Shelby, the dog who plays Bella, the lost dog trying to find her way back to her owner in “A Dog’s Way Home,” was herself a stray at one point.
Here’s everything we know about Shelby, including where she is today.
1. It took a nationwide casting search to find her
The screenwriters — W. Bruce Cameron & Cathryn Michon — looked high and low to find the right dog to play Bella. “It truly was a nationwide search in terms of looking at shelter dogs all over America,” says Michon. “We were looking at photos and videotape of dogs everywhere.”
2. They finally found their star in a shelter in Tennessee.
Shelby was discovered at the Cheatham County Animal Control Center in Tennessee when she was one-and-a-half years old. She was originally found scavenging for food at a nearby landfill. Though she was skinny and malnourished, “Shelby’s tail never stopped wagging, she was always happy,” Animal Control Officer T.J. Jordi told Inside Edition.
“It was important to have a dog that had a lot of energy and the physicality to perform the action. But I also was looking for a dog that just had that thing in her eyes, and Shelby has it. You can see the love and heart in her eyes,” says trainer Teresa A. Miller. “I think the character Bella and Shelby have a lot of similarities in their personality. She’s a lot of fun, she’s smart and so expressive. She’s just got that ‘it factor.'”
According to the shelter, she is a Rottweiler/German Shepherd mix.
3. The shelter made sure this rescue was legit
“We’re a small town in the middle of Tennessee in the middle of nowhere, and we’re getting a call from Hollywood?” says Jordi. “So, like any rescue, we did a lot of research to make sure that they were legitimate. We wanted to make sure she was going to be well taken care of… when Teresa Miller first came out, I’m standing there holding onto Shelby and saw her interacting very slowly, methodically, with Shelby, and as things progressed, I saw that even if things hadn’t worked out for Shelby to be in the movie, Teresa personally would have taken her home regardless.”
4. Another rescue dog plays Shelby’s stand-in
The production also rescued Amber, Shelby’s stand-in, from another facility, in South Carolina. At the time of filming, Amber was about two-and-a-half. “Amber definitely has specialties, which is what you want in a team,” says Miller. “She loves to do fast things, like digging in the sand much more quickly. Shelby’s a little bit more relaxed, a little bit more casual and natural for what we do.”
5. Bryce Dallas Howard (who voices Bella) and Shelby hit it off right away
“When I met Shelby, we were instant BFFs,” says Howard. “I think that’s something you feel whenever you meet any kind of animal, because they’re so present, but there really is something special about Shelby. She’s a beautiful, sincere, brilliant, super adorable dog.”
6. Howard is a big dog lover in real life
“I’ve had pets my whole life,” said Howard.“When I was very young, I was quiet and serious. I didn’t laugh or anything like that. Then my parents adopted a dog, a terrier. And suddenly, from the other room they heard a crazy noise, a belly laugh that sounded like it came from a grown person. And it was me, playing tug-of-war with the dog, at 18 months old. That was the birth of my insane laugh, my first pet.”
7. Shelby now lives with her trainer and is a therapy dog
Shelby now has a forever home with Miller in California. “Our company, Paws for Effect, work closely with autistic children and children’s hospitals, providing therapy dogs,” Miller says. “Shelby has the ideal personality for it. She’s perfect!”
As Howard says in the video, “She knows this is her purpose. To take care of people and make them feel loved.”
The movie received an “Outstanding” grade from Humane Hollywood. You can read production details here. (Including which animals were real, which were CGI and which were taxidermied.)