His mother has been forgotten. His father never stuck around. He was in trouble with authorities at an early age. They incarcerated him on Staten Island, figuring that would be his just desserts. Death was right around the corner. Life, he admitted, looked "ruff."

But Mother Fate is fickle. Today he is a star with not one but two understudies. He has ridden in hundreds of limousines. He gets his own rental cars in every city. (It's in the contract.) He makes big bucks. He eats three cups of Purina every day.

Three cups of Purina???

Darlings, say hello to Moose, who is Sandy in the road company of "Annie," now touring the nation.

In case you haven't seen the play or never read a comic strip, or you just arrived on the planet, Sandy is Little Orphan Annie's pet mutt, a stray that sticks beside her through the worst of times.

In real life, Sandy is a mostly terrier mutt named Moose now experiencing the best of times.

Moosey, (as those who know him well call him), is part of the latest New York trend, his trainer Jude DeProspo says.

Everyone wants a mutt like 3-year-old Moosey, DeProspo reports. Here's why: Annie has been a smash hit on Broadway for three years. Hundreds of thousands of people have watched Broadway's Sandy defend the little orphan's honor. Americans, cornballs that we are, love gallantry and faithfulness.

After seeing the Broadway show, the very chic, the most trendy, the totally with it, flocked to New York's pounds to find a dog that looked like Sandy. Everyone was doing it.

That was good news for mutts but bad news for dog trainer DeProspo. When the Annie producers decided to establish a touring company, they needed another Sandy. DeProspo went to more than 20 dog pounds in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut over several weeks' time, with no luck. All the Sandy look-alikes were being scooped up by trendy people. Finally, in Staten Island, bingo: Moosey.

Moosey was up against one other dog for the part, a fellow named Jazzman. The two sat on the Alvin Theater stage. A dozen producers, directors and other important types stared at the two mutts. Moose and Jazzman; Jazzman and Moose. "We'll take Moose," the producer said. And so it has been since then.

That was last January. It took a week of loving care, two weeks of basic obedience and four weeks of close contact with Rosanne Sorrentino, who plays Annie, to get Moose ready for the road. In addition, DeProspo had to train Coco, Moose's understudy. Rocky, a pup picked up as a possible understudy and future Sandy, also shares DeProspo's trailer. (Quite confidentially, it doesn't look as if Rocky will ever play Sandy. He's not growing fast enough. Sandy, says DeProspo, must be a big dog. After all, the bigger the dog looks, the smaller the orphan looks. And she is "Little" Orphan-Annie.)

Before each show, Moose goes from room to room, saying hello to all the people in the cast. Moosey is very friendly, DeProspo reports. A half-hour before the play is to start, the dog goes on the stage with Annie, so he is used to being with her and will not overreact in front of the audience.

He is also taken out for a walk just before the show, to make sure he doesn't, um . . . you know.

When not on stage, DeProspo says, Moosey mostly sleeps.

Moose may be friendly with cast members, but during an interview just before the show, Moose did indeed mostly sleep.

In fact, this is a most docile dog. Does Moose take any kind of medication to make him that way, DeProspo is asked. "Not a thing," she says. He is just an extraordinarily well-behaved Moosey, she says. There haven't been any stage slip-ups, she says.

Moose apparently is better behaved than his Broadway counterpart. During a recent Dick Cavett interview, former "Annie" star Dorothy Loudon revealed that Broadway's Sandy once relieved himself on her leg. She is now starring in "Sweeney Todd."