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Canine movie star living in H.B. leaves a ‘trail of love’ after her debut in ‘A Dog’s Way Home’

Canine movie star living in H.B. leaves a ‘trail of love’ after her debut in ‘A Dog’s Way Home’
Shelby is a 2-year-old former Tennessee shelter dog who is now a movie star after debuting in “A Dog’s Way Home.” Shelby lives in Huntington Beach with her owner, Debbie Pearl, and now works as a therapy dog. (Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

A canine movie star living in Huntington Beach is paying it forward after making her debut in “A Dog’s Way Home,” a film adaptation of a book mirroring her rags to riches story.

Shelby, a 2-year-old mixed breed originally from a shelter in Tennessee, is now working as a therapy dog for Debbie Pearl’s Dream Fetchers, a nonprofit that works to provide emotional support for clients.

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Pearl adopted Shelby after animal talent agency Paws for Effect was hired by the filmmakers to find and train a rescue dog to play the character Bella in the movie.

The team searched nationwide to find a dog that resembled the canine illustrated in W. Bruce Cameron’s book. The search eventually led to Cheatham County Animal Control in Pegram, Tenn., where the team spotted Shelby.

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“We thought this dog was absolutely gorgeous,” said Pearl, who later learned that Shelby was living in a landfill before being rescued by animal control.

In the movie, Bella travels more than 400 miles to get back to her owner, Lucas, who took her in after finding her at a construction site. Throughout Bella’s journey, she encounters other characters, including a veteran.

Debbie Pearl and Shelby pose in front of a poster for Shelby’s movie, “A Dog’s Way Home.”
Debbie Pearl and Shelby pose in front of a poster for Shelby’s movie, “A Dog’s Way Home.” (Courtesy of Bob Brents)

Pearl and Shelby recently returned home to Huntington Beach after visiting retirement homes and veterans and children’s hospitals nationwide.

Shelby’s work as a therapy dog mirrors the role Bella played for characters she encountered in the film.

“It’s kind of remarkable,” Pearl said. “She’s giving giving back to veterans like in the movie.”

The two are taking a quick breather before visits to local schools and hospitals. They’re also scheduled to appear alongside author Cameron on Saturday at the South County Pet Expo in Lake Forest.

Pearl believes Shelby is perfect for the new role in her life.

“She has this extra sense about her,” said Pearl, who said Shelby is leaving a “trail of love” wherever she goes. “She seems to know what somebody needs at the exact moment.”

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