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From Shelter to Showbiz: Rescue Dog Maggie’s Journey to Stardom

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Maggie was just an ordinary shelter dog—patiently waiting for someone to take her home. But today, it’s safe to say she is beyond ordinary. You might even say she’s extraordinary.

The once-homeless dog now has a loving forever home and bona fide career in show business, having acted and modeled in more than 40 projects. She even does therapy work on the side.

From the shelter to the TV screen, Maggie is proof that rescue dogs can shine bright if given the chance.

Maggie the rescue dog does tricks with her dog mom.

Courtesy of Nicole Ellis

A Friendship That Was Meant to Be

Maggie’s journey to bigger and better things began in the North Central Los Angeles Animal Shelter in California when she was about 1 year old. That’s when she met Nicole Ellis, a certified dog trainer, who was in search of a canine companion.

“I didn’t have a breed or much in mind of what I needed,” says Ellis, who lives in Pasadena. “I wanted a companion, a friend, a dog to teach and learn from, to join [me] on adventures, and I knew she, or he, was going to come from a shelter or rescue.”

“Not only did I not have a breed in mind, [but] I didn’t have a size or gender since I grew up with mutts in my family from 100-pound to 4-pound dogs,” she adds.

After visiting many shelters and scouring the web, Ellis happened upon an online post for a Rottweiler puppy at the city shelter. So, on a Friday in May 2008, during rush-hour traffic, she reached the shelter just before closing time. She soon found out that the Rottie puppy wasn’t the one for her—he wasn’t even a puppy at all.

“It was an old photo, and he was a dog who needed a lot of help and confidence building and a large time commitment,” Ellis says. “As a college student at the time, I knew it was too much for me to handle and take on and [he was] better for someone else.”

maggie and nicole in ocean

Courtesy of Nicole Ellis

On her way out of the shelter, Ellis spotted a scared little Maggie sitting quietly in her cage. At that moment, Ellis says she knew she and Maggie were meant to be together.

“I had a feeling we would be best friends, and whatever issues she had, we would overcome; I would make it work,” Ellis says. “I didn’t temperament test. I didn’t even touch her; just sometimes you know.”

Ellis paid the $86 adoption fee and then officially met Maggie.

“She kissed me all over my face,” Ellis says. “I think she knew we were going to be the best of friends. A few days later I picked her up from getting her spay, and we were off for a lifetime of adventures.”

Rescue dog Maggie plays shake and does tricks.

Courtesy of Nicole Ellis

Overcoming an Unknown Past

Little is known about Maggie’s past and why she ended up in the shelter, which can be common for rescue dogs. Ellis soon discovered the sweet Bichon/Poodle/Cocker Spaniel mix did have a few issues to overcome.

“We all have issues—myself included—and, as we got to know each other, I learned about hers,” Ellis says. “Maggie was very sound sensitive; we’ve done a lot of work on this slowly, building up with very light little sounds and working our way up to scarier sounds, like a door slamming, and reinforcing these sounds to make them fun.”

Maggie’s health also hit some snags when she developed serious allergies that made her scratch her skin raw.

“Many foods later, I ran a blood panel test through Spectrum Labs, and it’s changed her quality of life,” Ellis says. “I was able to eliminate all the foods that she’s allergic to—from peas to chicken—and get her on a diet that doesn’t spark any issues.”

Maggie is also on special allergy shots for her environmental allergies.

“She gets this shot once a month and retested every few years to see if her allergies have changed,” Ellis says. “She no longer itches, [and] her skin has changed from a pink to a beige color, and her energy level drastically increased, too.”

Maggie the rescue dog rides a scooter by the beach.

Courtesy of Nicole Ellis

Becoming a Star

Ellis grew up modeling and acting, and she trains animals for TV and other productions. Involving Maggie in the business seemed like a natural extension. The little dog ended up having a knack for it.

“I thought I would see how she would like production work once I thought she was ready, and it turns out Maggie loves to do production work,” she says. “I enjoy training on sets and in studios, so the showbiz life is another way we can have fun together.”

Maggie’s first break came from a Shiseido commercial that aired in Japan.

“She is standing on a platform floating in water, with a model beside her, while over 10,000 balloons fall on both sides of them,” Ellis says. “She did amazing!”

Rescue dog Maggie stars in a commercial.

Courtesy of Nicole Ellis

Since then, Maggie has performed in a number of productions, such as the Comedy Central series “Ahamed’s Ramadan Diary” and an adaptation of the Stephen King novel “Premium Harmony.” She’s appeared in segments on “Today” and other talk shows. And her resume boasts a long list of work with national brands, including Uber, American Apparel and AT&T, and pet brands, including Jax & Bones and iFetch.

“She loves to learn and do behaviors for people,” Ellis says.

Beyond acting, Maggie also does a lot of therapy work.

“We’ve done everything from safe houses for kids to Shriners hospital in Pasadena, California, to even flying to Nashville, Tennessee, to put on a show and visit the kids at Vanderbilt hospital,” Ellis says.

Not bad for a shy little shelter dog!


Diana Bocco is a full-time writer and adventurer who has written for National Geographic, DiscoveryChannel.com, Yahoo! and Marie Claire. Diana has lived in five countries and taken her rescued dogs along to each one of them.  

Featured Image: Courtesy of Nicole Ellis