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Lake Hughes Man Teaches Animal Stars
By Marci Wormser
Staff Writer

LAKE HUGHES -- Lake Hughes resident Rob Bloch knows for a fact you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Rob Bloch has been training dogs, cats, birds, lizards and other animals -- both old and young -- for movies, commercials and television shows for more than 25 years.

"That old expression, " Rob said of the cliché, "doesn't hold water. It just sounds cute."

For his Critters Of The Cinema business that he runs from a 30-acre ranch, Rob prowls shelters for animals he can adopt and groom for acting careers. Many of those animals are older and some haven't been housebroken, he said.

Bloch has eight trainers on staff to teach animals to perform tasks such as opening and closing a screen door or picking things up from a table.

He now owns 50 dogs, 60 cats, a 5-foot-long iguana and several parrots. Most of them boarded at kennels on his Lake Hughes property.

Rob's animals have thousands of roles to their credit. Most of which are listed on his web site www.CrittersOfTheCinema.com

He provided the snake that crawled over Kathleen Turner's shoulder in "Romancing the Stone," Data's cat in "Star Trek: The Next Generation," the terrier in the recent movie "Red Dragon", another terrier mix, named Friday, who spent four years as a regular on "General Hospital", and all the animals except the horses on "Murder She Wrote".

His white Persian cat, named Jerry, is the cat that eats out of a crystal goblet in the Fancy Feast cat food commercials.

Other animals have performed on TV shows such as "CSI", "Fresh Prince of Bel Air", "Bold and the Beautiful", and "Mr. Belvedere."

His dogs and cats have appeared in pet food commercials for Iams, Fancy Feast, Purina and Friskies as well as in Honda car commercials.

The Brooklyn native said he has successfully worked with a number of animal species: lion cubs, chimpanzees, monkeys, lizards, turtles, goats, anteaters, and giraffes. Those he usually rents from other animal suppliers or breeders rather than keep them himself.

"It's more challenging to train something that's not easy," Bloch said. "But some are not trainable. You can't train snakes. You wrangle them."

Bloch said it takes about 1½  years to fully train a dog to be marketable as an actor but, not as much time for cats. “Cats aren’t asked to do as much as dogs are.” Bloch said.

However, Rob finds that some of his animals are trained a little too well.

One of his house cats, who has starred in Friskie's cat food commercials, was trained to throw things off tables and grab things.

Now, his guests are warned not to put objects down on tables at Rob's home or the feline, Spencer, may run away with them or intentionally knock them onto the floor.

Spencer will also jump onto people's shoulders, a result of his cinematic training, Rob said.

A Terrier Mix, named Freddie, was trained to pull on people's pant legs for a role. He still likes to attach himself to humans.

Trapper, a rambunctious Golden Retriever, who has starred in the soap "General Hospital", recently redecorated Bloch's bathroom with toilet paper.

“Considerable patience is needed to work in his business”, Bloch said. "It's really a labor of love”.

As a boy, Rob never planned on being an animal trainer. He wanted to be a sportscaster.

As a young adult, he found he had a natural rapport with animals after a friend asked his advice on how to handle a problem with her Doberman Pinscher. His suggestion worked, and his friend encouraged him to make a career from working with animals.

Bloch studied animal training at Moorpark College, where he met several animal trainers, including Frank Inn, who trained Benjie and Toto. One trainer, Hubert Wells, had a tiger that rubbed against and grumbled at him. Bloch was instantly smitten.

"Eventually, I got tired of working for other people and putting up with their quirks. So, I decided to start a business of my own and make people put up with mine."

Bloch said, he is never short on requests to provide animals for cinematic roles.

He recently signed an eight-year contract with the WB to provide trained animals for an upcoming sitcom, "The O'Keefes", which will star actor Judge Reinhold.

In September, Critters provided three lion cubs for MGM to use as the logo for MGM Kids, a line of children's clothing and toys, as well as the opening for MGM Kids videos and DVDs.

"It was kind of neat," Bloch said; "It's something that's going to be around forever. And we (he and his trainers) got to be part of it."

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Last modified: January 23, 2011 by 1stLine