The Inspiring Story of Ebby the Dog
● By Jon Lewis
A Dog's Tale
By Jon Lewis
Photos by Melissa Englebright
They say that every dog has her day, but Ebby is proving to be an exception to the rule: this 7-year-old terrier mix has had an entire life.
Hers is a rags-to-riches story that would make any purebred proud, much less a mixed-breed mutt with a checkered past who pawed her way up from a local shelter—adopted shortly before she was scheduled for euthanasia—to land a starring role in the Cascade Theatre production of “The Wizard of Oz.”
It’s such an inspiring story that Anderson writer Bob Madgic, Ebby’s owner, decided to share it in a book. “Ebby’s Tale: From Shelter to Stage” was published in the summer.
Tales of rescue dogs finding their forever homes and enriching lives in the process are not rare by any means, but Madgic felt Ebby’s circuitous route to stardom had enough unique aspects to warrant a wider audience.
“I thought Ebby’s story had enough complexity to it and was interesting on many counts,” Madgic says. For starters, the story almost ended before it began.
Four years after Madgic and his wife, Diane, said goodbye to Meko, their longtime four-legged companion, the couple decided it was time to get a new dog. They wanted a dog from a shelter, and a post about an available dog at Raining Cats ‘n’ Dogs caught their eye. The 14-pound female named Gypsy was described as a happy and friendly terrier mix who likes to play with other dogs.
A visit was arranged and Gypsy, a 1-year-old dog who had been picked up as a stray in Red Bluff, was introduced to the Madgics. It was not love at first sight. The couple was put off by the dog’s rather scraggly appearance and more deeply concerned about her profound shyness.
In the book, Madgic goes on to explain how they even gave Gypsy a second chance, an overnight stay, and the dog continued to be a fearful, quivering wreck. Reluctantly, the Madgics again had Gypsy returned to Susan Marshall, who was fostering Gypsy.
But then, as the dog visited other prospective adopters, she began to lose her fear and apprehension, and her confident, cheerful nature began to emerge. Marshall started to wonder if a third time might be a charm with the Madgics. She called to report on Gypsy’s progress and a third date was arranged.
Gypsy pulled out all the stops: She was friendly and outgoing, played tug-of-war with a dog belonging to the Madgics’ granddaughters and happily joined Diane on a walk. The Madgics had found their new companion. In keeping with their fondness for the Sierra Nevada, they named her Ebbetts Pass, or Ebby for short.
Madgic’s charming book recounts Ebby’s impressive training regimen once she settled into her Anderson-area home. Working closely with Diane, a retired dietitian, Ebby sailed through Petco’s K-9 Education class and soon completed the 10 steps required to be certified by the American Kennel Club as a “Canine Good Citizen.”
Ebby was then certified as a therapy dog, first through RxPets and then the American Kennel Club—a process that required 50 documented visits to hospitals, nursing homes and schools. With a bag of tricks, including jumping through a hoop, sneezing, balancing a treat on her nose and opening her crate, Ebby proved to be a hit wherever she went.
Ebby’s crowning achievement, though, came in the spring of 2014 when she was cast as Toto in the Cascade Theatre production of “The Wizard of Oz.” Ebby was picked from a dozen dogs that auditioned. With extensive rehearsals, bright lights, the special effects replicating a Kansas tornado and being handled by strange people, the role was a challenge but Ebby handled it like a seasoned stage veteran.
“She filled that role perfectly, even with the lightning and thunder,” Diane Madgic says. The key to her acting? “She’s very motivated by treats,” Madgic says. As soon as Jana Pulcini-Leard (Dorothy in the play) started dishing out the snacks, Ebby was putty in her hands.
Ebby was such a hit with the cast and crew that she was recruited to portray Willoughby, a dog belonging to Miss Lark, the haughty neighbor of the Banks family, in “Mary Poppins.” Madgic says that role was not as involved as Toto, yet Ebby again pulled it off with aplomb.
The little dog with a big personality is scheduled to return to the stage yet again this month when she will reprise the role of Toto in the University Preparatory School production of “Oz.”
Ebby’s best performance, however, has been the role she’s played in the Madgic house, where she has taught her grateful owners that one shouldn’t put too much emphasis on first impressions when it comes to sizing up rescue dogs.
U Prep will perform “The Wizard of Oz” at the David Marr Auditorium,
2200 Eureka Way, at 7 pm Nov. 10 and 17 and at 2 and 7 pm Nov. 11 and 18.
Call (530) 245-2790 for tickets.