ANIMAL STARS — Lois Pope Bringing Hollywood’s Famous Animal Stars to Palm Beach, Florida for Afternoon Tea

Tickets for the “Afternoon Tea (January 22nd) with America’s Favorite Animal Stars” at the Chesterfield Hotel’s Leopard Lounge are $150 and may be purchased by emailing Jill Nizan at jilln@americanhumane.org or by calling 1-800-227-4645.

Animal Stars

Animal Stars

Meet Crystal the capuchin and Hudson the Golden Retriever. Limited seating is available for this exclusive event. Dr. Robin Ganzert’s new book “Animal Stars: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors” (co-written with Allen and Linda Anderson) is available in bookstores and online everywhere now.

Robin Ganzert, PhD – author of Animal Stars: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors

Robin Ganzert, PhD – author of Animal Stars: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors with her special furry animal actor friend.

Robin Ganzert and Crystal

Robin Ganzert and Crystal

Visit http://www.animalstarsbook.com for more information.

A Note of Appreciation to Our Angel Animals Blog Readers

As we approach the Christmas holidays and New Year, we want to thank everyone who has been part of our lives in 2014. We feel deep and sincere gratitude for friends and family who have been at our sides during challenging times as well as with us to celebrate the highlights of this year.

One of the big highlights was co-authoring ANIMAL STARS: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors with Dr. Robin Ganzert, CEO of American Human. What an exciting experience that was for us.

Animal Stars

Animal Stars

Animal Stars: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors by Robin Ganzert, PhD

Animal Stars: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors by Robin Ganzert, PhD

The book features a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of Hollywood’s favorite animal actors. It features moving stories from Julia Roberts, Steven Spielberg, animal trainers, and more!

We travelled to Hollywood to meet and interview trainers who shared their personal experiences with the animal actors featured in the book. The trainers and American Humane Association’s Film & TV Unit were all very gracious and welcoming. When we visited the trainers’ and animals’ homes, ranches, and facilities, we observed that animal actors and their people showed a deep love and respect for each other in what appeared to be much more than a merely professional relationship.

Robin Ganzert

Robin Ganzert Hosting the Hero Dogs Awards

Another 2014 highlight was our visit to the ANIMAL STARS book launch party at Fox Studios in Hollywood and the American Human Association’s Hero Dogs Awards at the Los Angeles Beverly Hilton. What amazing events. Wow! As you can see in the images, we had a blast with hundreds of people and heroic animals who attended.

ANIMAL STARS Book Launch

ANIMAL STARS Book Launch

ANIMAL STARS Book Launch

ANIMAL STARS Book Launch

ANIMAL STARS Book Launch

ANIMAL STARS Book Launch

Animal Stars Book Launch

ANIMAL STARS Book Launch

.


Animal Stars

A DOG NAMED LEAF

The New York Times Best Seller — A DOG NAMED LEAF

A DOG NAMED LEAF – “Didn’t see that coming!”

What if something really good happens, totally unexpected, and gives hard-working writers hope that anything is possible? Well, something did happen to us in 2014.

Our 2012 memoir A DOG NAMED LEAF about Allen and our rescued cocker spaniel facing life-threatening challenges together made it on to the December 21, 2014 New York Times Best Sellers list!

A DOG NAMED LEAF was very personal book for us to write (and live). We wondered how people would respond to its deeply spiritual experiences and themes. It was our truth, though, and we shared more of our personal lives in this book than in any other writing we have done or that has been written about us.

Linda and Leaf

Linda and Leaf

Leaf and Allen

Leaf and Allen

Leaf

Leaf

To give a glimmer of the gratitude readers of this book have expressed, below is one of the over 60 Amazon.com 4- and 5-star comments.

