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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

10 Shelter Dogs Who Got Famous

There's no doubt about it—the lucky shelter dogs featured below hit the adoption jackpot—or is it their pet parents who got lucky? Either way, each of these celeb-puppies went from tiny kennel to being television, movie, or Broadway stars.

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two small dogs playing together outdoorsotsphoto/Shutterstock

Famous shelter dogs

It’s not only dogs with a fancy pedigree that go on to see their name in lights. As these rescued pups show, mixed breeds can go on to do great things, including starring in box office smashes and winning awards. Thinking about adopting your own? These are the cutest mixed breeds you won’t be able to resist. shelter dogs need a home–get adopting!

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Old YellerWarner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock

Spike from Old Yeller

Old Yeller is arguably one of the most famous silver screen pooches in history, and the pup that played him—a yellow mastiff/Labrador retriever mix named Spike—was a shelter rescue. According to America Comes Alive, Spike was “discovered” at the Van Nuys Animal Shelter in Los Angeles by a friend of Hollywood dog trainer, Frank Weatherwax. Weatherfax was impressed with Spike and adopted him on the spot for $3. If you’re in the mood for some other great classic movies featuring pups, check out the best dog movies to watch with your pup.

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Mad About YouMoviestore/Shutterstock

Maui from Mad About You

Mad About You was arguably one of the most iconic sitcoms of the ’90s, and Maui—a collie-shepherd mix—was arguably one of the most iconic characters on the show! He played the role of Jaime Buchman’s (Helen Hunt) and Paul Buchman’s (Paul Reiser) beloved pup from 1992 to 1999, and later starred in Santa’s Slay, according to IMDB. If you really love dogs, check out the stories of these pups who saved their owners’ lives.

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Air BudKharen Hill/Walt Disney/Kobal/Shutterstock

Buddy from Full House and Air Bud

You know what TV show was also iconic in the ’90s? Full House. You may remember Comet from the series, a sweet golden retriever that belonged to the Tanners. Comet’s real name is Buddy, and he was adopted by a man named Kevin DiCicco who found him as a stray in the Sierra Nevada area, according to Buddy’s biography, Go Buddy!. Buddy also played himself in the popular ’90s movie, Air Bud.

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Rin Tin TinKobal/Shutterstock

Rin Tin Tin

You know you’ve really made it big when not only are you the furry star of a TV show, but when the actual plotline was inspired by your story! Rin Tin Tin, nicknamed Rinty, was a German Shepherd who was rescued by American Lee Duncan from a war-torn kennel that sat adjacent to a World War I battlefield, according to a story by NPR. The original Rin Tin Tin was featured in silent films, on the radio, and in TV shows—including many in which he played himself—and passed away in 1932. Rin Tin Tin is also one of the 11 amazing dogs that have broken world records.

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Uggie RetiresJoe Kohen/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Uggie from The Artist

Uggie was rescued by Omar Von Muller, a dog trainer in Los Angeles—with the intention of fostering him only until a new home was found. Uggie turned out to be far too lovable, though, and he eventually starred in Water for Elephants as Queenie, as well as in The Artist, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2012. Uggie was also cast in some famous commercials, won the Palm Dog Award in 2011 and the Golden Collar Award in 2012, and was the first dog to leave his paw prints in cement outside the famed Gruman’s Chinese Theater.

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Seeking A Friend for The End Of The World - Film - 2012Moviestore/Shutterstock

Aleister from Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Aleister is a terrier mix who was adopted in 2008 from a California dog shelter. Like many Hollywood actors, Aleister started out small by working the commercial circuit, but his hard work paid off and he landed a major role with Steve Carell in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World in 2012, says HuffPost. In the movie, he plays Sorry, and his stunt double was actually another rescue named Mulligan.

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Annie - 1982Moviestore/Shutterstock

Sandy from Annie

It’s hard to imagine a neglected and abused puppy mustering the ability rock it on Broadway for six continuous years, but that’s exactly what Sandy, a beige terrier mix, did from 1977 to 1983 on the set of Annie. Sandy was a stray that was mere hours away from being put to sleep at the Connecticut Humane Society, reports the New York Times, but trainer William Berloni adopted him in 1976 for $8 and the rest is splendid musical history. Their story is told in Berolin’s Broadway Tails: Heartfelt Stories of Rescued Dogs Who Became Showbiz Superstars. Sandy may not have changed history in a major way, but these 10 famous animals did.

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Hart To Hart - 1979-1984Abc-Tv/Kobal/Shutterstock

Charlie Gray from Hart to Hart

Like some of the other dogs we’ve included here, Charlie Gray, a Löwchen, was rescued just in time before being put to sleep at a Hollywood shelter. Animal trainer Bob Blair is responsible for rescuing Charlie Gray, and he’s also responsible for helping to make him the star of the ’70s/’80s sitcom Hart to Hart, where he played Freeway. according to IMDB.

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Marley & Me - 2008Fox 2000 Pictures/Kobal/Shutterstock

Rudy from Marley & Me

There are a lot of dogs in the 2008 movie Marley & Me—20 to be exact. Of those pooches, six were actually rescues found at animal shelters, including a sweet pup named Rudy who was found at the Hillsborough County Animal Services in Florida, writes

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Benji - 1974Mulberry Square/Kobal/Shutterstock

Higgins from Benji

The ’60s and ’70s had many stars: James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, Al Pacino, and of course Higgins, the award-winning border terrier mix. Higgins was adopted in 1960 from the Burbank Animal Shelter by trainer and breeder, Frank Inn, according to IMBD. From there, he promptly won over American hearts in the TV series Petticoat Junction and then later in his famed role as Benji. In 1966, he won the PATSY award for Best Canine in 1966. On-screen, Benji was often helping out—learn about some of the most heroic dogs in real life.

Wendy Rose Gould
Wendy Rose Gould is a Phoenix-based freelance lifestyle reporter who covers home, health, wellness, and travel-related topics for people and their pets. In addition to having two kitties of her own, Wendy loves all animals and is always game for meeting new floofs. She holds a journalism degree from the Franklin College Pulliam School of Journalism and has a second bachelor's degree in Philosophy. You can follow her on Instagram @wendyrgould.