January 08, 2001 12:00 PM

As Max, the Mean Green One’s put-upon pooch in the approximately $235 million-grossing megahit Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, canine star Kelley (yep, he’s a she) endures numerous humiliations. But in real life Kelley faced a trial that might have broken even the Grinch’s too-small heart: confinement at the Glendale Humane Society in Southern California, where the rambunctious 1-year-old runaway turned up in 1997.

Fortunately for Kelley—and fans of her tail-wagging Grinch performance—Hollywood animal trainer Roger Schumacher, 45, got a call from a shelter worker suggesting that he stop by. “She was real hyper, he recalls, “but smart as a whip.”

Just one month later Schumacher unleashed Kelley at a Grinch casting call. “I was looking for an odd-looking canine,” says director Ron Howard. With her mutt pedigree (most likely an Airedale-soft-coated-wheaten-terrier mix), big, big eyes and the addition of floppy prosthetic ears, Kelley collared the part. (Although a total of six dogs ultimately traded duties as Max, Kelley appears in all the film’s close-up shots.)

While Schumacher tries not to spoil his new star, the pair recently enjoyed the perks of fame during a stay at the Plaza hotel in Manhattan for a Today show appearance. As befits a star, Kelley luxuriated in her own queen-size bed. Says Schumacher with a grin: “She liked that!”

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