“My vet gave me a copy of this book. I started reading it and couldn’t put it down! I’m a groomer, and the story told about Leaf and his visits at the groomer’s always comes to mind when I am grooming a difficult dog. (I groom a lot of rescue dogs.) I have loaned my book out to many people and also recommended it to many people. When they read it, their response is always the same as mine: They couldn’t put it down either! This book would make a great gift. I’m buying a second book to donate to our next silent auction to raise money for our local rescue dogs! Hugs and smooches to Leaf!” –Pam

We appreciate Lyon’s Press/Rowman & Littlefield Publishing for the creative work and strategies they used to make it possible for a whole new set of readers to find our book.

A DOG NAMED LEAF

The New York Times Best Seller — A DOG NAMED LEAF

Thanks to those who have read A DOG NAMED LEAF. We love it when you share your thoughts and reactions to the book in emails, social media posts, and customer reviews at online booksellers.

HAVE A HAPPY HOLIDAY and A HAPPY 2015 NEW YEAR.

–Allen and Linda

Finder with Allen and Linda Anderson

Finder with Allen and Linda Anderson

Heartland Forum’s Moveable Feast Luncheon

Heartland  Forum's Moveable Feast Luncheon

Linda Attending the Heartland
Forum’s Moveable Feast Luncheon

Linda Anderson visited with booksellers and librarians at the Heartland  Forum’s Moveable Feast Luncheon on October 1st. At this sold-out affair, all attendees received a complimentary tote bag with a signed copy of ANIMAL STARS by Robin Ganzert, PhD and Allen and Linda Anderson. The book was featured in the event.

Heartland  Forum's Moveable Feast Luncheon

Animal Stars Featured at the Heartland
Forum’s Moveable Feast Luncheon

#AnimalStars has recently been featured on Fox & Friends and an Associated Press wire service article that was picked up by about 2,000 media outlets.

Animal Stars

Animal Stars

Visit http://www.animalstarsbook.com for more details.

A Bear, a Deer, and Rescued Creatures Form a Family of Animal Stars

We have seen images of bears curiously peeking into cars and rummaging through trash cans, looking for food. But the concept of a bear and a man forming an enduring team that opened the hearts of everyone who met and worked with them never entered our minds.

Not until we had the privilege of meeting one half of an amazing bear-human partnership. Nick (Nicholas) Toth is the second-generation owner of Cougar Hill Ranch and trainer of Casey, one of the most famous and versatile bears in the world. Casey performed in numerous movies and commercials but is universally known as Baloo, the Bear, in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book and The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story.

Casey lives on in his screen roles, including as the Tolstoy-reading bear in Because of Winn-Dixie. He also lives on in story after story that Nick and his aunt Helena Walsh tell about meeting, training, and working and traveling with the personality-plus bear they raised from the time he was a cub. Nick wrote about his complex and satisfying relationship in a story titled, “Casey as Baloo the Bear in the Jungle Book Movies: Where’s the Closest KFC?” His story is one of thirty in the book we co-wrote with Robin Ganzert, PhD, president and CEO of American Humane Association.

Helena and Casey

Helena and Casey

For Animal Stars: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors, we did extensive research which included meeting the celebrity animals who star in film and television and interviewing their world-class trainers. We wanted to find out how Nick helped to transform a massive bear into such a lovable personality captured on camera. And what was this talented and enchanting big bear like off-camera?

On a hot and arid mid-July day we drove through desert landscape out of Los Angeles down dusty country roads to Cougar Hill Ranch. As we chatted about the upcoming visit, we didn’t realize that we were in for a delightful treat. A long, winding gravel road led to a place where we parked our rental car. We got out to take a closer look at a clean and organized facility. About a half-dozen buildings, large fenced-in sections, and abundant shade trees housed a variety of animals. The pleasant environment had the feel of a family setting; not strictly a business facility.

We walked toward the Cougar Ranch main office just as Nick Toth, a bear of a man himself, came out the door. He smiled a friendly, welcoming greeting and escorted us to his office, a couple of adjoining rooms with a door that opened directly to the grounds. Similar to ours at home in Minnesota, this was definitely the working office of a busy person. Piles of papers and photos, file folders, and storage boxes were neatly stacked around the rooms. A large fan whirred, keeping us cool in spite of the dry heat.

