Blog Category: Pet
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checkout the city farm blogs to learn about our takes on farm & city life
I was extremely fortunate to be invited by Studio Animal Services to train the puppies again for the 2015 Budweiser Super Bowl commercial. We trained the puppies for about three weeks, they were approximately 8 weeks old when we started, and then in the middle of December we headed up to central California to shoot the commercial on location.
Once again (and as always in past commercials) the amazing team of Budweiser Clydesdales were involved and being trained by Robin and Kate Wiltshire of Turtle Ranch in Wyoming, assisted by the ever present Budweiser ‘handlers’ – a team of great guys who make sure these horses want for nothing – who also assist Robin in the training.
I tried to take as many photos as I could, but my days were slammed with 8-10 hours of puppy training, 7 days a week right up until the shoot. Luckily we had many people around who took some great photos as you can see in this post.
We had 8 puppies – all of which were trained to do various things that were needed for the commercial. I was joined again by best friend and fellow trainer at SAS Deborah Dellosso – there’s nothing we enjoy more than training puppies!!
This time last year, I was working on the movie Godzilla on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. I spent the whole summer on the island and had a magnificent time. In the past I had visited and worked in Hawaii many times, each time the wheels would turn in my head and I would ask my self how I could manage to live here. It never occurred to me that I could do my regular job here (training animals for movies and television) even though Hawaii does get its fair share of films.
Here I am, on the set of Godzilla.
The pigs were in a very small part, but unfortunately cut out of the movie.
Some work acquaintances (now, very good friends) who worked on Godzilla suggested I move here and start my own company. At first I kind of just chuckled to myself and walked away at that suggestion – but it kept nagging at me. I gave it a lot of thought and decided that I needed a bit of a change in my life, so I did it! A year later here I am living in Oahu.
I was very lucky to get another movie to work on right when I moved here, so that was a huge bonus. I continue to go back and forth to Los Angeles, I am still very involved with my pet line here at The City Farm. And I still love doing all their photography for the website. So its a win/win for me. I love it here, I feel like its my home and my dog was just shipped out so it feels especially like home now.
My local beach is a 7 minute walk and the best part is you are allowed to take dogs on the beach! I cannot tell you how amazing that is! Its just wonderful. I go nearly every morning and walk Jesse (I am taking care of him while his parents are out of town) and my dog Dennis Hopper. I feel very fortunate.
Not only am I still doing studio training here in Hawaii, I am also branching out to offer some local pet services, like dog sitting and also helping people get their pets here to the islands from the mainland. I will be writing a post about that shortly – it seems like a very daunting process, but with planning your dog never has to set foot in quarantine in order to live on a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific!!
The Budweiser commercial “Puppy Love” was just nominated for an Emmy! So proud to have been the puppy trainer on this spot. Fingers crossed to director Jake Scott, production company RSA and ad agency Anomaly – it HAS to win!!
I owe a post explaining how I ended up here – but the above photo is a sampling of what July 4th looks like in Waikiki, Oahu.
Oh yes, that IS a pig! He is quite famous here in Oahu. His name is Kama The Surfing Pig. You can follow him on Instagram at: http://instagram.com/kamathesurfingpig
You can also follow me on Insatgram at: http://instagram.com/tailsticks
And The City Farm: http://instagram.com/thecityfarm
Normally in the winter we get some relief from the dry, desert conditions here in southern California, but this year it seems we missed out. With the temperatures continuing to be above average take a second to think about all of our beautiful backyard birds that would not only love to have a sip of cool water – but maybe take a bath here and there.
I have always set up bird baths in my gardens. Not only is this welcomed by the local bird population, it provides me with some entertainment from the regular visitors and from the occasional passerby.
You will find that once you put a birdbath out – word gets around pretty quickly. And soon you will have all kinds of birds dropping in.
I usually dump the water late afternoon and replace with fresh cool water for those that stop by before dark. I also put a mister out on extremely hot days and you will find that hummingbirds will especially enjoy this treat – as will the occasional dragonfly.
Over the years I have had quite a few wild bird encounters, there was the screech owl that flew into my car late one night on a mountain road just above Los Angeles. I stopped went back (because the thud sounded like a small animal not a small bird) and there was the owl laying on his back dazed and confused! I scooped him up in a towel, kept him wrapped up – and once I got home I placed him in a wire dog crate. I left him wrapped up as I was sure he was in shock and that lowers their body temperature, so I thought he could just be swaddled for the night. I left a perch in the cage with some wet canned dog food and water. The next morning he was sitting on the perch with dog food all over his face! He (or as I later found out “she”) went off to rehab at the raptor center in Ventura. About 6 weeks later they called me…”your owl is ready for release”. So I picked up the owl in a cardboard pet carrier, and that night my friend and I drove up the mountain to the scene of the crime and we released the beautiful owl into the night sky.
