A haven for wild showbiz types

Four-legged stars of TV, movies call Monroe area home


Herald Writer

MONROE — Some people might call her an overzealous stage mom.

But when Anne Gordon primps her youngsters for a performance, it generally involves a comb, a brush and a dog bone.

Her "children" are the four-legged kind.

Gordon, 43, operates Anne’s Animal Actors, and supplies animals of all kinds for show business jobs around the Pacific Northwest, including TV ads, "The Fugitive" and the current filming of a new Stephen King movie.

In business since 1983, she keeps the animals on her 20-acre farm in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. She has 15 dogs, a dozen cats and some wild critters including a wolf, a raccoon, a beaver and a squirrel.

When she gets a call for an animal she doesn’t have, she recruits from a network of animal owners in the area.

A former zookeeper, Gordon got into the business of show-business animals after a year of taking wild animals to visit classrooms.

"I trained for a year in Los Angeles with wild animals," she said. "Then I spent some time taking the more exotic animals around to schools.

"I began to get calls from television and movie producers who needed animals in their work. There was no one around here doing that, so I made it my business."

Most of the dogs and cats she has put on camera have been adopted by her as very young animals from pet shelters.

"The animals need to be outgoing," she said. "It’s really best if you get them young and train them to be around cameras from the time they are very young."

Cats tend to be shy, she said.

"In order to be a good film cat, it has to have a good food drive," she said.

Dogs are easier to train for TV and movies. And the irony in that, she said, is that they are paid more, about $250 a day verses $200 for a cat.

What’s really important is that someone who goes into placing animal actors has to like animals and people.

"Most animal people aren’t very good with other people," she said. "To do this work, you have to be really good with animals and really good with people, too."

It’s always an education process, she said.

"You have to educate the producer on what’s possible and what’s not," she said. "You have to be able to tell them how to set up the shots in a way that they think they’ve come up with the idea themselves."

While she’s placed animals in TV shows such as "Northern Exposure", and movies such as "Practical Magic," she currently is working with the filming of Stephen King’s "Rose Red" near Sand Point in Seattle.

She also has worked with the producers of "The Fugitive," who have shot in Everett and Snohomish County. They needed a cat for one episode, some bloodhounds for another and a shot of puppies in a pet store window.

Her animals have also appeared in advertisements for PetsMart and in the Alaska Airlines magazine.

Most dog actors have careers that stretch just a few years, and by 9 or 10, they’re looking for retirement.

It was only recently that she sought homes for four dogs and two cats who have all been adopted to new owners.

"It’s really hard," she said, of giving up her dogs and cats. "If it were up to me, I’d keep them forever. But each one of these animals deserves its own family to be with in ‘retirement.’ "

Gordon said she’s not getting rich off the animals and lives in a modest mobile home on her land.

"Most of the money they make goes for their care, the food, the vet bills and the costs of getting them to where they are acting," she said.

While officials of the Humane Society of the United States say they don’t approve of Gordon placing the retired "actors" in new homes, the American Humane Association reports that animals are rarely mistreated on American movie sets. They give Gordon good marks.

But Lisa Wathne, Washington state representative of the Humane Society, said people who adopt animals from shelters are making a lifetime commitment to keep that animal.

Gordon, however, said she has the animals’ best interest in mind when she places them in a "retirement" home.

"I really want each of them to have their own family to love them and their own fireplace to lie in front of," she said.

The Herald/DAN BATES

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