| ph 310.339.5150

It all Started

You're Hired! December 15, 2009

You're Hired!

As it turned out Natural Balance was going to do, for the second year in a row, a Rose Bowl Parade Float. Every January 1st, Pasadena, Ca hosts the internationally recognized parade to kick off the big football bowl game, The Rose Bowl.

In 2008 Natural Balance gained worldwide recognition with a float dedicated to skateboarding bulldogs. The World’s Fastest Skateboarding Bulldog Tillman, who is now Lyle’s mentor, stole the show as he impressed the world with his uncanny ability to skateboard better than any other dog to date. We had heard about Tillman before, everybody had. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQzUsTFqtW0 He was on a reality show with his owner, Ron Davis, the year before, and though he didn’t win, he was clearly America’s best dog. Tillman now worked for Natural Balance, with his sister Rose, who was a superstar in training to be another skateboarding bulldog phenom.

We sat in the meeting with Joey, as he recounted the first float, and explained how the 2009 float, would have to beat, with impressive awe, the year before. How he intended to do this was beyond anything we had ever heard about before.

“This year the dogs will be snowboarding” says Joey with a great smile on his face. And, not only will there be 5 dogs instead of 2, but after each dog swishes down the snowboarding ramp, they will hop on a doggy ski lift and ride back up to the top of the mountain for another run. And, to top it all off, the float will be in the running for the title “World’s Longest Float” ever recorded by the Guinness Book of World Records”.

And then “We think Lyle has just the talent to help us make this happen”. Jaw slightly slung open as I say “Oh my goodness! Thank you! We would love to be a part of this”. Really, I did a secret dance in my heart and shook hands with this genius man, who had seen and loved my boy.

That was the beginning of the most exciting time of our lives. Lyle and I would officially begin snowboard training on October 1st by reporting for duty at Training Camp, where a practice float had been set up to prepare the world’s greatest snowboarding, skateboarding bulldogs how to rip.

Training was a blast. I couldn’t believe we were being paid to have so much fun. I had been reading a book called “The Writings of Florence Scovel Shinn” which was all about divine destiny and the magic of the spoken word. How every person has the ability to welcome in abundance, wealth, heath, success, love and whatever other fruits they desired, so long as they ask for it according to the divine design of their lives. No forcing, or controlling situations because you think you have that power, but rather surrendering to something greater than yourself and trusting the universe, if you will. I couldn’t help but think this job was a demonstration of that theory at work. Work felt like play. I got to spend time with Lyle as he stole the show, and I was surrounded by positive people who shared the same passion with me: bulldogs.

Life was grand. I had even broken up with a boyfriend I cared much about at this time. But, I held strong to the idea that the right things would find their way into my life, if I let go and trusted what was meant to be. It may sound zany, but once I surrendered to this thinking, positive events kept unfolding. And, I just simply blocked all negative thoughts of doubt and worry. To my surprise, I had never been so happy, sitting back and letting life play out.

It was metaphysics at work, awe inspiring, and simply wonderful. I had forced situations for so long out of a fear that I wouldn’t get to where I wanted to go. But, once I let go of the fear, and stopped controlling every little thing, I felt my life open up. Now, I had a job I loved, working with a dog I loved, and being so genuinely happy I often asked myself “Is this legal?” And, the answer was always “YES!”

The Interview December 1, 2009

The Interview

A few months passed and nothing happened. It was tricky for me, an entrepreneur that my friends nick named “Lexicon 5000” or “The Negotiator”. No - to sit back and let destiny take its course had up until this point not been an option. There was always something I could do to meander into an opportunity.

For the past 7 years I had been running my own jewelry design firm, called Neckisses by Lexi. I put everything into that bad boy, you know - as they say blood, sweat and tears; but really it was more like ego, vanity, and youth. The company was still teetering along, but several months before, I had to swallow the largest of ego pills to date and get a real job. I couldn’t sustain growth any more, and looming credit card debt was swallowing me. But, worse was my attitude, my indestructible to a fault attitude that my jewelry might possibly take over the world. Sales had been good – I had single handedly grown my own company out of nothing, so it wasn’t all pipe dreams, but I was forcing it. Pushing hard, like an A type mother pushes their newborn to potty train. As a young business woman my eyes and heart just weren’t as big as my wallet. And, I hadn’t learned the lesson that destiny will take its course, no matter what one might do to stop it. Luckily, my persistence, passion and unrelenting desire to never give up proved impressive to my next employer. So, I began the long, uphill battle of digging myself out of a hole.

My cell phone rang from an 818 area code, a number I never would have answered before for fear that it was this furniture sales rep that had been stalking me at work. “Hello- this is Lexi”, said with a qualified tone. “Hello – this is Joey Herrick, the President of Natural Balance, and we would like to have you come down to Pacoima for an interview with Lyle”.

