Abandoned Dog Lands the Role of a Lifetime

Cinnamon offers a riveting performance as a dog in 'Shakespeare in Love.'. South Coast Repertory Theater

If all the world's indeed a stage, the curtain seemed to be falling too early on an English bulldog named Pebbles. In September, her owner dropped off Pebbles at a grooming salon in Long Beach, California — and never came back.

Pebbles was riddled with infection in her ears, her eyes and her bladder. But the grooming salon owner didn’t want this dog’s final act to be spent in an animal shelter, anonymous and unloved.

Instead, she got in touch with Emily Ghosh, founder of Live Love Animal Rescue, an organization that rehabilitates and finds homes for animals in need. Ghosh took the beleaguered bulldog into her care. First, there was a battery of tests at the veterinary clinic. Her infections were treated. It wasn’t long before Pebbles’ star began to shine again.

By November, she was ready for her close-up (and her spay).

An English bulldog faces camera in closeup.
It didn't take long for the dog to choose her family. Tammy Smith-Warnock

Pebbles was among a group of dogs having their pictures taken by a professional photographer for the rescue group’s website. It was the first step toward finding her a real home where she could recover from her spay operation.

As it turned out, Pebbles would have to take the fewest steps of all. When Lisa Dempsey, who owned the studio where the photo party was being held, met Pebbles, the dog immediately climbed onto her lap. Star-crossed lovers indeed.

Woman and English bulldog
Lisa Dempsey on the day she met her four-legged love. Live Love Animal Rescue

"We were about to put Pebbles up for adoption and wanted to get good pictures of her," Ghosh tells MNN. "As soon as we took pictures of Lisa with Pebbles, we immediately knew she was home."

Ghosh wasn’t the only one.

"I already knew at that party that she would be mine," Dempsey tells MNN. "She made herself at home in the backyard and was just a sweet little happy thing. I wasn't a dog owner or lover and wasn't looking for another mouth to feed at my house but ... wow, here is this perfect dog in my world right now."

An English bulldog faces camera in closeup.
Hers proved a face that launched a thousand clicks. Tammy Smith-Warnock

Love's labors were hardly lost.

First, of course, Pebbles needed a new name. "She doesn't look like a Pebbles!" Dempsey’s daughter announced when she first saw the pudgy pooch. "She looks like a big fat cinnamon roll."

Behold, Cinnamon.

Then came time for the next act of Cinnamon's life: the stage.

Only a month or so after after taking the dog home, Dempsey, an actor, was approached by members of South Coast Repertory Theater, who saw Cinnamon on her Facebook page. The theater company was looking for a dog to play "Spot" in an upcoming production of "Shakespeare in Love".

Dempsey wasn’t sure if Cinnamon, so fresh from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, could handle a crowd. But the dog could act. She aced the rehearsal.

"She is so well-behaved on set," Dempsey says. "She isn't phased or spooked by anything. She just cruises along."

Cinnamon made her debut earlier this month. And from that very first scene, she had the audience enthralled.

"Cinnamon does nothing," Dempsey says. "She just sits there with her tongue out. Once she just lay down. It's hilarious."

A dog on a theater stage in costume.
Cinnamon wasn't fazed in the slightest by the audience. South Coast Repertory Theater

"In one scene, she was supposed to disrupt people," the proud stage mom adds. "She doesn't run or sprint by any means, but she'll trot a bit. She is food-motivated so she gets up on stage and the actors tell her it isn't her cue and to get off the stage. And she just leaves."

Between scenes, Cinnamon retreats to an enclosure, to nap — perchance to dream? — and certainly to snore most sonourously.

"Everyone who walks by is like, 'Someone is getting her beauty rest.'"

Then it’s back to the stage for the final ovation — something Cinnamon savored that very first night. "She got out there," Dempsey recalls, "and she looked out and sat down and you could hear the audience love her."

As The Bard himself once noted, the course of true love never did run smooth. Especially for this English bulldog. But now that she has found it, her new life is the "stuff as dreams are made on ... rounded with a little sleep."

Dog and woman pose on theater stage.
When the curtain closes, Cinnamon goes home with her forever family. South Coast Repertory Theater