Amazon Prime’s The Pack is a new unscripted competition series that celebrates the bonds between man and the loyal canine companions. Hosted by Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn and her canine co-host Lucy, the series features twelve teams of dogs and their humans who embark on an epic adventure across multiple continents for a chance at winning $750,000 for the winning duo and their charity, and another $500,000 to the winners plus an additional $250,000 prize amount for the animal charity of their choice. Also, The Pack donated $250,000 during filming to multiple charities and animal rescue organizations in each country, helping to pay it forward to dogs and those who love them around the world.
ThatsItLA had the chance to speak to Lucy Riles and Duchess, a duo from Woodland Hills who prove age is just a number as the oldest female team on The Pack!
I see that you are a stay-at-home mom! Can you tell me a little bit more about yourself? Yes, I am a mom to 4 children and 2 dogs; Duke (a 2 year old Saint Bernard) and Duchess (an 8 year old Black Lab). I am a wife to my husband, Tom and we’ve been married for 12 years and live in Southern California. I am originally from the South Side of Chicago and the youngest of 12 kids. I moved to California after college and worked in the entertainment industry for years before I became a mom. Ten years ago, my first child was diagnosed with a very serious heart defect that required life-saving open heart surgery at 3 days old. So I stopped working to take care of my medically fragile child and have been a stay-at-home-mom ever since. During that time, I have published two books, one of which I co-wrote with my husband that actually hit bookstores last week titled, MOM vs. DAD: The Not-So-Serious Guide to the Stuff We’re All Fighting About.
How did your The Pack journey begin? What was the audition process like? A casting producer reached out to me. Perhaps she found me from Life of Mom, my online parenting community I run. From what I understand, they were looking for a mom. So she texted me one day asking if I had a dog. My response, “yes, I have two…here’s their Instagram account.” (Duke and Duchess @royallycutedogs) I remember the casting producer asking me which dog I would bring if I were to be on The Pack. “It’s a competition right?” I asked. “Well if I want any shot at winning, then I gotta go with my girl Duchess.” She is my ride or die and so well behaved. The next day I had a skype interview and a few days after that, I auditioned in front of a bunch of people. Then went into two weeks of training, after that I got the call that I made The Pack. YAY!
Can you share Duchesses rescue story with us? Your bio states that she is an emotion support. Can you expand on that? In 2012, my husband and I rescued Duchess from Southern California Labrador Reteiver Rescue at 4 months old. At the time, they had named her Halo because even as a puppy, she had this angelic demeanor. I had grown up with Black Labs and wanted that same childhood experience for my kids. And at the time, I had a 2 year old and 4 month old so naturally I wanted to add a puppy to the mix. Best decision ever! Since then, Duchess has been the one rescuing me and my family with her unconditional love, fierce loyalty and soothing security. One of my children has special needs and I struggle with anxiety, Duchess has played a major role in providing emotional support for both of us. For example, my child could not sleep through the night for years and years. It wasn’t until Duchess started sleeping in bed with her that she was able to sleep through the night. For me, she played a crucial role in my grieving and healing process after my son’s stillborn loss. Duchess was/is so in tune with our emotions and needs to be comforted and soothed. She is truly a remarkable, angelic soul.
What was the most challenging part of this journey/filming? The most challenging part of filming The Pack by far was being away from my kids. All I had known for the past 10 years was being a mom to my kids. Removing them from the equation to travel the world with my dog forced me to step back and put all trust and control into my husband’s hands. And while those hands were very capable, I struggled with giving up that control…worrying something could happen. So day after day, week after week, as I competed on various Pack challenges…I also competed with myself internally to place trust in others and work on myself! And you know what? Something truly amazing happened. That time away while filming The Pack forced me to work on ME, emotionally and physically speaking. In addition to the physical fitness various Pack challenges required, I started working out in hotel gyms on travel and rest days. I started writing self-affirmations in a journal to improve my self-esteem. And the best part, I was able to pour one-on-one undivided attention into this beautiful animal’s soul for the first time in Duchess’ life. The result…I lost 20lbs in 50 days of filming, I am a more confident, adventurous mom to my children and I have a stronger, unbreakable bond with my sweet girl, Duchess. I have The Pack to thank for a lot.
What sets you and Duchess apart from the rest of the pack? Aside from the obvious being the “only mom” factor, Duchess and I were the oldest female team to compete. Our skill sets and talents were far inferior to what the majority of these dog/human duos could do. For example, before The Pack, Duchess only knew sit and fetch. Not paw. Not tug. Not stay. And not because she didn’t know how to do them…I just never taught her. I was a busy mommy to babies and toddlers and she was our backyard dog that we would play fetch with and go on occasional neighborhood walks to the local Starbucks. I, myself barely had reason to leave the house besides school pick-up or drop-offs, local errands and baseball practice. Our competition, however, were made up of surfing dogs, mountain climbing dogs, tracking dogs, dog models and dogs that knew dozens upon dozens of tricks. So, what sets Duchess and I apart from the rest of The Pack… maybe it’s the fact that moms are some of the strongest people in the world, maybe it’s the fact that Labs are some of the smartest, most loyal, beloved dog breeds in the world, maybe it’s the fact that a couple of old broads got a chance of a lifetime and gave it our all, maybe it’s all of it! I don’t know. What I DO know is that Duchess and I proven an old saying wrong….turns out “you CAN teach an old dog (and old broad) new tricks!”
What is one amazing life lesson you learned from Duchess during 2020 that we can all live by? That dogs can save your life during a global pandemic. No seriously, if not for both of my dogs I don’t know how my kids and I would have survived this. Duke and Duchess have been crucial for our mental state during this pandemic and time at home. My kids haven’t seen a classroom in 267 days (but who’s counting) and have barely seen friends. This whole madness has been crushing on so many, including my family. There are a lot of tears and breakdowns, by both kids and parents! But thanks to our fur babies, there are also a lot of belly laughs, belly rubs, cuddles, kisses, walks and hikes outside taking in the fresh air. So when my grandchildren interview me for a school project 30 years from now and ask “how did you survive the global pandemic of 2020?” I will simply answer…my dogs.
The end prize is phenomenal! What would you do with the money if you won? Duchess and I truly had a transformational experience on The Pack. Before kids, I loved travel and going on adventures…but settled into motherhood and hung up that part of me because that’s what I thought moms were suppose to do. The Pack changed that mindset for me as I watched families all over the world doing adventurous things with their kids. I remember having this moment in Switzerland where we were on a train riding to the Top of Europe. I looked out the window and there were all these young children, some even younger than my own kids, sledding and skiing in the Alps. I thought about how much I enjoyed skiing and why did I stop and why haven’t I taken my kids skiing. Plus, seeing Duchess SO happy in the snow for the first time also made me want plan more family adventures, especially ones that involved snow. So, if I won the grand prize money, I would use a portion of it to plan family trips and adventures that would include seeing different parts of the world. The rest would likely go into each of my kid’s college saving accounts.
Photos courtesy of Amazon Prime