Get to Know the Winners of Amazon's 'The Pack' Season 1
The latest unscripted Amazon original series, hosted by Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn and her Cavalier King Charles spaniel Lucy, The Pack takes 12 contestants and their canine companions across the world where they compete in various challenges that test their determination, focus, and the strength of their bond. The winner takes home a $500,000 prize, along with a $250,000 donation to the charity of his or her choice.
We interviewed the winners of this season to catch up on where they are now that they've taken home the gold.
Mark LeBlanc and Ace the Border Collie Won 'The Pack' Season 1
After a slew of challenges in nine different countries, Ace and Mark emerged as top dogs.
Together for the past decade, it’s not surprising that such a strong duo took the prize. But the experience of a lifetime took this bonded pair’s love for each other to another level.
“Without a doubt, this experience changed my relationship with Ace forever. It was just me and him,” LeBlanc told Daily Paws. “Spending all that time competing in challenges together forced us to listen to each other even more, trust each other more, and now I know what he needs more than ever and I've had him for 10 years. That in itself—spending time together with no distractions—was a gift.”
Border collies like Ace are intelligent, full of energy, and have a strong desire to herd anything and everything around them. These dogs love playing and exercise, are quick to learn, and are typically one of the most trainable dogs in the world.
While it may look like Mark and Ace are truly great at everything they set their mind to, the two worked hard to train ahead of filming in order to come out on top.
Prior to the start of filming (which took place pre-pandemic), Mark and Ace took to the mountains of Utah where they live and play, strengthening themselves and their bond by completing regular 8-10 mile trail runs, scent work, Treibball training (also known as "push ball"), and acclimating Ace to the various gear that helped him perform during challenges, including protective booties and goggles.
Throughout the various challenges on the show, all of those skills and endurance were tested to the limits. But it’s the pair's innate sense of adventure and ability to thrive throughout new experiences together that really helped them succeed. That strength was on full display throughout the show, even when distractions like loud spectators threatened to derail the dog during challenges.
“Italy was a really special day because of how well Ace performed in a way that clearly none of the other dogs could,” LeBlanc says. “People everywhere in Florence were yelling and he was just locked in and I kept waiting for him to shut down and he never did. I almost teared up after the competition was over just because I was so proud of him.”
The end of the race happened to be in Utah, which may have been a sign that these two were bound to have a home-court advantage. But the final challenge put the smaller-sized Ace up against a 60-pound and 80-pound dog (border collies are typically closer to 30-55 pounds) pulling dinosaur bones up a mountain. And if that doesn’t sound hard, they also had to use their birch oil scent training from throughout the series to find them. It was Ace’s incredible ability to focus on the task at hand and the will to make Mark proud that pushed these companions to the top of that mountain, and to the gold medal.
Once Mark and Ace were crowned champions of The Pack, they had the opportunity to choose a charity to receive a $250,000 cash donation. Mark chose Best Friends Animal Society, a nonprofit organization also based out of Utah that promotes pet adoption, no-kill animal rescue, and spay-and-neuter practices. Best Friends’ goal is to see a no-kill nation by 2025, and that is a goal Mark is super passionate about.
“Their mission to end the euthanizing of animals is really near and dear to my heart,” LeBlanc says. “I feel pretty strongly that in 2020, society as a whole is better than killing animals that are just ‘in the way’. Everyday, animals are put down in shelters because they just don't have anywhere to be. It just breaks my heart and I think we’re better than that. I want to see that come to an end in my lifetime.”
What Are They Up To Now?
After winning The Pack, Mark and Ace aren’t slowing down anytime soon. They’re still pursuing fun, athletic endeavors, working toward Mark’s goals of being able to climb Denali in Alaska and take photography projects in the Himalayas. The duo regularly adventure with the rest of their family as well, including Mark's wife Elizabeth and Ace's brother Charlie, a stray pup that the couple found on the street and rescued with open arms.
The most important benefit of participating in the show apart from being able to make an impact on shelter pets everywhere, is that now Mark has a bag full of tricks (and treats) to make Ace a happy dog and maintain the strength of their bond for the rest of their lives together. “We’re enjoying life in Utah right now and we live a pretty awesome life on a daily basis,” says LeBlanc. (If their posts on Instagram are any indication, we would have to agree.)
LeBlanc also recently launched a new podcast called Chasing Aces, where he has conversations with professional athletes and community-oriented leaders who are at the pinnacle of success. He interviews them about their motivation and what drives their happiness in order to inspire others.
“Since the show came out, I get messages on social media about people getting closer to their dogs, traveling more, and defining happiness in a way society doesn’t typically define happiness,” says LeBlanc. “Seeing that people are inspired by me is very humbling.”
Listen to Chasing Aces on Apple Podcasts, YouTube, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Who Were the Runners’ Up?
While every dog on The Pack is a winner in our hearts, in second place was the blue mohawk-clad duo Derby the goldendoodle and his partner Kioni “Kentucky” Russell Gallahue, followed by Jax the 3-year-old golden retriever and his dog mom Vania Zuniga in third in the heart-pounding finale.
Will There Be a ‘The Pack’ Season 2?
While we don’t know anything yet in terms of a season 2, all 10 episodes of The Pack season 1 are now available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
In the meantime, get to know all the show’s season 1 contestants and their amazing pups.
Kioni “Kentucky” Russell Gallahue & Derby
Kentucky got Derby from a loving family that realized that they couldn’t take care of him and needed to re-home him. Kentucky took him in, and they have been best friends ever since. Once living with Kentucky, Derby discovered a whole new world, and Kentucky helped give Derby the confidence to enjoy and explore it. Derby came into Kentucky’s life at a low point, and he helped get Kentucky through the hard times and start a new life in San Diego. Together they are inseparable. They love to surf, ride motorcycles, and find new, fun, crazy activities together.
