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Leaping canines! Kid actors from ‘Annie’ read to orphaned Arizona dogs

"Annie" cast member Annabell Watchell (lower left) reads to Prince at the Arizona Animal Welfare League shelter. (KTAR Photo/Kaely Monahan)
LISTEN: Kid actors from 'Annie' read to orphaned Arizona dogs

PHOENIX — The dogs at the Arizona Animal Welfare League got a surprise treat this week when some young cast members of “Annie” stopped by.

Some of the actors, who help tell the story of one of theater’s most famous orphans, spent an afternoon reading to orphaned dogs at the shelter.

“One of the big parts of the show ‘Annie’ is her meeting Sandy, the orphan dog, and they become best friends, so we created this partnership with Gammage to have the orphans in the cast come and read to our shelter dogs,” Michael Morefield, AAWL marketing and communications manager, said.

“Within less than five minutes of them sitting here in front of their kennels, all the dogs started to quiet down…(and) they all moved to the front of their kennels so they could listen to the girls read.”

AAWL has integrated reading to dogs into its camps for kids, but it was a real treat to have the “Annie” cast come by, Moorefield said. Reading helps socialize the animals and provides calming stimulation.

“We like to say that we have an amazing shelter — and we really do, but it’s still a shelter,” he said. “For the dogs to have these interactions with people that’s not always energetic, it’s very calming, it’s more of what their everyday life is going to be in a home.”

Annabell Wachtel, 10, plays Molly in the Broadway show. She read to a very relaxed black shepherd-mix named Prince.

“Right now I’m reading ‘The Three Little Javelinas,’” she said, after revealing Prince was bored with the first book she chose.

“Annie” is Wachtel’s first Broadway show and she is the youngest member of the cast, according to her mother, Catherine. Annabell said she got the last call-back and won a part in the show.

“I was so happy!”

Prince took her bubbly enthusiasm in stride and seemed lulled to sleep by her voice.

Moorefield explained that programs such as reading to dogs are geared toward helping get their animals adopted to their forever homes.

“Finding community partners like ASU Gammage and working with them to help highlight some of our shelter dogs, that’s what we’re so excited about,” he said.

“Annie” will be playing at ASU Gammage until Sunday, May 8. Tickets are available online.

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