Driving to shoot a commercial one day – I was following a line of vehicles into the location on a dusty, dirt road out in Thousand Oaks. On the road in front of me was a bird – spreadeagled – wings out to the side, face down in the dirt. I stopped, jumped out, picked him up and put him in an extra crate I had in my SUV. Amazed no one had run over him, we headed to the base camp for the shoot and went to craft services to find some sugar and water. I kept him in a cool spot all day and regularly dropped sugar water into his mouth.
He was beyond dazed, in fact I took him home and kept him in a wire dog crate for over a week, hand feeding him through the door. This one was a woodpecker. He ate and drank from me for as long as his little brain was addled and prevented him from being scared of me. Slowly, weeks later he came around and started to become more and more flighty. By this time I had sectioned off a portion of my garden shed and he had his own birdhouse, complete with bark stapled to the wall. He lived with me for about 3 months until I felt he was well and truly recovered – then one day I opened the door and let him fly off.
The hummingbird that could not stand 115 degree heat for days on end several summers ago, crashed into my neighbors fence and lay on the floor – he ended up spending a couple of hours in a shoebox, another recipient of sugar water. As I held him in my hand and held a dropper to his beak, I could literally feel him refueling. His body came back to life and he was invigorated by the much needed sugar rush. Once it cooled down, right before dusk I hand released him into my back garden – another success story!
I feel like I have pretty good bird karma.
So go get some birdbaths – add a small water pump to make it even more enticing and enjoy the benefits of the sound of a fountain – hang up some hummingbird feeders and maybe, in the late afternoon on really hot days, hang a mister from your porch or under a tree – and watch the birds flock to your sanctuary!
Next time you plan a trip to southern California think about planning a whale watching trip. We have one of the best spots in the world to offer – the Santa Barbara Channel. Truly, I’m not kidding. Not to mention its actually a marine sanctuary. Year round there is a possibility of seeing whales – all kinds. Gray Whales, Humpback Whales, Blue Whales and about 25 other species of whales and dolphins have been identified within the waters of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.
My favorite are the humpbacks, they tend to visit during the summer, especially June through September. They can be playful and engage with the boats that go out to look for them. The grays are on a mission when they pass through the sanctuary, traveling from Alaska to Mexico to their breeding ground, there is little time to stop, this happens around December/January. Then on the way back up the females travel with their calves and that takes place around the months of March, April, May. This is when you can and will see gray whales from the beach. When they travel north the moms tend to keep the young close to the shore, especially when they get a little further north, around Monterrey. This is because the Orca’s are known to lay in wait and prey on the calves. Orca’s need depth to attempt an attack and staying in shallow waters close to the shore gives the grays and their young some relative safety.
Sitting on the beach in Malibu one year around May, I saw no less that 15 gray whales pass by me during that day – it was like a super highway of whales. Just beyond the break point were the spouts from their blowholes. It was amazing, such a sight to see.
I have yet to see Orca’s on these trips – they tend to make random visits, usually in the winter months. The transient killer whales making a stop in our channel, looking for something good to eat. I have tracked them over the years, once they arrive on our shores I try to guess if they will head north or south during their visit – and then waking up and trying to make the decision if I head south to Captain Daves (www.dolphinsafari.com) or head north to www.islandpackers.com or www.condorexpress.com for a full day out at sea.
All the whale watching boats are excellent. Captain Dave’s is a little further than I like to drive – its a good two hours away, but if its a nice calm day and they have had some good whale sightings I will head down. The nice thing about their boat is its a catamaran and the hull of each pontoon has underwater viewing windows that you can climb down into and see the whales and dolphins underwater. They literally have to drag me out of there when I go down – its captivating and I never want to leave.
Island Packers is the closet for me – in Ventura and probably the one boat I go out on most. Condor Express is a bit further north in Santa Babara and I will head up there if the Orca’s have been sighted going north.
I highly recommend dressing for winter – even in summer. As I stand on the dock and prepare to board I look around at the pour tourists in their flip flops, shorts and t-shirts and know that its too late to warn them of the impending cold. This is what I normally take on any trip, does not matter what time of the year. Always jeans, a polartec top and a waterproof shell. Then I pack in a bag with the following: a down jacket that can be worn under the shell, a beanie, gloves, a scarf, sunglasses, a wide brimmed hat, a cooler with snacks and beverages, binoculars, my cameras/lenses, an arm to attach my iPhone to so I can get video from different angles, a seat cushion (you’re on this boat ALL day on a plastic seat!) and lastly a thin polartec blanket. You may snicker at this list, but you will be grateful to be so prepared. At the very least if there is no wind and it gets warm (usually on the way back, in the summer) you can use all that clothing for resting your head on when you take a nap in the sunshine.
It has never done me wrong!
Below are some more of my photographs from numerous trips.
As most of you know I train animals for the studios. Well one of the most rewarding jobs I have done in a long time has been working on the new Budweiser commercial featuring the Clydesdales and a Budweiser puppies! …8 puppies. We trained 8 puppies to play the part of one puppy in this fabulous new commercial directed by Jake Scott. Check out this link for a quick tease behind the scenes.
