-legged stand-in, too.
If fame, fortune and one aquare a day (for obvious reasons, after the performance, not before) have gone to their heads, both dogs, have the good grace to hide it. Sandy, a 2-year-old mutt of uncertain ancestry, and Arf, an 8-month-old cur of equal distinction, never batted an almond-shaped (in contrast to Orphan Annie dollar-shaped) eye when a tour guide pointed them out.
"Those are two of the actors in 'Annie,'" she told a group of tourists visibly startled to see two dogs - lounging around the red-carpeted steps leading to the Eisenhower Theater - all but smiling on cue for a photographer.
Bill Berloni, Sandy and Arf's owner, trainer and savior, as it were, said Sandy really does smile though usually it's when he's on stage. It wasn't anything he had to learn, just came naturally. As naturally, in fact, as when he sometimes falls asleep in the first act while Annie (actress Andrea McArdle) serenades him as she cradles his head in her lap.
He's not supposed to fall asleep, and Berloni standing in the wings, has to snap his fingers to wake Sandy up, but then the song "Tomorrow" is a lullaby of sorts and the producer and director understand that Sandy's a dog, after all, not a robot.
Sandy and Arf have been trained by choke-collars and verbal reprimands, not by threats, tranquilizers and starvation, according to Berloni, himself an aspring actor. Then, too, Sandy and Annie are so close ("He loves her like he loves me") that Berloni says Sandy isn't acting when he's all over the stage barking ferociously in the Hooverville scene when police take Annie back to the orphanage. It wasn't until Sunday night that Sandy managed to get his exit right.
Berloni found Sandy last summer in a Connecticut Humane Society facility. Working as a technical apprentice at the Goodspeed Opera House, Berloni answered producer Michael Price's call to locate a mutt =even though everybody thought I was crazy - 'you'll fall in love with it and then what?' they'd say."
Specifications called for "a medium-sized mutt, no distinctive breed, who sort of looked like the Sandy character." Several hundred dogs and that many Polaroid pictures later, Berloni found him, Sandy in color, wiry in hair but skinny, bruised, and cowering in a cage awaiting his date the next morning with that great dog catcher in the sky.
Berloni, of course, rescued him, carrying him off to an immediate hamburger with bath and an eventual dog's life that not only includes live-in playmate (Arf. who had similar, though not identical cliff-hanger origins) and Berloni, cast in the role of stage mother.
"There aren't many dogs, much less people, who start out in poverty and end up in black tie at the White House," mused Berloni of Sandy's command apperance before President and Mrs.Carter following a formal dinner there last week. "Why Sandy must have shaken 15 governor's hands . . . "