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Extreme Canine Sports

Our Olympics February 23, 2010

Our Olympics

We made it to Bellingham, WA in time to get a decent dinner at some place that had probably been at one point or another, a Longhorns, Chiles, or Applebee’s. Full with food in my belly, I deal with the dogs and pass out. The next day we cruise through border crossing without a hitch, although for some reason all three of us are nervous and slightly sweating. I have never been to Canada which seems strange being that it’s so close. We make it through without a hitch and pass into what seems clean, fresh air. We wind our way up through the mountain, and are all extremely eager to get out of the RV. It's been 3 days and although it’s really easy to sit in the back of an RV sleeping and reading, it’s also kind of stressful because of the bumps, motion and tight quarters.

The real purpose of our trip to Vancouver is to secure press on NBC. We’ve already had one big story on the local NBC affiliate Channel 4. http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/sports/Olympic_Snowboarding_Bulldogs_Los_Angeles.html
There is a mountain in Vancouver called Grouse Mountain, where the dogs will be snowboarding. Up until today we have only one confirmed press appointment with City TV Vancouver. Our job is to secure more press once in Vancouver and promote Natural Balance – which basically requires us to be publicist as well as dog trainers – but we’re up for the challenge.

Because it’s the Olympics media is strapped and so we are basically here to hustle; a skill I excel in. There is also zero snow and where we originally thought we would be snowboarding, we can’t access the Mountain (no extra snow for us apparently). So, we are going to do what we do best; skateboard. The group rolls 5 deep – Ron and myself, along with Darryl, Betsy and Steve. Ron and I work well together, we have that cool way of mind reading so before you ask it’s answered.
We skate for TV and the crowd goes absolutely wild. There are a lot of factors involved in having a bulldog skateboard for a crowd. First of all the dogs go absolutly berserk when the boards come out; Tillman can even smell it without seeing it. People think “oh dogs – skateboards – cute”. No, not cute people, hard core and somewhat dangerous, so back it up and don’t approach a skateboarding bulldog whose coming straight at you flying 20 miles per hour. It’s fun and crazy to see how excited and mesmerized people get when they see the dogs rip – I sometimes forget that what I see on a daily basis, some will only see in their lifetime once.
We end up skating around Vancouver, basically shutting down major city blocks. The cops don’t seem to mind, they just watch and smile and try and chat me up. They kind of feel more like Olympic Tour Guides, telling people where to find bathrooms, restaurants, and bus stops. I am amazed because if we did this in the US we’d probably be thrown in jail. But, here in Vancouver with the Olympic energy wafting through the streets, people (cops included) know something amazing is about to happen.
We wait for the intersection to turn red. It’s funny how a crowd can tell when something is about to happen. Their energy mixes and mingles creating an enchanting feeling, and people can sense that something is a brew. There is a subtle murmur, people are buzzing now, wondering what’s happening. Maybe it’s the 3 camera men who are moving in ever so slightly for the best view that clues the crowd in, or maybe it is the bark of Tillman as Ron makes his way into the frozen street.
We only have about 15 seconds until the light will turn green again and mid-day traffic resumes. Ron sends the board out and Tillman cascades for it, at which point the 300 people, who moments before were standing around clueless, now ALL try and lunge forward into the street. I’m on crowd control shouting “out of the street” “back on the curb” – nobody listens. But, Tillman is a pro and avoids them like a champ. He nails the ride, we secure Tillman and our team is out of the way, but people are totally entranced and don’t see that they are in fact standing in front of a bus stop that is about to welcome in a huge moving bus whose brakes may or may not work. We shout again “BUS” and finally the zombies wake up and barely escape decapitation by side view mirror. No one is injured and we repeat this somewhat risky show several more times.