Casey on a Movie Set

Casey on a Movie Set

Nick sat on a chair near a large wooden desk and indicated that we should make ourselves comfortable on a sofa covered with a colorful print cloth. We had entered “Command Central” where Nick and his family made important decisions about calls for the services of their well-trained and cared-for working animal stars.

Nick was soon joined by his Aunt Helena. In the way two people, who have grown up together, converse, Nick and Helena finished each other’s sentences and remembered details the other had forgotten to mention. After we set up our miniature recorder and began to take notes, Nick and Helena told us about the family’s rich, long Hollywood history. Nick’s father, George Toth, was a refugee to America from Hungary after that country’s uprising against Russian rule in 1956.

An expert falconer and dog trainer, after moving his family to California, George went to work for Disney Studios. In 1970 he purchased Cougar Hill Ranch and turned it into a family business. While other children went home to play and watch afternoon television programs, after school each day Nick and his sister Elizabeth cleaned cages, fed the animals, and trained them to perform in movies. “My ability to choose and train animals for films, television, and commercials came from having literally grown up with them. Our whole family was involved in this business,” Nick said.

After Nick and Helena talked about family history, they warmed up to their favorite topic—Casey. They regaled us with one anecdote after another about Casey’s first job when he was five months old to filming Back to the Future. While attending the movie’s cast party, Casey discovered what would become an essential for every job. Nick recalled, “Somebody brought a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and gave him a piece. He lit up as if saying, ‘This is the best thing on earth!’” From that point on, in addition to Casey’s daily five-gallon buckets of lettuce, apples, peaches, oranges, berries, melons, breads, carrots, the Toths’ homemade dog food, and kibble, Casey demanded cut-up pieces of KFC fried chicken as his go-to reward for tasks well done.

According to Helena, “No other fried chicken satisfied him.” No matter where they were working, the movie’s crew had to drive to the closest KFC each day to bring back Casey’s Colonel Sanders’ Original Recipe. “He could tell the difference and refused any substitute.”

Over the years, Nick and Casey developed a relationship like no other between a bear a man. Nick would scratch Casey’s feet, play ball with the bear, and then Casey would knock Nick down when he’d had enough pampering. Still, Nick and his family of professional animal trainers never forgot that despite Casey’s endearing qualities, the bear was fast, smart, and could be extremely aggressive. They always watched for signs that Casey needed to rest. “He is thinking evil,” Nick would observe. And the Toths would scoot Casey off set to the bear’s private trailer for a break.

Nick, Helena and Hollyberry

Nick, Helena and Hollyberry

We spent a couple of hours learning about Nick and Casey’s many years working together until Casey’s retirement and eventual passing. After the emotions rose to the surface while Nick and Helena remembered remarkable career, it was a quiet and sweet relief to go outside for a tour of their facility.

Helena brought out another of the family’s most cherished members – Hollyberry, a rescued deer. California Fish and Wildlife often bring wild or exotic animals for rehabilitation at Cougar Hill Ranch. Hollyberry was a day-old doe a warden had found near the highway. Only palm-sized, she had been born prematurely and left to die. Nick and his family raised the baby into a small but healthy deer.

Because Hollyberry was so frail and tiny, the Toths had to keep her in their home. Usually they would attempt to return a rescued wild animal to a natural habitat, but this baby needed so much nurturing that she bonded with the family.

While Helena fed Hollyberry apple slices, she and Nick talked about the deer’s powerful trust in them. As it turns out, Holly is so calm that she’s often seen in commercials in which a car looks as if it’s about to hit a deer. In carefully orchestrated scenes in which American Humane Association’s certified animal safety representatives partner with Nick to make sure Holly (or no other animal) ever gets hurt, a car appears to be hurtling toward Holly, placing the deer in danger.

Nick says, “She stands still while the car approaches, with absolute certainty and trust that we will make sure she does not get hit.” She does her job so well that producers and directors remember and ask for her by name when they are filming such a scene. Holly even has her own animatronic double who fills in for her so she never has to do anything that might be dangerous.

