Odd Jobs: Animal Colorist

Photograph by Manuello Paganelli for Bloomberg Businessweek

Ever wish your dalmatian had more spots? Rose Ordile, founder and owner of Animals of a Different Color, a company that dyes animals for movies and ad campaigns, can help you out.

Ordile found her niche after years of working in the film industry as an animal groomer and trainer. “We’d be running around from shelter to shelter trying to find doubles and look-alikes, and I just said, ‘Why don’t we get something close to it and I’ll create something?’ ” she said. But there are no animal dyeing classes at film school—Ordile is self-taught. “I knew how to groom, I had an art background,” she said. “It was a whole self-learning experience, using raw pigments and minerals to create my colors that are nontoxic.”

Photograph by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Self-education had its speed bumps. When Ordile was working on the set of Far From Home: The Adventures of Yellow Dog in Canada in the early ’90s, the labrador in the title role didn’t turn the shade of yellow she expected. “When I went to color it in Canada and then washed it out, that was my first lesson, because Canada’s water has a lot of minerals in it and it changed the color on me. He was a very pale yellow and I was trying to get it darker yellow and it went brown,” Ordile said. “Luckily I know how to fix all my mistakes!”

Ordile has become known for her drastic, eye-catching work. She’s given zebra stripes to a white pony; dyed a horse a deep, majestic red; and put a red bull’s-eye around the eye of a bull terrier for a Target ad campaign. But she takes the most pride in more delicate and intricate dye jobs—like painting the features around a dog’s face or enhancing a cat’s stripes. “To me, the hardest things to color are the subtle things that nobody notices,” Ordile said.

The American Humane Society—the people who confirm that “no animal was harmed in the making of this movie”—is always on set to monitor Ordile’s dye jobs. (Not that she needs to worry, since all her homemade dyes are nontoxic.) And besides, the animals like it. “It’s like going to the spa for the day—they dig it,” Ordile said. “They get a bath, a body massage, a facial, a manicure, a pedicure.” And they don’t even notice that they’ve got new stripes or been turned a horrifying shade of blue. “They’re not affected by it at all. If anything, they might smell the shampoo [on each other] and say, ‘Wow! You’ve got some new type of perfume on.’”

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