Famous Dogs Adopted From Shelters or The Streets

October is Adopt A Shelter Dog month and since I can’t adopt a new pup (my loving ex-shelter dog is sitting right beside me as I write this) I opted to do the next best thing and help promote the celebration. What better way to bring attention to the great qualities of shelter pets than to share some famous dogs who were either adopted from the shelter or saved from the streets?

Higgins A.K.A. Benji

Los Angeles trainer Frank Inn was a true animal lover who was always taking in animals from shelters to save them from euthanasia. When he couldn’t train them, he would work to find them a home with his friends or fans. He found Higgins in the Burbank Animal Shelter. Higgins was only a puppy at the time, but Inn saw a world of potential in the little critter.

His first role was in "Petticoat Junction," where he appeared in six of the show’s seven total seasons. During that time, he also made guest appearances on "Green Acres" and "The Beverly Hillbillies." Directors and co-stars quickly noticed his ability to convey broad range of facial expressions and his aptitude at learning new tricks on a regular basis. Inn said he was the most talented dog he ever worked with and that Higgins could learn a new routine every week. Some of his tricks included climbing ladders, opening mailboxes, and yawning and sneezing on cue. He was such a capable animal actor that he was featured on the cover of TV Guide and won the Picture Animal Top Star of they Year (Patsy) award in 1967.

In 1971, he starred in "Mooch Goes to Hollywood" with Zsa Zsa Gabor and Vincent Price. He retired after this movie, but he came back at age of 14 to star in "Benji," his best known role. His daughter, also trained by Inn, continued his legacy in the following "Benji" films.

Source Image Via Wikipedia

Pabst The (Current) World’s Ugliest Dog

It may not be the most distinguished of titles, but Pabst, the current holder of the “World’s Ugliest Dog” title was also once a shelter dog. Notably, he was the first mixed breed winner of the competition in the last seven years –most of the past winners have been pedigree Chinese crested hairless dogs. Some of his stunningly ugly features include a prominent under-bite, a scrunched face and floppy ears.

Before winning $1,600 in prize money for his owner, Pabst was rescued from a shelter in Citrus Heights, California. He was also awarded a modeling contract with House of Dog --not bad for an ugly shelter mutt.

Source Image Via AP Photo/Noah Berger

Spike A.K.A. Old Yeller

Animal trainer Frank Weatherwax found Spike in a Van Nuys, California shelter. He was very young at the time and soon became Weatherwax’s star pupil. His first big role was also the one he was most famous for –"Old Yeller." After that, he starred in "A Dog of Flanders" and he periodically played in the TV show "The Westerner."


Jake The 9-11 Rescue Dog

Jake was adopted when he was only 10 months old. His owner, Mary Flood, found him abandoned on the streets with multiple injuries, including a broken leg and dislocated hip. After he recovered from these injuries in 1995, Mary trained him to rescue humans and he ended up being one of the most famous search and rescue dogs from both September 11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina. He served as a rescue dog for almost 10 years when he had to retire due to cancer in 2006.

Source Image Via FEMA

Chanel The World’s Oldest Dog

Chanel was only around 6 weeks old in 1988 when she was adopted from a Newport News, Virginia shelter by Denice Shaughnessy, a soldier in the U.S. Army. In her older years, Chanel had to be transported in a stroller because he had difficulty walking around and she also had to wear special goggles for her cataracts.

In 2009, Denice’s husband noticed there was no Guinness Book of World Records listing for the World’s Oldest Dog, so he sent in records verifying Chanel’s age to the organization. The dog was awarded a certificate announcing her official title at her 21st birthday bash in Manhattan. In the next few months, she because a major celebrity and appeared on The Today Show and Live! With Regis and Kelly. She died a few months ago on August 29.


Mr. Winkle

Mr. Winkle’s unique, teddy-bearish appearance has made him a minor celebrity. No one really knows what his mix is, but some claim he seems to be a Pomeranian and Chihuahua cross. Before he started appearing in newspapers, magazines and TV shows like Sex and the City, he was living on the streets.

