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Dream Fetchers Deliver Smooches From Movie Star Pooches


10351230_10152214150157613_608839621632036081_n-1The filming of Marshall The Miracle Dog is over, but for many of the famous canines in the movie, their work has just begun.

Their owner Debbie Pearl, founder of the full-service animal company Paws for Effect, hand selects some of her furry friends to visit sick children in hospitals and medical facilities across the country through the nonprofit organization Dream Fetchers, which she started in 2005. The impact that her famous movie dogs have on their fans, especially sick children, is the most rewarding part of her career as a professional dog trainer.  Every time she brings movie star dogs together with children who face life-threatening illnesses…magic happens.

“My true passion, what really makes me feel alive, is to use the power of a movie celebrity dog to bring smiles, hope, and a one-in-a-lifetime experience to children who are sick, or underprivileged, or who have disabilities,” said Pearl.

I Love YouMy Lil Pony!Showcase of Dogs 2006

She got the idea to start Dream Fetchers after participating in a fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, in Memphis. One day she introduced the pediatric patients to her White Siberian Husky, who starred in the sled dog movie  “Iron Will,” and the smiles on their faces were priceless.

Gotta see the dogs

“I had this epiphany that making a difference in children’s lives is what I was meant to do,” said Pearl, whose son Justin was five years old at the time. “Working with children battling cancer and all these diseases made me realize how lucky I was to have a healthy child.  I could be the mom at the hospital sitting there every day watching my child fight a life threatening disease, so I wanted to give back. I knew what I had in my hands, these celebrity dogs, could make a difference in young people’s lives.”

It's Joey Love

Little Joey Lovin'

Pearl was driven to work on family films and television shows on Disney and Nickelodeon so that the kids had something to watch at the hospital. After they watch the movie, Pearl brings out the dogs, signs autographs, and visits with the children.


“The experience is so powerful and makes a huge impact, just like Marshall the Miracle Dog. If I can change one life and give one child an experience he or she will never get, that’s all that matters. I get as much from them as they do from me. These kids are so brave, and their will to live is very powerful and very overwhelming.  The most difficult times are when I’m at a hospital and patients are lying in bed in a vegetative state. I don’t think I’m even getting through to them, but the nurses tell me they know everything and are just trapped inside their body,” she said.

Pearl recalls another time when one little girl pushed the dog into her face to feel his soft fur.  The nurse told me that this patient doesn’t talk to anyone and never leaves her room, and yet she came to the playroom, sat in the front row, and interacted with the dogs for 45 minutes.

When patients are isolated and can’t leave their room, Pearl brings the dogs into the hallway so they can peak their head out the door and watch them perform a show.

“I have huge dreams and plans to raise money so I can do more visits with Dream Fetchers,” said Pearl. “I have endless stories about these dogs who come from the streets and shelters, some of them about to be put to sleep, and now look at what they are giving back. The kids know the dogs are all rescued and saved, which is very inspirational for them. These dogs teach them to never give up.”

What it's all about

For more information about Dream Fetchers, visit www.dreamfetchers.org.