BY STARRLA CRAY
WINSTED, MN A raccoon pushing a tiny grocery cart, a pink pony at a gas station, or a donkey talking on a cell phone these scenes are all in a day’s work for 1975 Holy Trinity High School graduate Debi (Moy) Pool.
As the owner of an animal modeling agency called Animal Talent Pool, her job is to find any creature a company is seeking. Nothing is out of the question. Penguins, tigers, elephants, butterflies, leopards, and camels are just a few of the requests Pool has fulfilled in her 30-plus-year career.
“You name it, I’ve probably worked with it,” she said. “For a UnitedHealthcare [UHC] ad, I had a raccoon, a hedgehog, a rabbit, and an owl all sitting around talking about healthcare.”
Recently, Animal Talent Pool helped with a movie called “Astray,” which is now in the editing stages.
“The dog was kind of the co-star of it,” Pool said. “It took place in the Somalian community, and was about a troubled teenager and a stray dog. He carried it around in a backpack.”
Most of Pool’s projects are in the Minneapolis area (including several Target ads), but she’s had local ones, as well.
The new Kemps commercial, for instance, used “singing” cows from Curt and Joni Hedtke’s dairy farm in Mayer, and a Slumberland ad featured a horse owned by Laura Robideau of rural Winsted. (A story about the cows appeared in the Herald Journal in August 2015, and the horse was featured in the May 13, 2013 edition.)
Pool has a list of animal needs on her website, and pet owners are welcome to contact her if they have a match. Ideally, owners should have flexible schedules in order to accommodate photo shoots.
“Sometimes it takes a long time to find the right animal,” Pool said.
Migratory birds, for example, are under federal protection and require extra steps to obtain.
Puppies and kittens can be a challenge, too.
“They grow up so fast,” Pool explained. “Each time, I have to start over.”
For dogs, she usually prefers ones that are friendly, and trained to stay, speak, stand, and obey other basic commands.
“I want to put together an acting class,” Pool said, noting that it could potentially be for cats, as well.
Felines can be temperamental to work with, so Pool typically has “at least one, maybe two” backups on hand.
“I like to use show cats, because they’re used to traveling and they’re used to people,” she said.
Years of experience
Pool began Animal Talent Pool after several years working for Dublin Productions. Her daughters, Skyann and Kylie, now assist part time in Animal Talent Pool’s production and administrative needs.
When Pool isn’t out on a job, she can be found at home in Independence, where she and her husband, Jim, have horses, dogs, and a black cat.
Click here to learn more about Animal Talent Pool.