‘A Dog’s Way Home’: How Shelby went from junkyard stray to Hollywood star

Shelby, the star pooch in “A Dog’s Way Home,” has soulful eyes, acting chops and a warm nose for her human co-stars.

She also boasts a powerful rags-to-riches Hollywood story: Filmmakers discovered her in a dog shelter after she was saved from a filthy, parasite-ridden existence in a Tennessee garbage dump.

“Shelby is absolutely extraordinary in our movie,” says Bryce Dallas Howard, who voices Shelby’s character, Bella, in the story of a dog trying to find her way home through the rugged Colorado mountains (in theaters Friday). “But her true story is also absolutely extraordinary, just as riveting as Bella’s tale in ‘A Dog’s Way Home.’ ”

The filmmakers were intent on choosing a rescue dog to star in the survival tale adaptation of the novel by W. Bruce Cameron, the same author who wrote the book adapted for 2017’s “A Dog’s Purpose.” The pooch also had to be a pit bull mix, as in the book. The Internet search ended at a Tennessee no-kill shelter, which had rescued Shelby from a squalid life in a nearby landfill.

Shelby, about 2 years old, seemed thrilled to just have a roof over her head and regular meals. 

“We don’t know what kind of human contact she grew up with. If any,” Cameron says. “For Shelby, the shelter was more like a luxury spa hotel – regular food, they bathed her, took care of her parasites. She would have been happy to stay there.”

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Cameron made the trip with his wife, co-screenwriter Cathryn Michon, and dog trainer Teresa Ann Miller to check Shelby out in person. It was casting love at first nuzzle.

“I knew the second I knelt down and looked into those eyes,” Cameron says. “I just could see her willingness to join the life she would have being with people.”

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