Lights! Camera! Action!…

…is exactly what they don’t shout on a movie set. Yes, we heard “action!”, but mostly the warning was “Picture’s up!”, then “Rolling!”

Tuesday the crew of Foxfire, the movie being shot in Sault Ste Marie, came around with a cube van to pick up the hamsters, rats, fish and birds to be installed in the 1950s pet store set. Tuesday evening after work David and I went down to make sure everyone was set up, fed and watered for the night. Wednesday David took the iguana down. (Jack, unfortunately, was going to be way too noisy. No stardom for him!) Here, however, is David next to Tim Hewitt, a Sault Ste Marie actor playing the pet store owner. (Originally Hewitt’s character was going to wear suspenders!)

David was slated to spend the whole day on set, on call to do anything that needed to be done with the animals. I went along because – well, partly because if I hadn’t, this blog post would consist of “It was interesting”.

And it was interesting. As well as our animals, there were dogs, brought in by T.A.A.G.. Whatever the animal was – hamster, puppy, bird, iguana, there was oooohing and aaaahing over it. I was greatly amused to see Katrina Saville taking pictures of the hamsters with her cell phone. Here’s a script supervisor working with an award-winning director, and she’s getting all mushy over some admittedly quite cute little rodents! It just goes to show you – most people love animals.

The animals were well looked after. The crew might be sweltering, the actors might be sweltering, but the animals had air conditioning all day. The dogs were moved into the set for a shoot and moved right back out when the scene was done. If the way the critters were treated on this set is any indication of the industry standard, then the standard is good.

It was a long day for everyone, and by the time we were able to take the animals back to the store it was almost seven o’clock. They were none the worse for wear except that one or two fish died. Even with the air conditioning on in the “store” set, I’m astonished we lost no more than that.

So there’s show business for you. “Foxfire” will be coming out in 2012. We have two budgies and a bunch of finches, hamsters and rats who are now experienced in looking cute for the camera. Wait a minute – they knew how to do that before!

Jack will be impossible to live with….

As though his ego weren’t big enough already, Jack is going to be one of the animals, birds and fish featured in Foxfire, the new movie being filmed in Sault Ste Marie. You can find the story here.

The film company called David last week to ask if he’d be willing to supply animals for a shot of a 1950s pet store for the movie. He’ll be taking birds, fish and some furry critters down to the set and staying around for the shoot to make sure the animals are all well cared-for and properly set up.

The movies is based on a novel by Joyce Carol Oates. When it comes to the Sault, we’ll definitely see it. Jack won’t be able to see it on the big screen; we’ll just have to rent the DVD for him to watch.

I guess I’ll have to make him popcorn, too.

The reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated

The other day David was putting gas into his truck when he met a former customer. She told him that she’d heard from someone that Animalia has closed.


It’s not true – we’re still in business. We just moved from the Zellers Plaza to 601 Second Line East. We’re between Tim Horton’s and the fitness centre, across from Arrow Home Hardware.

We’re still in the phone book; all they’d have to do is call to find out that we’re here. Yes, we moved, but for the month prior to our move we handed out our new address and coupons for a discount at the new store. We have huge signs on the building. Second Line and Great Northern Avenue is the busiest intersection in the city. Apparently 40,000 vehicles go through that intersection every day, and about half of them go past us.

It beats me why anyone would say we’ve closed, but apparently someone has got it into their head that we have, and is passing the information around. I hope it’s just a mistake, and not malice.

For the record, we’re still here.

601 Second Line East



Pop goes the weasel!

We have an adorable, friendly, pettable young ferret who has just come in to the store. This is a sable ferret, the dark-coated, dark-eyed variety rather than the albino or any of the more obscure colours. He’s obviously been gently handled because he’s very sweet and tame.

Almost all ferrets in the pet trade are neutered within a few weeks of birth. A ferret can live as long as 12-13 years with good care. They’re a hardy, friendly pet, sleeping about 19 hours a day and fitting an entire twenty-four hours’ worth of energy into the remaining five. A ferret should have a secure sleeping place, such as a cage, so that he doesn’t take off and find his own corner in which to hide and drive you crazy trying to find him. An adult ferret can fit through a 1″ x 2″ hole, so that corner could be just about anywhere!

There are specially formulated ferret foods for these critters, and a high-quality kitten food is also an option.

Baby hamsters

These baby Roborovsky (robo) hamsters were born this afternoon. Robo hamsters are the smallest hamsters in the world.

They’ll be ready for new homes in the first week of July.

Savannah monitor

Recently one of our customers had to give up his savannah monitor. He brought in in to us. Currently the lizard is about two feet long, but he’ll grow.

