Tillman - On a Roll and Going Places
by Cindie Farley
Photos Courtesy of Betsy Martin
It used to be that when you thought of dog athletes, you probably pictured a Greyhound sprinting in a race or maybe a Border Collie running an agility course—both being “extreme” dogs in their natural areas of expertise. You wouldn’t necessarily imagine an English Bulldog setting speed records on a skateboard.
Well, times have changed and now we’ve got extreme dogs in what have been traditionally “human” sports: herding dogs with frisbees and terriers on surfboards. And then there’s that bulldog. . .
Meet Tillman—XTREME dog. Sixty pounds of sturdy determination with a low center of gravity, perfect for his obsession with board sports. Skateboarding. Skimboarding. Surfing. Snowboarding. He does it all. And more. Much more.
A resident of Oxnard, Tillman lives with his person-dad, Ron Davis, and his little sister and brother English Bulldogs, Rose and Sully. You could say he is a canine version of the quintessential California skater dude, beach boy, or ski bum, depending on the weather. He lives to spend his days on some kind of board, going as fast as he can.
His obsession with board sports started when he was a pup of only eight weeks. He would watch Ron’s other dog, a Rottweiler named Stoli, play with the skateboards in the household, pushing them about but not actually riding them. That was clearly not enough for Tillman, who put two and two together when he saw that other beings RODE the skateboards. So Ron got him his very own board, and the rest has become history.
Tillman began teaching himself the basics of skateboarding right away. By the time he was nine months old he could ride on all fours, and at 15 months he could make turns. Although Ron makes sure he gets 10 to 20 hours of official training (including obedience) each week, he acknowledges that the self-motivated Tillman is largely responsible for his own success and skates for the sheer love of the sport: “You can teach a dog to do just about anything, but for a dog to have the drive and the passion that Tillman has, that’s pretty rare.”
Watching Tillman in action, it’s easy to see how devoted he is to his sport. That devotion even applies to the ownership he takes of his board, whether it’s on the sidewalk, the snow, or the water. When he gets to the end of his ride, he flips the skateboard around to change directions. In the water, he finds his skimboard and carries it in his mouth back to shore so Ron can help him get started again.
“His ritual before skating is to chew on each wheel,” says Ron. “I think it’s a way of lubing them up and checking the tire pressure.”
Tillman (named after Pat Tillman, the late NFL defensive back and U.S. Army Ranger) is now six years old and has a resume many humans would be happy to call their own. His early passion for zooming around on his skateboard—along with all those hours of practice—has ended up opening many doors for this “ballerina in the shape of a pot roast,” as Ron refers to him.
Even with his pot-roast physique and Bulldog’s limited vision, Tillman has the uncanny ability to turn on a dime or bank on a sudden curve. How he does this was somewhat of a mystery to Ron, until they had a session with well-known pet psychic, Laura Stinchfield. She learned that Tillman’s keen sense of smell is what helps him avoid crashing into curbs and other obstacles that might slow him down!
In 2009, Tillman was invited to the Summer X Games and established the Guiness World Record for the fastest skateboarding dog, traveling 100 meters in 19.678 seconds. That means this canine Tony Hawk can get going to a speed of about 20 miles per hour!
The same year, he also became the official “spokesdog” for Natural Balance® Pet Foods when he skateboarded along a 52-foot track on the company’s float in the Rose Parade. He showed off his new passion for snowboarding the following year on their float in the 2010 Rose Parade.
Today, Tillman is in demand and on the go. He travels around in his own tour bus (sponsored by Natural Balance®), making appearances at special events and fund-raisers. He was on the CBS reality show, Greatest American Dog, and has been featured on The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, and ABC News. Heis in the Animal Planet’s “Most Outrageous Videos” and Time Magazine’s listing of YouTube’s 50 Best Videos, with over 15 million views. And, of course, he has his own Facebook page.
When Tillman isn’t busy touring and being an xtreme dog, he enjoys a little tetherball and tug of war, a cruise on Ron’s ATV, or maybe a wrestle with Rose and Sully. But NOTHING compares to a ride on his skateboard.
To see a great video of Tillman skating, as well as his “psychic reading,” go to http://thepetpsychic.com/video/ . He is featured in the first and third videos listed.