As an animal trainer working for a company that supplies so many animals for the entertainment industry, one of the worst times of the year would be October and November when the weather brings us a local condition known to all who live here as the “Santa Ana’s“.
Sadly, our fire season has become more of a year round problem. Right now, at the end of January, when we should have had some decent rain, we are parched dry.
The Santa Ana winds are a warm offshore wind that creates perfect conditions for brush fires – especially after a hot summer, when the surrounding canyons and landscape are now dry and crispy.
Having an animal company with hundreds of dogs, cats, squirrels, birds and other small animals set in the heart of a dry canyon can be nerve wrecking at this time of year. Studio Animal Services has evacuated many times over the years, one of the worst times was October 2007, when we had to evacuate everyone. We are prepared, we have multiple horse trailers fully loaded with crates, food, water etc., so we can load up, pull out and can be self contained if need be. In 2007 we had to stay away for 3 days while the fire roared down our canyon burning everything in sight, except the 8 acre ranch we work from, the firefighters did an amazing job of saving that.
Being prepared is the key. I personally have my house set up with bins of stuff ready to load up and move out in the event of a local brush fire. I label them in order of importance, depending on how much time I have to evacuate, depends on what I grab and leave with.
I took all of these photo’s including the one above, when many people swarmed the local Wildlife Waystation to help evacuate all the animals. The fire was moving up the canyon toward the facility. I left that evening in a horse trailer with 3 emu, (or maybe they were ostrich) and 2 pigs. Luckily the fire did not make it to the Waystation and days later all the wildlife were returned.
If you live in Southern California (and other dry states) make a plan, be prepared – especially when it comes to your animals – and especially if you have larger animals like horses. No good waiting until it happens and panicking. Get set up now!
In England where I grew up, the European Robin (much different from the American Robin) is always associated with Christmas. Featured on many Christmas cards is a beautiful friendly bird.
I remember seeing the bird around the garden in the winter months. Watching my Dad work on the garden, the Robin would often find its way to the handle of a shovel, stuck in the ground , just as my Dad had left it – looking for the warmth of the wooden handle left by my Dads hands shoveling away at the land.
I took this rather shaky picture at my parents house a few years back. I was sitting in the living room and took this with a zoom lens through the window – that’s why it’s a little blurry. Still, you can see the beauty of this Christmas bird.
This is Red. Red is a beautiful Afghan hound, and we used him on the movie Titanic.
There were animals on Titanic I hear you say? Why yes, there was! We actually had the same breeds of dogs that were checked onto the ship along with their human owners, the four dogs we supplied for the production were the Afghan, a French bulldog, a wirehaired terrier and an Airedale.
Gentle Jungle supplied all the animals and they also provided a slew of horses for the opening scene where all the people were boarding the ship, being pulled up in horse drawn carriages. There were also had a few stray dogs, milling around the dock.
It was a fun shoot – mainly because we were in Mexico, it was my first BIG movie to work on and being on a slightly scaled down version of the Titanic was incredible! We would stay up until 4am in the morning to watch the night shoots (when we weren’t working) especially when they tilted the ship into the “sinking” position and the stunt people were jumping off – quite spectacular.
This is me on set waiting to work with our dear little wire hair fox terrier, she was a sweetheart.
And below – I am in wardrobe with the two “stray dogs” that we let loose to run around the dock while all the passengers were boarding. I was in wardrobe to keep a close eye on them.
Dog Day Afternoon…What a perfect way to spend an afternoon sorting through the hundreds of dog pictures I have taken over the years. These will be regular posts giving you a chance to meet these wonderful dogs. Some have long since passed, some are new into my life and have many more photo shoots left in them.
This cute little long haired dachshund was called Oscar and he had a brother called Mayer. They were trained movie dogs and belonged to Studio Animal Services where they were trained and went on many jobs for TV shows and commercials.
A few years back I trained a slew of ducks for a movie – appropriately titled DUCK – www.duckthemovie.com
I like training ducks. They are fun and different from your average day of dog training. We have about twelve of them and they all have different personalities and funny little quirks and behaviors. The reason we have so many is because we work and train the ducks for their daily food. As you can imagine, that is not much food, consider the size of a ducks stomach! So when a duck becomes full, we move onto the next one!
The other reason for twelve ducks is because they all bring something different to that table (is that a bad food joke? NO!). One duck may be great with the actor and loves to be held in someones arms, while another runs really fast. Trying to make a slow duck run fast is pointless, just take the fastest of the bunch and use that one.
At the beginning of each job I “audition” the ducks for their new jobs – actions – that they may be required to do. Sometimes we have a limited amount of time in which to train. So for example, using the more “aggressive” duck, the one that always bites you and grabs at things, to train for scenes that require the duck to pull on something, is much easier than trying to coax a more quiet, less aggressive duck into doing it. And therefore using the quieter duck for scenes with the actor is better than using the “grabby” duck, who may decide he suddenly wants to bite the actors nose!
And let me tell you – getting bitten or more realistically “pinched” by a duck, hurts! And leaves a bruise!