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.”
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.