A full-grown savannah is an impressive lizard, up to five feet in length. At the same time, savannahs are very calm and docile, if well-handled. We had another customer whose small daughter used to carry the savannah draped over her shoulder like a doll, and the lizard seemed quite content.

They’re also a handsome lizard, in varying shades of reddish tan to bluish grey. As far as I can tell, “lounge lizard” definitely applies to them, although they can move very fast when they’re warm and motivated. They’re native to Africa, although almost any savannah you get in the pet trade will have been bred in captivity.

Because they get large, they need a lot of food – not as much as a comparably-sized dog, because savannahs are, after all, cold-blooded. Because of that, though, they do need a lot of heat. The ambient temperature needs to be in the 75-80 F (24-27 C)  degree range, and the basking spot should be about 100  F (38 C).

You’ll also need a lot of space for the savannah. A lizard that gets five feet long is probably going to need his own room eventually. The good news is he won’t expect it equipped with cable and internet.

At this

Need a cow stripped?

The piranha arrived today. It’s the first time in weeks that we’ve even seen them on any of our suppliers’ lists.

Contrary to their reputation, red-breasted piranha are timid, and far more likely to be hiding out behind the filter than gnashing their teeth at passersby. It takes them a few days to get used to the tank and come out to where they can be seen. Once they do calm down, they can be seen schooling together in the aquarium, waiting for a passing cow to step in.

“If you stick your finger in there, will they attack it?” is the question we’re most often asked. The answer is “no”. Black piranha, now, are another matter altogether. They will bite the hand that feeds them and cleans the tank. The red-breasted ones are very much less likely to bite, especially if they’re well-fed. We do recommend keeping them well-fed, as they’ll turn on each other if they get hungry enough.

The outdoor ponds

The outdoor ponds have been set up, and the koi, pond fish and turtles moved out. We’re expecting a small order of new koi – kohaku and sanke – this afternoon. Plants will be coming in a week or so – water lettuce and water hyacinth, and probably lilies as well.

Plants serve many functions in a pond. Some, like hornwort, are active oxygenators. Surface plants such as water lilies and water lettuce cast shade and provide shelter and hiding places for fish. Fish who have somewhere to hide are more likely to come out. They feel secure knowing they can hide when they’re threatened.

Plants also cut algae growth two ways. They reduce light, and they take up nutrition. Algicides are illegal in Canada, so any help you can get to keep algae down in your pond is good.

The showpiece of the outdoor section is the big pool, 1400 gallons. Currently the large koi from inside the store, as well as a large ID shark and our own Dr Wellfish, the tiger shovelnose catfish, have been moved outside. Fish do better in sunshine, and koi with hi (pronounced “hee” – the red colour) become very much brighter with exposure to sunlight. Algae helps their colour, too.

The pond department

The pond department is going up at Animalia.

Pond plants and pond fish look better and do better when they’re outdoors, so for the next few months Animalia will have an extension on the back to let the Koi, goldfisha nd plants catch some rays.

On Tuesday the koi we’ve overwintered in Wharncliffe will be coming back into the store and going straight out to a custom-built outdoor above-ground pond. About two weeks from now, on June 3rd, we’ll have new small koi which will also be in an outdoor pond. These new fish will be hand-picked from our supplier’s tanks, and we’ll be bringing in the prettiest ones we can find.

We know from past years that the small koi go quickly, especially the sanke (white with red and black spots) and the kohaku (red and white). Be sure to get in early for the best choice! In the meantime, if you haven’t got your pond filter going yet, this weekend is a good time to start it up.

Dave saves fish!

David has started doing aquarium maintenance for other people’s tanks. A friend suggested calling this service “Dave Saved My Fish”, but David said, no, how about just “Aquarium Maintenance by Animalia”. Well, he’s the boss, right?

For a flat hourly fee, he does water tests, water changes, gravel vacuuming, filter maintenance and all those basic things that need to be done to maintain the health of a tank. He can also check for disease and parasites, and do emergency maintenance in case of a serious problem.

Most people who have an aquarium in their home can able to handle the basic maintenance; it’s office tanks that usually need help. Where an aquarium has been installed in a waiting room or lobby, there may not be a staff member with sufficient experience or confidence to take care of it. Having someone come in regularly, even if it’s the minimum once a month for a 25% water change, can make all the difference.

Maintaining an aquarium isn’t really difficult, but for those who don’t have time, or who don’t trust their own abilities, an aquarium maintenance service takes the pressure off and allows them to enjoy their aquarium without worrying.

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