Animal Stars

Animal Stars

As with the other world-class trainers who contributed stories to Animal Stars, we asked Nick for secret training tips. He talked to us about his advice for transporting animals over long distances with some great tips on page 59 of the book. But he added something very touching that seemed to sum up this gentle family’s way of viewing their relationships with the animals. Nick says, “My mom had a habit of blessing our truck with holy water and saying a prayer with us before we left the ranch for our trips to work locations. My mom and Helena always said very long blessings. When I do them now, they are much shorter: ‘Take us there. Bring us back. Amen.’”

Bring us back, Nick. We’d love to visit Cougar Hill Ranch again!

Meeting Finder, the Horse Who Played Joey in Steven Spielberg’s War Horse

From childhood, we have always felt loved horses. We love horses so much that we have written two books about these amazing creatures. Just as millions of people around the world have, we watched the Thoroughbred Joey in Steven Spielberg’s movie War Horse and marveled at the horse’s acting and athletic ability. Remember the spectacular scene when Joey jumps over the World War I tanks? The horse’s keen intelligence and bravery heightened our regard for him from respect to awe.

Finder

Finder

What a treat it would be to actually meet Finder, the amazing horse who played the role of Joey, and his incredible trainer Bobby Lovgren. Part of our extensive research as co-authors with Robin Ganzert, PhD, president and CEO of American Humane Association, for our new book Animal Stars: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors, was to meet the celebrity animals who star in film and television and to interview their world-class trainers.

In mid-July 2013, we drove to the home of Bobby Lovgren, his wife Wendy, and their family. Coming from the Midwest’s Twin Cities, we were unaccustomed to the dry desert heat and cooled down by sipping on icy fruit smoothies. Relying on a crisp-voiced GPS navigator, we wound our way outside Los Angeles to a world where animals are the stars.

We arrived at Bobby’s home to find a horse ranch with stables and corrals. After graciously greeting us, Bobby and Wendy brought us into a spacious open room of their home. Its walls and shelving displayed photos and memorabilia from movies for which Bobby had trained and wrangled horses. The Lovgren’s home seemed like a sanctuary where a world-traveled trainer could rest and regroup with his family between assignments.

Interviewing Bobby

We set up our microphone and tape recorder and retrieved our notepads for taking additional notes. Bobby’s stories and adventures as a movie animal trainer kept us entertained and enlightened. He stressed his determination that safety protocols be followed for horses and other animal actors. He explained that he repeatedly practices any trick or action a horse is asked to perform. Without patience and careful practice, Bobby would not allow the horse to do the trick.

Finder and Bobby Lovgren

Finder and Bobby Lovgren

His one regret? Often scenes that took weeks of practice and orchestration to do safely, get attributed to CGI effects by audiences (and even movie reviewers).

Sometimes, Bobby has to refuse a director’s request for an action but usually can find a safe alternative for getting the same effect. He expressed his appreciation for having American Humane Association Certified Animal Safety Representatives on set. When Bobby feels concern over doing animal action, the safety reps are always firmly in his corner and helping to find other ways to accomplish the director’s goals.

Our conversation turned to talking about Finder. We had already interviewed Bobby on the phone for his story in Animal Stars, “Finder, as Joey in War Horse, a Director’s Dream Actor.” Bobby describes Finder is a Thoroughbred who adds a touch of attitude to every performance. One of the statements in his story had made us especially eager to meet this magnificent horse. He had said, “Finder is the most challenging animal I’ve worked with because he loves when cameras and people are around. They energize him. A professional, he brings something new to each scene.”

Meeting Finder

At last, it was time for us to meet Finder. As we walked to a fenced-in running area that held several horses, and Bobby left to bring the famous gelding to us, we talked to each other about all the kind words Steven Spielberg had said about Bobby and Finder. Flown to England for War Horse, Finder and Bobby impressed Steven Spielberg with their professionalism and skill. About the experience, the iconic director had written for Animal Stars, “I thought the centaur was a mythological creature until I watched Bobby Lovgren and Finder interacting. At one point, I could not tell man from horse. They both performed admirably.”

