Rose Ordile knew exactly what she wanted her career to be when she was a senior in high school. She just didn’t know what it was called.
Ordile grew up in New Jersey, and attended a Catholic high school. When she met with her counselor, she told him, a priest, exactly what she wanted to do.
“I want to train exotic animals for TV and film,” she said.
The priest disagreed, and told her she should be in the kitchen, cooking a meal for 15 people after mass, not aspiring to work with animals in Hollywood.
That was all the motivation she needed – and she would go on to do one better, and invent her own job title: professional animal colorist.
She first attended school to be a veterinary technician, then came grooming school.
“I just started out loving animals,” she said.
She went on to attend a grooming school in Nevada, and moved to California near the end of 1987.
Back then, before trainers and producers would visit shelters and rescues looking for animal actors, stunt doubles, and stand-ins – similar roles to what their human counterparts do.
“Most of the animals in the industry are from shelters,” Ordile said. “It’s a win-win for everyone.”
But when a production was unable to locate a similar-looking animal, Ordile started thinking.
“Maybe I can create it,” she said.
And create it she did: she started her business, Animals of a Different Color in 1992, and it has been going strong ever since, spreading through the film industry mostly by word of mouth.
She’s made horses into zebras, white poodles into black ones, white cats into calico cats, and has even helped created the famous Target dog “Spot.”
Ordile creates her own non-toxic dyes, void of chemicals, to use on her four-legged clients.
“It’s always something different,” she said. “Every project is kind of special to me.”
She stays busy, traveling to film and TV sets, when the animals aren’t “going to the spa” at her Canyon Country location, as she puts it.
Working with trainers, Ordile gets animal doubles looking picture-perfect in increments: first a wash, then a dry, some playtime, and then she gets started with coloring, with the animals wide awake. She doesn’t believe in sedating the animals to get them camera-ready.
“If you have to go in that direction, it shouldn’t happen,” she said.
Not even the bear she colored for “Dr. Doolittle 2” was sedated. Instead, she works with trainers to make sure the animals are comfortable, making sure they have plenty of treats, bathroom breaks, and playtime.
It helps that all of the animals she works with are highly trained, and are used to working, which is why Ordile stresses that animal coloring be left to professionals like her.
“It’s not fair to the animals,” she said of pet owners who might use over-the-counter products to color their cats and dogs.