The morning of the interview Lyle seemed proud and calm like a pro athlete channeling the zone before the big game. I carbo loaded him the night before (what’s a little pasta anyway), so he was ready to prove himself to the head of one of the world’s leading pet food companies, Natural Balance. I gave him a bath, got his skateboard ready, filled up his water jug, and packed fresh chicken treats into our little Honda Fit, a once nice car that had officially been usurped by a bulldog – not a pretty site.

At Pacoima, we made our introductions; I thought I saw a glimmer of excitement when Joey first laid eyes on Lyle. I am sure all mothers say this, but Lyle is an exceptional looking bulldog. He is clean for starters. His wrinkles are nice and dry, they don’t smell and they aren’t that stained reddish color that many a flat nose dog has. His coat shines in the sun and he has the most unbelievable polka dotted ears, just like his birth Mom, Gracie. His face is solid white, his body fawn with little white booties for feet. He is cute, and even cuter is his coy and playful personality. Everybody says so, I promise, it’s not just me.

Lyle nailed it. I mean, he couldn’t have done a better job. He seemed calmer than normal. He didn’t lose his mind when he saw the board cascading down to the cement. Instead, he ran after it, and literally did what usually took him a few tries – hopped on and caught a ride. “Ok, ok, I’ve seen enough” shouts Joey from the other end of the parking lot. “Let’s go into the conference room, and we’ll talk about what we have going on”.

"When you have passion anything can happen" I thought to myself as we walked into the office. Everyone says that, but I just never knew what it meant. And, skateboarding was Lyle's passion in life. We hadn't pushed too hard, we let destiny take it's course. All, I did was love Lyle, take him out for fun rides in Venice. I really truly believed for the first time that something magical was at play. I mean, what are the chances that a. your dog skateboards, b. is then discovered, and c. hired by the big dogs.

It's funny what happens when you just let life take hold. No pushing and prodding, just letting things unfold organically. It's funny the lessons we learn from our four legged friends.

Lyle Gets Discovered November 15, 2009

Lyle Gets Discovered

By this point we had moved into a cute, crackling white painted Venice Bungalow, right on California Ave. up from Abbot Kinney. It was a tad expensive, but I finally had a more steady income, and figured what the heck - it will motivate me, (or nearly sink me into the ground. A girl has to learn somehow, but I won’t realize this for another year of debt payments). Plus, Lyle and I could easily walk or ride to work, so, essentially it was perfect. Anyway, as luck would have it, one of the neighbors, Merlin, happened to have a Scooby Doo decal on the bottom of his wide, long skateboard. Lyle took to him (and the board) upon first site.

The bungalow was in a compound with 5 other little cottages – 3 on each side of a sidewalk that wrapped around in a loop- kind of like a track. It was the perfect place for Lyle to ride by himself. Every morning, I would wake up and begin the day while Lyle sawed off more logs and slept until he pleased. I loved it. Lyle’s not like most dogs in the morning. He doesn't runs to my room and scratch the door to go out. He doesn’t lick faces, or whine and bark to relieve himself. In fact, it’s the opposite. I usually have to lick, whine and bark in his face until a little eyelid peels open and he gives what I like to call “stink eye”. Eventually he wakes up, after some serious snuggle time with little ole me. And, now in the new place, with the enclosed skateboarding loop, I can simply open the door and let him rip. He’ll go from being sound asleep to full throttle skateboard mode in about 20 seconds flat. I don’t have the pressure to drag him down the street on a walk he doesn’t want to take, and he doesn’t have to wait for a “break” in the action to take him on a ride. He’s happy and so am I –it’s perfect!

Merlin works with Lyle on the new board and they become fast friends. Lyle is learning how to turn around the track, and how to push with his front and back legs to catch a ride. No more being pushed or pulled, this is the big leagues now. This routine happens 2x a day and Lyle is really beginning to “get it”. I can tell he enjoys the fruits of independent cruising around the compound – with his Mom cheering instead of teaching.
One evening the neighbor has a BBQ in the compound. I of course, send Lyle out for a little talent show surprise. The group cheers and chants for “Lyle, Lyle, GO, GO, GO!” I must have gone back inside; I wasn’t one for socializing with the neighbors – don’t ask. Anyway, that’s the end of the story for me…but, little did I know, it was at that BBQ where Lyle made some serious contacts that would eventually put him in front of LA’s top dog food company Natural Balance!!
To make a long story even longer, a few weeks later Lyle and I were walking home from work when a lady stopped us in the street. “Is he the skateboarding bulldog that lives up the street”? Me: “why yes, yes he is”. Well, she apparently had “hung out” with Lyle at the BBQ several weeks ago, and JUST HAD to put him in touch with her friend at Natural Balance who was looking for another skateboarding bulldog! I tried to conceal my eagerness, masked it will a calm, collected “wow, that’s so cool”. But, deep down inside I was beyond delighted that Lyle might have a chance to prove himself to the world. This Hollywood pet mom likes to think big! She took our information, and promised she would give her friend – the trainer – our info. Out of my control from there on out, we walked home with big, huge smiles on our faces. And, that night, we didn’t skate. We just went home and snuggled on the couch to Animal Planet, thanking lady luck and thinking enough hard work for one day.

