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Shelby, who plays Bella in the recent Sony Pictures release A Dog’s Way Home, has all the traits of a celebrity pooch: bright, golden eyes, expressive eyebrows, and a big, brown nose. However, the pit bull mix did not always seem destined to be a movie star. About two years ago, Shelby was a stray puppy who lived on the streets and spent her days digging through trash for food scraps.
Shelby's trash-to-riches saga began in April 2017, when Megan Buhler, an animal control officer, noticed the then-puppy inside a trash dump in Cheatham County, Tennessee. Buhler gently coaxed the scared pooch out from the landfill and took her to the Cheatham County Animal Shelter.
To find the adorable puppy a permanent home the shelter staff, who nicknamed her Baby Girl, posted her picture on their website. As luck would have it, just 2000 miles away in Hollywood, the makers of A Dog’s Way Home, were in search of a dog just like Baby Girl. The movie, adapted from the book by W. Bruce Cameron, aims to raise awareness of the plight of shelter dogs, specifically pit bulls. Hence, both Cameron and his wife Cathryn Michon, who co-wrote the movie script, were adamant about casting a rescue dog in the starring role.
To find the perfect Bella, Debbie Pearl, whose company Paws for Effect prepares shelter dogs for films, asked freelance dog trainer Teresa Ann Miller to conduct a nationwide search. When Miller saw Baby Girl's photo on the shelter's website, she was instantly interested. “It was a really good picture, and she was flat-out smiling,” Miller told The Washington Post. "I mean, it was beautiful." To see if Baby Girl's personality matched her good looks, Miller, Cameron, and Michon made their way to the Cheatham County Animal Shelter. To the dog trainer's sheer delight, Baby Girl passed the personality, temperament, and command response tests with flying colors.
It took Miller just three short months to train Baby Girl, who she renamed Shelby, and transform her into a Hollywood actor. After the film production ended, Shelby found a permanent home with Pearl in Huntington Beach, California. The two-and-a-half-year-old pooch is now gainfully "employed" as a therapy dog for Pearl's non-profit Dream Fetchers and spends her days visiting hospitals, schools, and veteran facilities. According to Pearl, Shelby is just as gifted a therapy dog as she is an actress. The proud owner gushes, “She just has this insight of what she needs to do when she needs to do it. Not all dogs have that.”
Hopefully, Shelby's story will inspire more people to adopt dogs and other pets from rescue shelters. As Bella says in the film, “We all face things that are hard. The only thing that gets us through it are the special people in our lives."
Resources: USAtoday.com, NDTV.com, cheathamcountyexchange.com