Meet the shelter-dog-turned-star of the new film I Heart Shakey!

Tomorrow, a new movie about the bond between a family and its dog premieres. But the star of I Heart Shakey isn’t your typical Hollywood fare. In fact, she’s a mixed-breed mutt named Ebony from Albuquerque Animal Welfare, the city’s animal care and control facility.

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Ebony is a former shelter dog who plays Shakey, a dog who refuses to let his family give him up.

We’re so thrilled to see a shelter dog in the spotlight — and so enamored by Ebony’s charming antics — that we’re working with the film’s producers to promote adoptable pets with two great PSAs. Watch the movie preview above, and the PSAs on our Facebook page, then check out our exclusive interview with the film’s producer, DeAnna Cooper, to learn more about this extraordinary rescue dog after the jump! (Find out how you can see I Heart Shakey here.)


PETFINDER: What is I Heart Shakey about?

DEANNA COOPER: I Heart Shakey
is about a family of three, but one of the family members just happens
to have four legs! It’s a story of a 35-year-old widower named J.T.
O’Neil, his precocious 10-year-old daughter and their devoted mutt,
Shakey. After moving from a small town to Chicago and missing the fine
print in their rental contract, J.T. is forced to find their lovable
pooch a new home. Shakey and Chandler, unwavering in their commitment
to stay together, must figure out a way to keep the family together.

Who is the real dog playing Shakey? What’s her story?

Ebony was rescued from an Albuquerque, NM-based shelter by
Frances Cabeena when only a few weeks old. Ebony is a mixed breed,
sweet and lovable, yet she plays an ornery mutt in the film. Both Ebony
and Frances are committed to giving back to others and showing all they
meet the meaningful bond that can exist between two-legged and
four-legged family members. On a regular basis, they visit elderly
homes, shelters and charities.

There is an honest and pure love
that exists between them that is recognized by all. We are lucky to
have met them and call them our friends.

Did anything unexpected or funny happen during filming?
We had an
amazing time working with Ebony and Frances. We witnessed daily how
much love there is between them. At the core of our film is a story of
love and loyalty and the relationship of Ebony and Frances is a perfect
depiction of the spirit of I Heart Shakey.
Ebony is such an lovable pooch that it was difficult to get her to be
angry with the villains in the film. Instead of growling and barking
she would much rather lick them! It provided many comical moments for
the crew to watch Ebony forgive and play nice-nice with the bad guys.
In honor of Ebony, we even made her animated character within the film
take on that playful lovable demeanor when dealing with Jerski, the bad
guy that gets his comeuppance!

What inspired I Heart Shakey?

I Heart Shakey was inspired by our own dog Chaplin, a
misbehaving mutt. Chaplin
was with us for 15 years, through thick and thin. Our journey took us
from the farmlands of Connecticut to the Upper East Side in Manhattan,
to Beverly Hills and on to Chicago. When we moved from Manhattan to
Beverly Hills our new apartment would not allow pets. So, — this was
before the internet — we made up handwritten posters and attached them
all around Beverly Hills to stop signs and lamp posts trying to find
Chaplin a loving home. Each time we took Chaplin to a new potential
home, within hours of leaving him we would get a call kindly asking us
to come get our mutt!

We realized after about 12 attempts that Chaplin
was acting out because he wanted to be with us. He loved us and was not
giving up on us and we shouldn’t be giving up on him. So we got our
priorities straight and found a new home for all of us.

What do you hope audiences will take away about the bond between people
and dogs?

We hope that audiences will giggle at times and enjoy the fun,
but what will last forever is the understanding that animals are family
and we need to treat each other with love and loyalty. When Chandler
delivers her heartfelt speech about Shakey being with them through good
times and bad — loosing her mom, she stresses that it is her time to be
loyal to Shakey. That speech comes from our heart.

Love each other,
love your doggies, be kind and be happy. There are millions of pets
looking for homes and Petfinder is leading the charge in uniting more
then 17 million adoptive families with all types of pets. We admire and
support Petfinder’s efforts. We want to do all we can to assist in
Petfinder’s mission of finding every needy pet a home filled with love
and loyalty.