While this is all happening Darryl notices that there is an ABC crew not too far from where I am standing. My nick name on the trip has become “bait”. Some could be offended, but I’m slightly flattered because my job is to sweet talk and charm the male camera men. I think it's hilarious. I make eyes with one who is actually pretty cute, and he smiles and notices the dog. I see my opening and approach to learn that our shenanigans actually interrupted a recording of CNN’s 20/20 days before and they were more than anxious to talk with us about what the hell we were up to. Next thing you know, I have a microphone down my shirt and am being interviewed for ABC Nightly News (which BTW is national).
Our gorilla efforts continue for the next few days. It’s fun and thrilling, but also exhausting. We are all having a blast running around Vancouver, but we're also pushing Natural Balance like nobody’s business, so it is tiring too. We work all day and hit the city by night. The streets are packed with thousands of energetic people from all end of the earth there to support their favorite teams. It’s usually a 2 hour wait to eat dinner in a restaurant and the bars are beyond packed. As crowded as the city is, it remains organized, clean and safe feeling. I am still amazed that we are a part of the Olympics - even though we didn't see any events - we are here in the middle of it all.
By the end of the trip we have done the best we could do nailing footage for ABC Nightly News, Good Morning America, Russia TV, Local Canada TV, CTV, The Vancouver Sun, and TMZ. It’s a dog eat dog world out there, but somebody’s got to do it. In the end we are know for the top 5 things you might not know about the Olympics...pretty cool. 

Road to the Olympics February 19, 2010

Road to the Olympics

After training in the field for a few weeks, Lyle and I were jumping for delight when we heard that we would be heading to Vancouver for the Olympics! What?! Yeah, The Olympics. Lyle had officially projected himself into the winter Olympics 2010. Just when you think the deal is as sweet as it can get, this kick ass company amazes with upping ante.
We spend the next few weeks training in the Mountains outside of Los Angeles, which I, in 7 years living in Los Angeles, have never visited. Mountain High, just short of 2 hours away, opened their gates to us by giving us the entire bunny slope and kiddy ski lift for our four super dogs to practice on before the main event. Lyle had never been in the snow, neither had puppy Sully, and I was so excited to see how these little guys would react.

Before we arrived we outfitted the dogs in snow coats and boots, as well as little hoodies to keep them warm when drinking hot cocoa in the ski lodge. I don’t know about you, but some people love dogs who wear clothes, and some people hate it. A friend of mine just published a book from a blog he gained notoriety over called “Pets who want to Kill Themselves”
http://petswhowanttokillthemselves.com/page/2 Lyle was actually asked to be a part of this book, but I passed, thinking it wasn’t the best PR move considering he was like the happiest dog on the planet. Plus, I had just bought him a hip ski jacket with X’s and O’s all over it.
Anyway, our Olympians were dressed for the gold as we hit the slopes. We weren’t quite sure if the dogs would actually be able to snowboard in the real snow. After all, the entire float had really been a simulation of snowboarding. It was a long slide made out of a poly-plastic or something, but for a dog it was just like snowboarding, the only difference was it wasn’t real snow.
I have learned a few interesting training tips from working with Ron; mostly you just never know why and when a dog isn’t going to want to do their thing. The snow might freak them out or they aren’t in the mood that day, and game over. Or they might go absolutely insane, like they did, and impress even us that they really were real snowboarding bulldogs. They cruised down a real snow ski slope on waxed skim boards and we all just thought, here we come Vancouver!

In addition to all the winter fun on the slopes, our play by plays are documented by a production company that is filming a reality TV show that they hope will sell to ABC, NBC or one of the big boys. Its cool having cameras around, but also a little nerve wracking wondering what in fact will come of my every move. Ron and I have by this point become excellent friends with a witty, sometimes flirty, banter that feels more like a ping pong match than a conversation. It makes it fun, but, the director also referenced Bruce and Cybil from Moonlighting as a guide. Have you watched any re-runs recently? Well, you should – kind of amazing - but to my surprise there’s a steamy get together scene in season finale that has me feeling a little nervous about where this whole thing could go.
Plot thickens, we just found out we will be driving up to Vancouver in an RV. Yup, over 30 hours in Tillman’s RV with 4 bulldogs, 3-5 people, and god knows what else. I take a deep breath and thank my lucky stars I actually like these people. It’s going to be another once in a lifetime experience and I am beyond excited. Did I ever imaging in my wildest dreams that Lyle would be my ticket to an Olympic games? No, yes, I don’t know. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world and celebrate with a ruckus Valentine’s Day weekend with friends at the Chateaux Marmont. When in Rome right?

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