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Before she died this week at the age of 15, Gidget, the Chihuahua star of the Taco Bell commercials, wasn’t exactly swimming in job offers. “She was so typecast and looked very distinct,” says trainer Sue Chipperton. But the easygoing pup enjoyed her restful retirement. “She loves laying out in the sun,” Chipperton told PEOPLE before her death.
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Rando, the German shepherd who played Jim Belushi’s canine partner Jerry Lee in 1989’s K-9, was actually bred to be a police dog. Acquired in Germany by Mark Mooring, who headed the LAPD Canine Unit and served as a technical advisor on the film, the pooch retired to his home in Malibu. “He slept on the end of my son’s bed every night,” says Mooring.
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Before playing a serial killer’s pooch in the 1991 thriller Silence of the Lambs, Darla the dog was a pink poodle in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and had a role alongside Tom Hanks in the 1989 comedy The ‘Burbs. She went on to appear on the TV series Coach and as the ratty poodle in 2002’s Batman Returns before retiring to Thousand Oaks, Calif., where she lived to be almost 18. “Her big thing,” says trainer Cristie Miele with a laugh, “was stealing socks.”
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Keiko the orca starred in the 1993 family film Free Willy and had quite the adventure later in life. With the help of the Free Willy Keiko Foundation, the whale was rescued from an aquarium in Mexico and moved to Oregon, then Iceland, then Norway and was able to live in the wild for five years before dying in 2003. “In the movie, he jumps over a wall to freedom,” says Mark Berman, the associate director of the Free Willy foundation. “And we made the story come true.”
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Life after the movies was what you would expect for super-sized dog Kris, who starred in the first two Beethoven movies. Says trainer Teresa Miller: Kris was “a 200-lb. St. Bernard being lazy and drooly and hanging around the house.” Throughout the dog’s retirement, he stayed at home with Miller’s late father Karl, a longtime animal trainer.
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There wasn’t just one pig who played Babe in the 1995 film: 48 pigs actually starred in the title role “because of how quickly they grow,” says animal trainer Teresa Miller. And post-stardom? All of the 48 were placed in homes in Australia, where the movie was filmed, and lived out their lives as pets – not on plates: Each of the owners signed a no-slaughter agreement before taking in the pigs.
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The original dog that played Eddie on Frasier, Moose “was called the Lassie of the ’80s,” says trainer Mathilde de Cagny (Moose’s son Enzo took over the role in 2001). “He traveled everywhere first-class. The Four Seasons in Chicago even made him a little bathrobe in his size!” she says. But the pooch was a “Jack Russell terror!” according to de Cagny. “He always looked for a way to be mischievous.” Moose died in 2006.
See our gallery of living animal stars!