Vania Zuniga & Jax
Jax is a goofy 3-year-old golden retriever. Jax loves to be attached to Vania’s hip (unless there is a squirrel around). This pair loves to spend their time soaking up the sun at the beach. Jax loves to put a smile on anyone’s face, but be careful because his dog hair is contagious!
Mark LeBlanc & Ace
Mark is a 31-year-old mechanical engineer and professional photographer with a furry best friend named Ace, who is a 10-year-old border collie. Mark specifically wanted a breed that could match his physical abilities and intensity—Ace was exactly that for him. They love to push themselves to the limit in the mountains. Living in Salt Lake City, Utah, they are always active outdoors doing things like rock climbing, backcountry skiing, mountain biking, and trail running. At six months old, Ace was catching frisbees 30 yards away, and at 10 years old, a 10-mile trail run is simply a warm-up. Together, Mark and Ace have an unbreakable bond and a thrill for adventure.
Brian Calvert & Dixie
Dixie is a 5-year-old old bluetick coonhound. She’s a therapy dog for veterans and a deer tracking dog. She’s known as “Dixie The Praying Dog” because Calvert taught her how to “bow” down to pray as a way to say thank you to veterans on command. Calvert is a 47-year-old man from Camby, Indiana. Calvert drives semi-trucks half of the week while taking Dixie to public appearances and events for the rest of the week. Both Calvert and Dixie have dedicated their lives to helping veterans, kids, and anyone who might need a smile. Calvert and Dixie have a custom Jeep Wrangler with Dixie’s signature logo on it. They drive around in the Jeep participating in parades, escorting charity motorcycle rides, and escorting veteran’s funerals.
Chelsey Lowe & Gryffin
Gryffin and Chelsey currently live in Newport Beach, Calif., where they enjoy doing activities such as surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, yoga, beach volleyball, and anything else outdoors. Chelsey played college volleyball at UC Santa Barbara and is a yoga instructor. Chelsey found Gryffin at just 7 weeks old about 7 years ago on her way home from a trip, and Gryffin hasn’t left her side since. They do everything together. Chelsey even brings her to work, teaching her yoga classes with Gryffin by her side!
Chisum Joe Johnson & Kepo
Kepo joined Chisum’s family in 2017. Chisum initially got Kepo as a friend to his older dog (who has since passed away) as well as a new friend for him. Chisum began to train Kepo as a tracking pup, and through that, they grew a close bond. Chisum says he didn’t realize how smart a dog could be until he befriended Kepo. Chisum credits Kepo for keeping him grounded after a stressful day at the fire station.
Daniel Reese & Allister
Four years ago, Daniel Reese was blessed to be in the right place at the right time rescuing Allister, his sweet wirehair rat terrier, making him Daniel’s forever fur best friend. Allister is always ready for the next big adventure. Daniel gets so much love from Allister that he now wants to share that feeling with the world.
Donna Modafferi & Charlie
Donna Modafferi and her schnoodle (schnauzer-poodle) Charlie currently reside in New York City. Donna fell in love with Charlie’s adorable face from a photo she saw online—proving there is such a thing as love at first sight. When Donna brought Charlie home in July 2016, Charlie fit into Donna’s little family perfectly and has brought them so much joy and love ever since.
Josh White & Snow
Josh has a 3-year-old standard poodle named Snow. Josh loves to groom Snow, changing up her look to then go out and take photos of her! Snow enjoys all the attention and all the love, but most of all, she just enjoys spending time with Josh—and Josh enjoys spending all his time with her!
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Mitra Najibeth Yosri & Bozley
Nine years ago, Mitra Yosri met Bozley and they’ve been inseparable ever since. Bozley accompanied Mitra when she made the life-changing decision to move from Utah to Los Angeles, and they do absolutely everything together. With the unconditional
love and companionship that Bozley has always provided her, Mitra has been able to take risks and pursue her dreams. Today, Mitra and Bozley enjoy cuddling and hiking through the hills of Eagle Rock and sharing food. Mitra is most happy at home with Bozley and her two cats. Bozley is happiest trying to catch flies and never leaving Mitra’s side.
Linh Iacona & Chance
After suddenly losing Linh’s first dog, a senior rescue, she searched on Petfinder and found Chance (who at the time was called Griff). She drove 8 hours that day to pick him up at his foster home. At only six weeks old, he was found homeless roaming the streets of Kentucky, then transported to Pennsylvania to be fostered. She adopted Chance at three and a half months old, and now he’s living his best life in Brooklyn.
Lucy Riles & Duchess
Duchess is an 8-year-old black Lab that loves tennis balls and playing fetch with Lucy, a stay-at-home mom of four kids, and two dogs. Duchess and Lucy’s bond began when Duchess was four months old. With a toddler and baby already in tow, Lucy decided to adopt Duchess from Southern California Labrador Retriever Rescue. But as the years went on, it’s pretty clear that Duchess was the one doing the rescuing all along. The unconditional love, security, companionship, and emotional support Duchess has provided Lucy and her kids has gotten their family through some of life’s most devastating losses and obstacles. Not only has Duchess saved the lives and hearts of Lucy and her family, but Duchess is also about to win over your hearts as well! This duo may be the oldest female team on The Pack and viewed as a couple of underdogs … but never underestimate the inner strength of a mom and her Lab. Lucy and Duchess are here to prove you CAN teach an old dog new tricks!