ABC’s “Downward Dog” Stars Former Homeless Pooch
Not long ago, a handsome hunk named Ned was dropped off at a Mississippi shelter, and then relocated to a no-kill PAWS shelter in Chicago. The sweet boy had heartworm, and had to undergo two treatments because the first one didn’t cut it. He was adopted quickly, but just as quickly returned because his owners felt Ned’s anxiety made him not a ‘good fit’ for their home.
Ned had noise phobia, separation anxiety and was fearful and territorial in kennels situations. According to his medical records, he couldn’t really even bear to have any touch, and the poor thing was put on anxiety medication for generalized anxiety. He waited for over a year for the perfect family and in 2015, professional animal trainer Joy Ronstadt got lost in Ned’s eyes and Ned’s wait was over.
It was right around that same time that a new show was being created, “Downward Dog,” a comedy about a lovable shelter pup. The creators of the how wanted a shelter dog to be the star and they searched animal shelters across the country. Over and over, they kept returning to Ned because like Rondstadt knew–Ned’s eyes were magnetic.
And so, Ned’s journey to stardom began! Nicole Handley, the dog trainer for “Downward Dog,” worked with him and was able to train him in fewer than two months! Lucas Neff, human star of the show, finds it incredible that a dog can learn to act in 6 weeks, while humans take lifetimes to perfect the craft!
“Downward Dog,” somewhat mirrors sweet Ned’s story, as the fictional Martin ‘talks’ (with the aid of CGI!) to the audience about the ins and outs of his newly adoptive mother Nan, played by Allison Tolman. In the pilot episode, Martin philosophically waxes poetic on life, and how he came to be with his mama, telling viewers he remembered his youngest feelings of being warm and smelling home. He then recounts how he was taken ‘to the other place’ where he was scared and there were too many faces…until the day Nan’s appeared.
Spoiler: Waterworks will ensue. “Downward Dog” is based on a web series of the same name, though with a different dog, and according to the creators, shows the human-animal relationship in a special, emotional and realistic way.
Related: Rags-to-Riches Shelter Dog Becomes Face of Shoe Company
PAWS Chicago is super proud of their celebrity alum and threw a big third birthday party for Ned. ABC wanted to give its new furry star a gift, and paid for all adoption fees for adult dogs and cats from the shelter on May 17, which is when the pilot of “Downward Dog,” premiered.
The show airs on Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m. and we’ll just warn you in advance: It’s adorable and addictive…and here’s hoping it’ll inspire more families to find their own “Neds”!
More by Lori Ennis