Training Wheels November 1, 2009

Training Wheels

Over the last two years Lyle and I have been in hard core training mode with the skateboard. We've upgraded from the first Sponge Bob Square Pants board scored the day Lyle's passion was discovered to a Cars board that his Auntie Porter and cousin Gemma gave him with bigger, better, fatter wells.
Almost every day out we go for a skate around the Hood. Since Lyle is still quite slow on foot, I decided that the only way to get him from point A to point B is to cruise Venice style. It's really quite the sight to see, from the second he hears the words "skate board" he goes from being half asleep to being so completely charged up it takes all of my strength to keep him from knocking everything over on his way to the back-yard where the board resides - out of site - out of reach.

After he gets his "chew on" (the obsessive need to chew the wheels with a vengeance) for a few minutes, we hit the streets. The board drops to the pavement and he lunges in 2.2 flat on top of it, hardly letting anytime pass before squealing in delight. With high hopes to get one foot on, then the other, he begins pushing and running to catch his first ride of the day. At first I think he's goofy footed, but, no, all of a sudden he's paddling with the completely opposite foot. Ambidextrous? Now, as well as Lyle does with peddling and jumping on to catch a ride, he has gotten slightly spoiled. So, after getting up, he waits for me to pull him along with the leash. I typically yell out "push Lyle, push, push Lyle" at which point he looks up at me and yelps to the point of insanity until he realizes that indeed he must push to make the board go.

We do this routine for about a year. Making friends along the way, earning the nick name "The Mayor of Venice". People come by the house to say hi to Lyle; I think he officially has more friends than me. Where ever we go, people ask "Is that the dog on TV?" I usually say "Not yet", but sometimes for fun I say "why yes it is". Being a Hollywood Pet Mom, I know that someday his talent will be discovered, and Lyle will be on TV.

I begin taking him to auditions. They are usually in strange parts of town, with other strange people and pets. We both feel kind of weird "why are we here?" I keep asking myself. But, where ever we go, we are stopped in the street, called out to for photo ops, and other things that usually don't just happen with every dog. So, I take him to more casting calls - "what does he do?" they always ask. "Sit and stay" I meekly reply. "But, does he know “down”?" Me "not really, but he skateboards". They don't seem impressed; there are other dogs that do it better.

Then one day something happened - Lyle got discovered!!

It All Started October 1, 2009

It All Started

About 2 1/2 years ago. Lyle and I moved to the canals in Venice, Ca. We were out for a walk one fine, shiny morning. Lyle was about 1 1/2 years old at the time, and up until that point, he really didn't enjoy much exercise. It wasn't necessarily his fault; after all, ever since Lyle was a young pup I carried him around because he was just so cute. My brother actually said it best "Lexi (long, concerned pause) Lyle is the only English bulldog who has officially been transformed into a lap dog - he has to walk, come on!” But, he was so small and cuddly early on it was just too hard to put him down. So, flashing forward to Lyle at a year and a half, he didn't really care much for walking. Instead, he liked to go outside, look around and sniff a little, then lay down in the grass. Upon which time, I would make an attempt to discipline a walk out of him with an endless battle of push/pull. He usually won, and I ended up carrying him back home. Mamma's boy.
There we were though, standing on one of the canal bridges when a skateboarder came a cruisn' by. I'd never seen Lyle activate to this degree before. All of a sudden, he took off for the skateboard, caught up to the dude who at this point had a terrified look in his eye as he peddled faster, faster. Lyle knocked him right off, and replaced Dude on skateboard with himself - and off he went. One little leg pushing as he negotiated the board like a pro.
I ran to make sure Dude was ok, did not need any legal issues or liability claims - I was already going through a divorce and couldn't bear the thought of anymore paperwork. Dude was ok, Lyle had teetered off into a bush, just barely missing the canal (thank god, because bulldogs can't swim). We stared in amazement. I ran to Lyle singing cheerful praises. "What a good boy!", "oh, whose a good boy". Off Dude went - kind of rubbing his head and wondering why I hadn't paid more attention to the fact that my dog almost killed him. But, all I could see was that my son (yes, my pet is my child) had just found his passion in life.
Never before had Lyle been so happy - so proud of himself. We just stood there for a while both looking off in the direction the skateboard had sailed. His ears pricked up, his haunches ready to rock, to my surprise, Lyle listened this time when I said "come on, let's go home and go get you a board". Off we ran to the car and headed to Sports Authority to buy his first Sponge Bob Square Pants kids skateboard.

subscribe to our mailing list