Finder

Finder

Soon, Bobby brought Finder to a large open area that he uses for training and exercising his horses. Beautiful, muscular, and confident, Finder strutted next to Bobby as they entered the arena. The power of Finder’s pride and presence was palpable. While some people meet a Holly wood star and feel disappointed, saying things such as, “He’s shorter than he looks onscreen,” Finder was even more imposing than he appeared in War Horse. Everything Bobby had told us about him was true–and more: This horse had attitude!

Bobby allowed Finder to show off a bit for his visitors by rearing up on his hind legs, running, and trotting. Finished for the time being with impressing us, he came over to where we had been watching him, awestruck. At Bobby’s instruction, Finder carefully lay down on the ground. We gathered around, knelt in the dust, and stroked our hands across his sleek back and sides.

Finder with Allen & Linda Anderson

Finder with Allen & Linda Anderson

The trust and affection between Bobby and Finder were total. It was apparent that these two knew each other well and deeply. We observed an unbreakable connection of two strong individuals who trusted and respected each other. They had become comrades, sharing their life’s adventures together.

In his story Bobby had commented on their teamwork by saying, “Although some might not call what Finder does acting, I’ve noticed that he heightens his actions when people are around. He lets me create emotions for him to show, and the expressions on his face make him easy to read. I’ve never seen a more expressive horse.”

Right about that! During a short photo session Finder made a special connection with Linda as he gently placed his head on her shoulder.

Bobby told us that American Humane Association’s Film & TV Unit, which officially oversees hundreds of filmed media productions each year as part to of its “No Animals Were Harmed®” service, often brings new staff to the Lovgren ranch to watch Bobby properly and safely train and work with horses. As we left the Lovgrens and Finder, we felt honored to have met a matchless team of human trainer–and animal teacher.

Animal Stars

Animal Stars

ANIMAL STARS: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors by Robin Ganzert, PhD, and Allen & Linda Anderson with a foreword by “America’s Veterinarian” Marty Becker, DVM, is published by New World Library. It will be released as an e-book on August 19th in major e-book retailers and available in bookstores by September 25, 2014. For details on receiving a free gift with a pre-order of Animal Stars and to see endorsements from Temple Grandin, Naomi Judd, Lisa Vanderpump, Carson Kressley, Jon Turtletraub, Quentin Tarantino, Zac Ephron, and other celebrities, go to www.animalstarsbook.com.

ANIMAL STARS: BEHIND THE SCENES WITH YOUR FAVORITE ANIMAL ACTORS

Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin, author of Animals Make Us Human and Animals in Translation

“Every movie fan who loves to see animals in their favorite movies will want to read Animal Stars. The book contains lots of animal-training tips, along with the behind-the-scenes stories.”
Temple Grandin, author of Animals Make Us Human and Animals in Translation

AMERICAN HUMANE ASSOCIATION’S NEW BOOK “ANIMAL STARS: BEHIND THE SCENES WITH YOUR FAVORITE ANIMAL ACTORS” FEATURING STAR-STUDDED TALES OF HOLLYWOOD’S LEGENDARY ACTORS FROM THE ANIMAL KINGDOM TO BE PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 25th

—-

Due to overwhelming popular demand, e-book edition to be released on August 19th; Every book purchased between now and September 30th comes with free gift!

Washington, D.C., August 14, 2014 – Since the dawn of Hollywood, animal actors have played some of the most unforgettable characters ever seen on the silver screen. Their characters have charmed and delighted moviegoers and television audiences for generations, and now, American Humane Association, the first national humane organization, is pleased to announce that its new book “Animal Stars: Behind the Scenes With Your Favorite Animal Actors,” will be published by New World Library on September 25th. Written by American Humane Association’s President and CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert and Allen and Linda Anderson, the husband-and-wife founders of the Angel Animals Network, and featuring a foreword by “America’s Veterinarian” Dr. Marty Becker, “Animal Stars” offers unprecedented access to the fascinating, hidden world of animals and animal trainers in today’s film and television industry — and the celebrities they work with.