Fortunately, magazine photographer Lara Jo Regan found him as a stray and adopted him. She immediately fell in love with his quirky look and began photographing him in various costumes, settings and poses. It wasn’t long before she started publishing calendars and books with Mr. Winkle and soon enough, he was scouted out for a wide array of media appearances.


Wheely Willy

When Willy was only a puppy, he was found abandoned in a cardboard box, suffering from severe spinal injuries and a cut throat. He was rescued and treated for his injuries, but he was rendered a paraplegic and was left unadopted for over a year. Eventually, pet groomer Deborah Turner heard that Willy would soon be euthanized if no one adopted him, so she took him home.

At first, Deborah had to carry Willy everywhere, but she was determined to find a way to help him move on his own. One of her attempts included attaching helium-filled balloons to his rear end and then placing him on a skateboard. Her efforts were met with little success until she read an advertisement for K-9 Carts, a wheelchair designed specially for dogs. Willy took to his chair immediately, and the curiosity he attracted by those who saw him eventually led to news coverage, then appearances on Animal Planet. Eventually, he became the subject of two bestselling children’s books, where he was nicknamed Wheely Willy.

Wheely Willy now makes frequent public appearances and Turner works with him to promote disability awareness. He often attends hospitals, where he serves as an inspiration to patients and staff alike.

Source Image Via Wheelywilly.com

The Real Rin Tin Tin

The original Rin Tin Tin was discovered by a soldier in WWI, who insisted his battalion check out a kennel that was bombed in Lorraine, France. Inside, Corporal Lee Duncan and the rest of the troops found the only survivors of the bomb were a mother German Shepard and her litter of five puppies. All of the dogs were brought back to camp, but Duncan chose a boy and girl pup to call his own. He named them for the French puppets given to soldiers at the time for good luck, Rintintin and Nenette. He then began training the dogs to perform the tricks he had seen the German war dogs perform.

Upon his return home to Los Angeles, Nenette died and the boy pup ended up being the only dog from the French kennel to have survived. Duncan continued to work with Rin Tin Tin and ended up bringing him to a dog show where the dog wowed the audience by jumping over 11 feet and 9 inches. After the show, a movie maker asked Duncan if he could shoot the dog in action. At that moment, the young soldier realized there might be a future for his dog in the film industry. At the peak of his career, Rin Tin Tin received up to 10,000 fan letters a week and was one of Warner Brother’s top stars. Some credit him with saving the movie studio from bankruptcy. The Rin Tin Tin legacy was continued through the years by generation after generation of his heirs.



You may have seen videos of Faith walking on her hind legs before. She’s become quite famous for her successful adaptation to only having rear legs. When Faith was born with only two rear legs and one deformed front leg, her mother attempted to smother her to death. A boy saved her from the mother and brought her home to his family. When Faith was seven months old, she had to have the deformed front leg removed all together as it began to atrophy. A lot of people, including veterinarians, urged owner Jude Stringfellow to euthanize the puppy, but Stringfellow instead taught Faith to hop by using a spoon with peanut butter as an incentive. Faith soon surprised everyone by developing a unique walk on just her hind legs.

Since then, she has appeared on the "Oprah Winfrey Show," "The Montel Williams Show," "Animal Attractions Television" and "Ripley’s Believe it or Not." She also has been the subject of a book, With A Little Faith. She now even has her own website and MySpace.


Maui A.K.A. Murray from Mad About You

Sitcom fans might recall the lovable, slow and bratty dog Murray that was a central character in "Mad About You." The dog that made the show was really named Maui and was rescued from an animal shelter in Castaic, California by animal trainer Boone Narr, he was also co-trained by Betty Linn. Before his role in "Mad About You," he acted in commercials and as a stand in for the lead dog in the movie "Bingo."


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I saw Wheely Willy once at the Getty Center!
His owner was there with him and he had a little crowd standing around him.
I had no idea he was so famous...
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as for pabst, they were probably looking for a non chinese crested to hold the title for once, thats the closest they got haha :P (although non deformed they are one of my favorite breeds :P)
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