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Dog stars: Rescues in spotlight

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Grandview Heights High School's production of Legally Blonde: The Musical will feature cameos by two dogs that may win the hearts of audience members.

Both Zeke, a Doberman lab mix, and Fruit Bat, a teacup Chihuahua, are rescue dogs.

Zeke, who plays Rufus in the show, is owned by Grandview Heights High School vocal music teacher Andrew Grega.

"He's kind of an indirect rescue dog," Grega said.

Zeke was one of 11 puppies born to a dog found in Fort Wayne, Ind.

"(The mother) was found abandoned in the winter and she was starving," Grega said.

After losing a pet to cancer, Grega went to the Petfinder website looking for another boxer chow mix.

He found Zeke and the other 10 puppies, and thought the Doberman lab dogs looked similar enough to pique his interest.

"I was actually interested in one of Zeke's siblings," Grega said.

But when he traveled to visit the dogs, it was Zeke who responded to him with immediate affection, he said.

"That's the first lesson: Let the dog pick you," Grega said. "Our bond has been really strong. He's like my child."

Grega later adopted one of Zeke's sisters, and the two dogs have a bond with each other almost as strong as with their master.

As Rufus, a pet owned by Paulette the manicurist, Zeke has a walk-on in each act of Legally Blonde.

"He's been here before," Grega said. "I'll bring him in once a year during rehearsals as a fun reward for the cast, and whenever I'm at school over the summer, I usually bring him with me."

Zeke "is really good around people" and recently earned a canine good citizenship certificate from the American Kennel Club, he said.

Fruit Bat will portray Bruiser, a dog belonging to Elle, the main character in Legally Blonde.

She is owned by Dr. Kim West of the Health and Harmony Animal Clinic in Grandview.

In spring 2010, "she was found (lying by a bus stop) on West Broad Street by a volunteer from Colony Cats and Dogs," West said. "She had been there for at least 12 hours and was brought in with fractures on two of her legs" as well as several abdominal bruises, rashes and other trauma.

"We got very attached to her at the clinic," she said.

Fruit Bat wore casts on her legs for eight weeks while she recovered.

"The funny thing was, despite what she had gone through, she was the nicest little Chihuahua," West said. "You can pass her around and she doesn't bite. Animals are so resilient and ready to love and to be loved.

"I think they know when they've been rescued," which makes the bond even stronger, she said.

West fell in love with Fruit Bat and decided to adopt her.

"We named her Fruit Bat because that's what she looked like when she came in to the clinic," she said.

Adopting Fruit Bat "has meant everything to me," West said. "I feel so fortunate to have her. We were lucky a volunteer from Colony Cats just happened by and decided to check on this dog."

During Legally Blonde, Elle carries Bruiser around in her purse.

"I carried Fruit Bat to the top of Mount Elbert in Colorado, so I don't think (being on stage) will bother her," West said.

While Zeke and Fruit Bat's stories had a happy ending, "there are so many dogs out there in need of rescue," Grega said. "I can't recommended it enough."

Grega suggests those interested in adopting a rescue dog check out the petfinder.com website or petpromise.com, a Columbus-based organization that helps find homes for abused and homeless animals.

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