Ever wonder how a cat learned to flush a toilet on camera (Meet the Fockers)? Or why the dog Uggie was accused of stealing every scene he was in in The Artist, including on the red carpet? From Joey in War Horse to the wolves in Game of Thrones, what we see on-screen is only the tip of the iceberg. The heartwarming stories in “Animal Stars” reveal the trainers, actors, directors, and, of course, dogs, cats, horses, birds, and more in their behind-the-scenes glory. Readers will discover that certain animal stars have diva tendencies, while others have rags-to-riches backstories, and that directors and actors stretch professional boundaries to create emotional ties with their nonhuman coworkers.

Whether penguins, horses, mixed-breed rescue dogs, or lynxes, the animals on set are as lovable, personality-filled, and at times frustrating as the animals in our own homes. World-class Hollywood animal trainers offer bonus tips for training pets after each chapter, and film icons like Steven Spielberg, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, and Hailee Steinfeld share personal recollections about working with the animal stars who stole their hearts.

This book features unprecedented access to the Hollywood stars from the animal kingdom that only an organization with nearly 150 years’ experience of protecting the nation’s children and animals like American Humane Association could provide. “Animal Stars” will be published on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the organization’s “No Animals Were Harmed®” Program, which has overseen the protection of literally millions of animal actors on thousands of movie and television sets around the world since 1940. The “No Animals Were Harmed®” Program, the only industry-sanctioned program with oversight of animals in filmed production, has made the protection of animal actors its duty and charter.

“Animal actors have been delighting audiences for more than a century, and I know that some of my earliest and fondest memories from when I was kid have to do with those animals I saw in Disney movies and watched on TV,” said Dr. Ganzert. “This book is my love letter to Hollywood’s beloved animal stars, and I know readers will have a newfound admiration for the hard work and dedication that these animals and their trainers undergo to bring these spectacular roles to life on screen.”

Though it’s still more than a month until publication date, “Animal Stars” has already received rave reviews and is currently on both the Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble Booksellers bestseller lists. Due to this overwhelming popular demand, New World Library has agreed to make the e-book edition of the book available on August 19 to 11 major e-book retail partners, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Google Play, and Kobo. As an added bonus, all books ordered between now and September 30 come with a free gift – your choice of a commemorative “Animal Stars” tote bag or coffee mug!

Ganzert and some of the special animal stars featured in the book will be hitting the road this fall as part of a special national book signing tour, with dates already booked in Dallas, Houston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Washington, Boston, and more to be announced very soon!

For more information about “Animal Stars,” including book signing tour dates; special videos from Hollywood directors Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, and Cameron Crowe on the important work of the “No Animals Were Harmed®” Program; and information on how to receive the special free gift with every book ordered by September 30, please visit www.animalstarsbook.com.

American Humane

American Humane

About American Humane Association

American Humane Association is the country’s first national humane organization and the only one dedicated to protecting both children and animals. Since 1877, American Humane Association has been at the forefront of virtually every major advance in protecting our most vulnerable from cruelty, abuse and neglect. Today we’re also leading the way in understanding the human-animal bond and its role in therapy, medicine and society. American Humane Association reaches millions of people every day through groundbreaking research, education, training and services that span a wide network of organizations, agencies and businesses. You can help make a difference, too. Visit American Humane Association at www.americanhumane.org today.

Animal Stars: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors

Animal Stars: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors

Meeting Crystal, the Monkey from NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM Movies by Allen and Linda Anderson

Don’t we all, deep in our hearts, want to meet a celebrity superstar someday?

Our opportunity came when we interviewed Thomas (Tom) Gunderson and met his family’s most famous member—Crystal, the adorable capuchin monkey who starred in the NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM movies, among many other memorable roles.

