Every Pet Deserves A Good Home…

Are You A Better Actor Because You Have A Pet??


Studies are showing that pets help with both emotionally and physically ill patients, the elderly, loneliness, depression, children with ADD and ADHD and now it seems like they just might help aspiring actors as well… JOMP~

Remember those mortifying, eye-roll-inducing improv classes where the teacher would make you pretend to be an animal and walk across the room as that creature in front of the whole class? Well, to this day I have no clue whether my crouching around on a dusty linoleum floor impersonating a tarantula when I was 19 resulted in my becoming a master of my craft, but I know for sure that there’s another version of this acting exercise that works much better for me: having actual live animals around to watch.

Inspired by the hit movie Wall-E, I went on a mission a few weeks ago to find two kittens to adopt. I knew exactly what they would look like: one would be an orange tabby that I would call (of course) Wall-E, and the other would be an all-white female cat that I would name Eve. If you’ve seen the film, you know that Eve is the pretty female robot who captures Wall-E’s heart.

Thanks to Craigslist, I was soon bringing home Eve from a rough L.A. neighborhood called South Gate. Wall-E came from a friend’s neighbor whose feral cat had a litter of multi-colored babies.Walle_3

Soon my daily life was transformed into a behavioral observation workshop. I watched as Eve and Wall-E used different techniques to cope with the radical change from the surroundings they had known before. When I got Eve in the car to drive home, she immediately crammed her entire body in the crevice between the windshield and the dashboard so she could “hide” from the terrifying prison of my Toyota Scion. Her eyes filled with fear, she spent the entire ride home farting on my friend’s shoulder. Lovely.

I wondered if I had ever been that scared for my life, and whether or not I would be able to portray such panic on stage or screen. I knew that by watching Eve that day, I was closer to knowing how.

Two weeks later Eve is transformed into a sweet, playful feline princess with a belly full of Pounce treats. Feminine and elegant, I thought she would be the perfect role model for Wall-E. Wrong. The smaller orange tabby entered the picture and was immediately chased into the empty kitty crawl space of my couch, conveniently provided by the cheap-ass furniture manufacturer known as Ikea. I had to turn the couch on its side several times before I saw a single shivering paw dangling between the two corkboard panels. Sheer terror, justified. Eve was the head of the household and boy was she pissed about the new kid in town.

I watched them more. Fighting, growling, hissing, chasing. Then a little less fighting, some suspicious smelling, and chasing resumed. Day by day, the hostility slowly eased until one day I caught them snoozing next to each other under the bed. They didn’t even bother denying it. They just looked at me and (I swear) shrugged.

Without knowing it, in the last month, my cats told a story. By being their characters, a perfect dramaturgical arc unfurled. It was without a doubt, a better acting lesson than crawling around pretending to be a spider for a bunch of other acting students.

Wall-E and Eve are more than living up to their superstar blockbuster names; I can’t wait to tune in tomorrow to see what happens next.

If you know you’re a better actor because of your pet, leave a comment below and tell me why!

Cat photo provided by author; Wall-E photo courtesy Disney/Pixar.

Miki Yamashita

Also Featured in BackStage LA Actor Online Magazine

August 23, 2008 Posted by | Just One More Pet, On The Lighter Side, Pets, Unusual Stories | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Animals Help the Ailing, the Elderly, and the Young

Researchers are finding that animals, especially small ones, have shown promise in helping with many conditions, both social and physical:

A Naples Community Hospital has volunteers who bring their pets to visit patients. The animals are specially trained to remain calm and must pass a “good Citizen” test before they are certified for hospital visits.

Here is a short list of conditions being helped by enlisting cats and dogs

  • Pets help Alzheimer’s patients by bringing them back to the present. Specially trained pups can also help alert others that an Alzheimer’s patient has wandered into harm’s way. “Pets can provide a measure of safety to people with the disease,” says Thomas Kirk, a vice president of a chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
  • Children who suffer from attention deficit disorder (ADD) are able to focus on a pet, which helps them learn to concentrate.
  • Mentally ill patients, or those with emotional problems, share a common bond when a cat or dog enters the room. Instead of reacting negatively to one another, it boosts morale and fosters a positive environment.
  • Pets are an antidote to depression. Life in a care facility can be boring. A visit from a therapy cat or dog breaks the daily routine and stimulates interest in the world outside.
  • Pets provide social interaction. In a health care facility, people come out of their rooms to socialize with the animals and with each other.
  • Everyone has the need to touch. Many humans are uncomfortable hugging or touching strangers, even those close to them. Some people are alone and have no hands to hold, no bodies to hug. But rubbing the fur of a cat or dog can provide a stimulation that is sorely lacking. The nonverbal connection is invaluable in the healing process.

(Perhaps we can convince the Chinese to re-think their eating habits and leave dogs and cats off their menus once the Olympic are over and to develop a “Good Citizen Program” instead with dogs and cats for hospitals, institutions and kids with challenges??)

August 20, 2008 Posted by | Animal Rights And Awareness, Just One More Pet, Pets | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments