They may be famous, but bet you didn’t know that many pet stars of movies, television and social media were adopted from an animal shelter.
While not all animals are expected to become famous, the same shelters that housed the smart, trainable little stars before they became well-known also have dogs and cats that can certainly become a best friend, and your own personal “star.”
Petco will be hosting a National Adoption Weekend at stores nationwide July 5-6, 2014. Click here to find upcoming events at your local Petco, and be sure to scroll down to read about just some of the dogs and cats that were rescued or adopted from shelters before they became the delight of internet and/or big screen viewers.
Benji: The first dog to play Benji was a shelter dog named Higgins who was adopted from the Burbank Animal Shelter. The 1974 movie “Benji” is the first film in a series about the small, loveable mixed breed dog with an uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time. Later, Higgins’ offspring Benjean reportedly took over the role.
Benji’s acting career spanned 14 years. The little dog’s first television role was the character “Dog” on tv sitcom Petticoat Junction. He guest-appeared on Green Acres in 1965 and also made a guest appearance on The Beverly Hillbillies.
Grumpy Cat: Currently one of the most famous cats on the Internet, Grumpy Cat, whose real name is Tardar Sauce, is best known for her grumpy facial expression. According to her owner Tabatha Bundesen, the cat’s permanently grumpy-looking face is due to feline dwarfism and an underbite. Grumpy Cat became popular after Bundesen’s brother Bryan posted her photo on the social website Reddit in 2012. Her photo then started popping up with the now-famous grumpy captions.
In addition to her Facebook popularity, Grumpy Cat was also featured on the front page of The Wall Street Journal and on the cover of the New York Magazine. She appeared on several television news programs, including Today, Good Morning America and CBS Evening News, and she also appeared on American Idol. Lifetime will be producing a movie about Grumpy Cat, entitled “Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever.”
The Official Grumpy Cat Facebook page has more than 5.9 million likes. Yet her fame apparently has not gone to her head; Grumpy Cat continues to remember those left behind in shelters, and promotes adoption.
Uggie: Born in 2002, award-winning Jack Russell Terrier Uggie is famous for his roles in “Water for Elephants” and “The Artist.” Before his big screen debut, Uggie was rejected by at least his first two owners for being too wild. He was about to be sent to a dog pound, when he was adopted by animal trainer Omar Von Muller. Von Muller only intended to foster Uggie, but decided to adopt him. Von Muller said of the dog, “He was a crazy, very energetic puppy, and who knows what would have happened to him if he [had] gone to the dog pound. But he was very smart and very willing to work. One of the most important thing[s] is that he was not afraid of things. That is what makes or breaks a dog in the movies, whether they are afraid of lights, and noises and being on sets. He gets rewards, like sausages, to encourage him to perform, but that is only a part of it. He works hard.”
Uggie’s earliest roles were in commercials and minor roles in films before his first named role as “Queenie” in “Water for Elephants.”
Uggie attended the American Film Institute of the 2011 silent movie “The Artist”, where he joined the rest of the cast in walking the red carpet. Some critics said of his role in the film that he was “stealing every scene.”
Uggie has his own Facebook page, Uggie The-Artist.
Tuna: Left abandoned on a San Diego road, Tuna was found by a rescuer. Thought to be a victim of irresponsible breeding, Tuna’s rescuer called him Wormy, since the dog was so traumatized and afraid, he would crawl submissively on his belly. The rescuer brought him to a local farmer’s market, where Courtney Dasher saw him and brought him home, originally intending to foster the little dog. But it didn’t take long before she fell in love and adopted him. Dasher changed his name from Wormy to Mr. Burns (after the Simpsons character), then to Toonie (as in “cartoonish”) and then Tuna.
Now an advocate for pet adoption, Tuna has almost 400K Instagram followers and more than 61,000 likes on his Facebook page, Tuna Melts My Heart.
Baxter, whose real name is Peanut, was adopted from the Los Angeles Animal Services East Valley Shelter by an animal trainer. Peanut, who was saved from a life of abuse, injury and neglect, went on to become one of Hollywood’s funniest pet sidekicks, playing Will Ferrell’s dog in “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.”
Harley: While not being adopted from a shelter, internet sensation Harley was rescued and does have a story to tell. The little Chihuahua was born in a puppy mill, and now is a spokesdog who travels to educate people about puppy mills. Harley grew up in a puppy mill, where he lived in a small wire cage for years. No bed, no toy, no bone, no loving touch. The little dog’s only purpose at the puppy mill was to keep making babies. Once he grew older, he became crippled and was in heart failure. No longer of any use to the puppy mill people, they considered tossing him in a bucket to just let him die. It is only thanks to a woman who worked for the puppy mill that Harley was saved and turned over to Barbara, a rescuer.
Harley was in such poor shape, that the vet who examined him didn’t think he’d live three months. But that was in 2011, and with the proper care and love, the little dog is thriving, charming everyone he meets. Read more of his story on his Facebook page “Harley.”