Linda and Crystal

Linda Anderson and Crystal

Meeting this delightful A-lister movie star was a special part of our extensive research as co-authors with Robin Ganzert, president of American Humane Association, for our new book ANIMAL STARS: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors (New World Library, September, 2014, www.animalstarsbook.com). We had to literally go “behind the scenes” to see for ourselves how the animals we all love in film, television, and commercials are trained and cared for.

When they’re on set, American Humane Association Certified Animal Safety Representatives make sure conditions are right for animal safety. Their jobs are part of American Humane Association’s Film & TV Unit’s mission for their “No Animals Were Harmed” service. But what are animal actors’s lives like when they are not on set? We wanted to find out firsthand.

Meeting Crystal

Driving through Southern California’s dry terrain in mid-July we traveled to the home of Thomas Gunderson, his wife Stacy, and their two children. Coming from the Midwest’s Twin Cities, we were definitely not part of the LA world of fashion and coolness. Would Crystal, with her fame and status, view us as just one more celebrity hound? Would she be sociable or distant?

Robin Ganzert and Crystal

Robin Ganzert and Crystal

Robin Ganzert’s previous experience visiting Crystal and Tom on the set of WE BOUGHT A ZOO made us hope we’d come away from the experience without needing a shower. When Robin, a petite blond CEO with a soft Southern accent, first met the capuchin film star, Crystal leapt from Tom’s arms to Robin’s shoulder. The generous monkey was on a break and eating her favorite treat–flavored yogurt. Wanting to share, she slathered our coauthor’s hair with her yummy, gooey dairy product. Talk about human/animal bonding! Crystal made a new friend, and Robin had her first yogurt shampoo.

Tom and Stacy graciously greeted us on that hot summer day. Their faces shone with big, loving smiles. We felt immediately relaxed, sensing our visit would be fun and productive. Our first glimpse of Crystal was of her on the couch, in the family’s den, which is the center of a large open main floor. She only glanced at us briefly and continued to focus on one of the Gunderson children.

Carefully picking through each strand, she made sure every hair was in place as she groomed the child. Crystal’s patient work looked like a tedious task, but with each movement of her hands her little monkey face showed love and satisfaction for a job well done.

From this initial family tableau, it was clear that Crystal’s job on a film set might be to learn from Tom how to perform movie magic. But at home, taking care of the family she deeply cares about is Job Number One.

While Crystal continued ridding the Gunderson offspring of fleas and ticks, which of course, they did not have, she surreptitiously checked us out by occasionally glancing in our direction. Tom said, “Crystal will say hi to you in her own time. She doesn’t like people trying to get her to like them.”

Life as a world-famous Hollywood star must be grueling. Was Crystal’s indifference to us a sign of diva behavior? No, according to Tom, just a careful monkey protecting herself and her family from strangers.

We sat on the adjoining couch and prepared our notepads and tape recorder for the interview, all the while commenting on sweet and adorable Crystal. At last, Crystal completed her grooming tasks and began to move around. When this intelligent individual began to realize we were not there for her autograph, she officially invited us to stick around for a while and scrambled over to greet Linda.

Allen took photos of Crystal sitting on Linda’s shoulder. Enticed by Tom spooning flavored yogurt, she posed for the camera with her elbow resting on Linda’s head while making a show of how tiresome celebrity photos can be for a star.

At Home

Tom and Stacy introduced us to Squirt, Crystal’s capuchin best friend and playmate. What a great animal star trainer Tom is with his gentle, kind, and loving manner. Crystal shows every sign of feeling secure, loved, and always supplied with her favorite flavored yogurt.

And Tom made us feel even more comfortable with Minneapolis meeting Hollywood when he revealed that he had spent part of his childhood in Minnesota near where we live. Maybe it’s a small world after all. One in which animal stars can come down from the big screen and let us all get to know them and their human and animal families in whole new ways.

Allen and Linda Anderson are founders of Angel Animals Network (www.angelanimals.net) and co-authors with Robin Ganzert, Ph.D. of ANIMAL STARS: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors, Foreword by Mart y Becker, DVM.

Tom Gunderson and Crystal

Tom Gunderson and Crystal