Q&A special with Melissa Millett (Tonic aka Church)
My fiendish floofmeisters,
I am delighed to share with you, part three of my Halloween special. The third piece of my"Trilogy of terror". This time we have a Q&A with the wonderful Melissa Millett, animal trainer, owner of Ultimutts and loving hooman to Tonic aka Church from the hit Pet Sematary remake. We are very grateful to have had the chance to chat to Melissa as she is very busy with her animals and her brand Ultimutts!
(Pictured: Melissa, Tonic and Sashimi)
Ultimutts provides an impressive roster of animals who can act and perform stunts both live and on screen. Being a fanboy of Stephen King and Pet Sematary, my hooman admin was rather starstruck with Tonic who played Church in the hit remake of Stephen King's Pet Sematary (along with the amazing Leo who sadly passed away shortly after the film's release). So we thought Tonic was just purrrfect for our Halloween special.
As far as cats go, Ultimutts also have the wonderful and beautifully marked Sashimi, a 6 year old female who is a skilled live performer and there is also the awesome and very cute ginger floof Kitkat, who has been trying her paw at acting. By all reports, she's a natural!
Ultimutts also employ a fantastic cast of dogs and we really recommend you visit their website to see each animals profile. Jellybean, Pepsi, Lollipop, Pickles, Snickers, Twizzler, Bella, Popcorn, Sugar are an extremely talented bunch of doggos and we salute them! Perhaps we should get some doggo Q&A's lined up?
Anyway, let's get down to business! Here is the scoop from my Q&A with Melissa:
Hi Melissa, please tell us a little about yourself?
As long as I can remember I have loved animals. What started out as training my own dogs, then teaching family pet classes eventually became showing off tricks in live performances and training animals for film.
Have you always had animals in your life?
As a young girl of a single mother, we were only able to have cats. As soon as I was able, I adopted my first dog and a passion for animal training started there!
What made you want to become an animal trainer?
I discovered that I enjoyed animal training completely by accident! My dog was in need of training, so I took her to class. It turned out I had a knack for it and really enjoyed it, which is important in order to be really great at something. Eventually once I became a professional dog trainer, even after hours of teaching lessons I would still go home and train my own dogs for tricks for hours. Eventually I decided that I would enjoy the challenge of a cat, although many thought I was crazy for even considering it! The cat training has brought the most success and challenges. It turns out that cat training comes to me naturally.
When and how was Ultimutts founded?
Originally Ultimutts was just a way to show off tricks and promote my dog training business, In Dogs We Trust. The first time we ever performed a show, we got a call from an agent! To my surprise, this work showing off my tricks that I absolutely loved teaching could actually be a career? It seemed too good to be true.
How many animals are currently on your roster?
The Ultimutts is a family show with our family pets. My daughter and I are the main performers with 9 dogs and 3 cats. Our close family friends have upwards of 5 animals that also perform. As far as animal actors are concerned, our organization is a boutique service that represents highly trained animals. There are perhaps 40 dogs on the roster, but we do search out and train for specific looks using only clicker training and positive reinforcement.
Are all of the stars of Ultimutts your pets? Do you all live together?
All the animals live in a cage free, country home as pets. They eat off our plates and sleep in our beds. There is a shop out back where we are sometimes asked if that is where the animals live. We respond, no - that is their heated training barn and playroom for winter. Very spoiled!
Please tell us a little about Kitkat?
Little KitKat is just about a year old. She is the most loving little cat I have seen! She will jump on your shoulder, down into your arms and demand to be carried and cuddled like a baby.
Sashimi is a diva! She was the first cat and is phenomenal worker! She can do a handstand against the wall and sit pretty on my head.
Please tell us what a typical day on set for yourself and Tonic was like?
When we shot Pet Sematary Tonic and the cats were very spoiled! Some of the cats had thier own trailer/RV, some were grouped together. There were 5 cats total. As an animal lover, I bring all of my animals in an RV with a trainer dedicated to caring for them specifically. I love them too much! I cant leave them.
Us cats are known to be divas. Did Tonic have any backstage requirements on set?
Most cats require a quiet set, no movement and time to acclimate. Cats are divas!
Was Pet Sematary Tonic's first film?
Yep! Tonic was adopted specifically to play Church.
What was it like working with the amazing Jason Clarke and John Lithgow to name just a few?
It was amazing working with Jason and John! From what I saw of John, he was a humble, down to earth human. I looked nervous on the first day - we trained the cats in two months can you blame me?! John squeezed my hand. It was very good of him to show support. When it was time for the cats to perform they were perfect! Everyone exclaimed WOW!
Were there ever anytimes during filming where Tonic did not want to perform? It's well known that is cats do what we want, when we want.
Generally cats will only perform up to 10 reps and they are done. When cats are done, they are DONE! 😄
Are we right in saying that Tonic played the cute, alive version of Church and that it was Leo who played the undead, more sinister version of Church?
That is correct! Tonic was only 1 year old and looked like a kitten ❤️
Lastly, is there anything you would like to say to your fans and followers and of course the many dedicated Pet Smeatary fans around the world?
Thank you for following Tonic!! We love sharing him with you all! ❤️
So there you have it my floofy furrriends! We have learned a little about Melissa, Ultimutts and the stars it boasts. We have gotten some insight into Sashimi, Kitkat and Tonic and found out what it's like being a feline star! We would like to thank Melissa once again for taking the time to do this with us and we wish her all the very best in the future. Do you have what it takes to be an animal star? Maybe Melissa could train you?! Be sure to follow her at her Ultimutts page.
We would also like to take a moment to remember the wonderful Leo who played the zombie version of Church in the film. We were huge fans of his and his performance in the movie was outstanding. He is iconic in the Pet Sematary universe and is sadly missed.
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