Posts Tagged ‘Hollywood Animals’

Lions and Tigers and Bears…Oh My!

October 2, 2015

I’ve always had a thing for animals.  Not just the domestic types, but the big “I could eat you if I wanted” type.  So when I had the chance to do the private training course at Hollywood Animals, I couldn’t resist!


Hollywood Animals, located in Santa Clarita, California provides big cats to the movie, television and advertising business.




If you saw the movie, Evan Almighty with Steve Carell, the 2 lions, 2 tigers, 2 spotted leopards and the hyena from that movie were all cast from Hollywood Animals.

These animals travel all over the world to work with actors and models so they need to be socialized – continually exposed to a variety of people and comfortable performing in different environments.

The animal training course is not just about petting tigers or hugging bears (though you do get the chance to do that – eventually).

Bear Hug

Bear Hug

Five days a week you work a typical 8-10 hour day that starts with prepping food for each of the dozens of animals on property.  Imagine handling and weighing approximately 10 pounds of raw meat each day for each big cat.  This is not a job for the squeemish! In addition to the food, you also have to cube some of the meat into 2″-3″ chunks to use as treats when training.

Then there are enclosures to clean.  Cats are moved from one part of the spacious enclosures to another and locked off so you can rake, sweep, rinse and clean their living space.  Yes, it’s a lot of work and physically demanding, but the reward – if you find a whisker during your cleaning, you get to keep it!  I have one of Flynn’s affixed to the mat framing a photo of him that hangs on the wall in our home.

Flynn, my blue-eyed beau!

Flynn, my blue-eyed beau!

Safety is always stressed.  NEVER turn your back on a big cat.  NEVER, NEVER, NEVER.  Even though the animals at Hollywood Animals are specifically raised from cubs and are at least 5th generation born in captivity, they are still large, potentially dangerous animals.  Even if not intending harm, if a big cat were to pouce on you like your domestic cat is known to do when playing – it could hurt!  When a trainer is inside the enclosure with an animal, another person is at the entrance with a fire extinguisher to provide distraction if needed.  These simple, but carefully followed guides along with the wonderful care the animals all receive is likely why they have not had an incident requiring even a band-aid in all their decades in business.

Animals are trained using a positive reinforcement method.  Treats for good performance, not unlike what works best with humans.  That little bamboo stick in my hand is just to point and direct the animal – it wouldn’t serve as much of a defense weapon!

The bears in particular have a sweet tooth and will do just about anything for a marshmellow – even take it from my mouth!


Bear “Kiss”

They call it a “bear kiss” because bears pick up their food with their tongues and bring it into their mouths to chew. Warning!  Don’t try this at home or on your next camping trip, but hold a marshmellow in your teeth and stands still…then be ready to need to wash your face!  He’s not “foaming at the mouth”, that’s melted marshmellows…we’ve been “kissing” awhile!

My weeks at Hollywood Animals were some of the most fun and educational I’ve ever spent.  If I were to live in the LA area, I would sign on as a volunteer and spend at least a day or two a week working with my animal friends.

They also offer a weekend course at times so perhaps YOU might want to check it out for yourself!


Camp for Adults

June 28, 2013

SmoreIf it’s been more than a few years since you went away to summer camp, you might want to consider doing it again for your next vacation.  Camp – like the rest of us – has grown up!  Regardless of your interests; surfing, weight loss and fitness, stand up comedy, sports, music, art, quilting,  outer space,  or even zombies there’s probably a camp for that!   You can go away to “camp” for just about any interest ranging from a weekend, a few days or a few weeks depending on your time and budget.

Imagine spending days – even weeks doing what you love!  What better place to meet others who share your passions?   Parade Magazine, the Wall Street Journal and Reader’s Digest have all written recent pieces on the subject of “adult summer camps”.  My husband and I have each done one.   Here are a few, including the two we did,  to peak your curiosity:

Crossword Puzzle Camp (Crossword University Cruise) – Yes, a cruise for crossword enthusiasts!

Culinary Institute of America Boot Camp Cooking Vacations – Two to five day workshops on a variety of food types.  Offered in NY, California and Texas.  Why not add one on to your next family vacation or business trip?

Ballroom Dance Camp – perfect for couple who are hooked on Dancing with the Stars!

Calling all Cowboys and Cowgirls!  Want to participate in an actual cattle drive?  Prefer yoga?  You can spend a weekend with other cowgirls doing yoga and horseback riding in Montana.

NYFA John 1New York Film Academy offers a variety of acting and film making camps for adults, teens and kids both in NY and LA.  The shortest course is 1 weekNYFA John 2 but they offer a number of online course as well.   My husband did one of the adult camps in LA (they use the Universal Studios actual film lot) and an advantage of being an adult is you get asked to appear in more of the student films.  There are LOTS of teens and young adults – not so many over 40.  As a result, if you are “mature” you will likely get asked to play the parent, the judge or another “adult role” in several of the student productions!   “I’d like to thank the Academy…”

Archaeology?  You can participate in an actual dig in Colorado!

Sunny Hollywood Animals

Sunny Hollywood Animals 2Love animals?  There are lots of camps related to animals.  Some let you interact with your own dog in unique settings and activities.  Some offered by the Audubon Society let you help conduct bird census or restore natural habitats.  You can even learn to train big cats for film and television work at Hollywood Animals!  I did the private course and cleaned enclosures, cut up raw meat for the animals’ diets, fed animals and worked with big cats on various commands used in commercials, television and film.  At the end, I even got a certificate stating I’m a qualified animal trainer – and the pictures are pretty cool too!

Wine is a popular subject for camps as well.  From a one day to a weekend to a full week there is something for every wine lover.  Wine World in Seattle offers an ongoing schedule of inexpensive wine workshops.  Based in Portland (some classes are offered in Seattle too) the Wine and Spirit Archive offer certification and “fun ed” classes for both career and social wine lovers.  Of course, there are longer programs offered in Napa and Sonoma Valley.

Considering a career change?  There’s a camp for that!  Before you ditch your suit, plan a vacation with Pivot Planet.  There you get hands on experience in your fantasy job.  Thinking about raising alpacas in your retirement?  Try it here first!

Memorable vacation or career development – there are camps for just about any interest so pack your graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows – you’re off to camp! 

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