"A Dog's Way Home" Canine Star's Fascinating Journey From Landfill To Hollywood

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Shelby, a rescue dog, stars as Bella in the movie A Dog’s Way Home ( Credit: Sony Pictures)

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.

W. Bruce Cameron, Cathryn Michon (seated), and Megan Buhler with Shelby (Credit: Sony Pictures)

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

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1474 Comments
  • snowflakeheart
    snowflakeheartMonday, September 28, 2020 at 8:01 am
    loved this movie!! :)
    • unicornpup04
      unicornpup04Tuesday, August 25, 2020 at 6:30 am
      i love this movie but ever time i see it i cry
      • the_wolf
        the_wolfThursday, June 25, 2020 at 6:45 am
        I CRIED FOR 2 HOURS!!!
        • teagytornado101
          teagytornado101Friday, September 4, 2020 at 12:28 pm
          So did I! I have a dog named Bella that passed away.
        • bookfan2008
          bookfan2008Thursday, June 25, 2020 at 6:19 am
          So cute!! But movie is very sad!
          • piggy9
            piggy9Wednesday, July 29, 2020 at 11:04 am
            I agree 😢
          • ariana_grande2
            ariana_grande2Friday, May 29, 2020 at 4:54 am
            So cute!!❤😘But the movie is really sad😭
            • skategirl13
              skategirl13Thursday, May 28, 2020 at 5:23 am
              SO CUTE!!!!!!!!!!😘
              • hwo
                hwoWednesday, May 6, 2020 at 5:19 pm
                The day that movie came out new super Mario bros deluxe came out
                • abby5
                  abby5Thursday, May 28, 2020 at 2:59 pm
                  I work at Nintendo
                • sophie16
                  sophie16Wednesday, April 29, 2020 at 10:24 am
                  I watched the movie recently and I cried. I loved it so much
                  • rainbowcat963
                    rainbowcat963Tuesday, April 28, 2020 at 10:06 am
                    i really really really really really really really want to watch a dogs way home...
                    • animereina2020
                      animereina2020Saturday, April 25, 2020 at 6:41 am
                      I loved the movie, but I just can't help but crying everytime! I watched "A Dog's Purpose" also, and that made me cry too. I just can't handle them, but I love these movies because they still had some humour in them💕