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Photograph: Jason Little
The Chicago Pet Lover's Guide >

Become a Stage Mom to Your Pooch

Your St. Berdoodle is the cutest ever, of course, but don’t expect Bill Casey, the agent behind Animal Talent of Chicago, to book her just for that — it takes grit to be the next Li’l Sebastian.

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Photograph: Will Casey

Say I want my dog to be a star. What do I need to do?

Train, train, train. The more training, the better. And at the very least, train them to come when called. I get solicitations daily, and I always discourage folks, unless they spend an immense amount of time working with their pet.

Is there such a thing as star quality in animals?

There’s personality. I’ve seen alligators that are extroverts. Many folks would be like, “Ooh, those are dangerous, they’ll bite me,” but the reality of it is, there are some nice, outgoing alligators. It’s just looking for those special personalities regardless of what they are. Throughout 40 years, we’ve handled cockroaches on up to elephants.

Who’s a recognizable animal star you’ve worked with?

I had the Chicago Fire firehouse dog for four or five years. Pouch. We rescued and adopted him for the show as an 8-week-old puppy. And I had the cat on the late-’90s television series Early Edition. An orange tabby. We actually had four cats that played that one part.

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How did you find four look-alikes?

In all honesty, they didn’t look that much alike. But we never obsessed over that. We picked them for their personalities, not for their identical look. One of them was the posing, sitting cat. One of them was the running, action cat. One of them was the outdoor cat. One of them was the lay-around-the-apartment cat. And we never had anyone call us on it. Even after four years, I had folks admire what they thought was the one and only cat.

How do I get my cat to be the lying-around-the-apartment cat?

You need to expose it to a few settings and ensure that they would have a calmness. You’re taking advantage of a quality, then you’re bridging it to a different setting. But to admire the calmness of a cat in your living room and think that that would correlate to a calm film cat — it doesn’t always work that way.

What kind of money are we talking?

The average commercial pays maybe a couple hundred dollars. Some of the pet food ones might pay higher, like $400 or $500 for the day. Most of the animals work a day here or there over the months and years. Very few work on a weekly basis.

So don’t quit my day job to become my cat’s manager?

Exactly.

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