Amazon Prime’s ‘The Pack’ shows why local man and his dog are a match made in reality-TV heaven
‘Kentucky’ Gallahue and his dog, Derby, are featured in Amazon’s globe-trotting reality series, ‘The Pack.’
One of them is a 41-year-old Point Loma resident. The other is his 8-year-old goldendoodle. Both love to surf and ride scooters. They have matching neon-colored mohawks and a shared taste for good times and crazy adventures.
Kioni “Kentucky” Russell Gallahue and Derby are one of 12 human-and-dog teams featured in Amazon Prime Video’s new series “The Pack.” They also are a match made in reality-TV heaven.
“Kentucky and Derby are the same living creature,” said Jay Bienstock, one of the show’s three executive producers. “Both of them are very friendly, energetic and a lot of fun. Kentucky says they are goofballs, but really they are just that same kind of free spirit. Their bond was solid and you could see that they get a lot of happiness from one another. The fact that they dress alike and have the same hairdo was a bonus.
“And then there’s their names. You just can’t write this stuff.”
Kentucky and Derby were featured in a La Jolla Light article in September about how they inspired area resident Jim Brunetti in his fight against cancer.
Jim Brunetti has not only copied the dog’s unusual coiffure but also his joyous, energetic nature.
“The Pack,” hosted by Olympic gold medal skier Lindsey Vonn and her Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Lucy, is a globe-trotting reality competition show starring teams of dog-owners and their pups. The 10-episode series, which debuts Friday, Nov. 20, takes the six-legged teams from the sunny streets of Los Angeles to the beaches of Costa Rica, the markets of Mexico City, the canals of Venice, Italy, and the snowy slopes of Switzerland.
Along the way, the teams compete in challenges that find the dogs testing their fetching, tracking and carrying skills while the humans do their best to keep up. Fortunately for Kentucky and Derby, they got a jump on the competitive life in 2016, when the best pals moved from Atlanta to San Diego and Derby found his sea legs.
“When I first moved here, I really wanted to learn how to surf. So like everybody else, I bought my beginner’s surfboard at Costco and headed off to dog beach,” said Gallahue, who grew up in Frankfort, Ky. “I was just going to let Derby play around with the other dogs, but he kept following me out into the water, so I just threw him on the board and he rode the wave all the way into the beach. I was so proud and so mad, because he learned to surf before me.”
That first surfing experience led to Derby’s maiden voyage in the annual Imperial Beach Surf Dog Competition. It would not be his last. Derby’s adventures in surfing inspired Gallahue to create an Instagram account for his action-loving dog. In addition to amassing more than 6,000 followers, @derbycalifornia caught the attention of “The Pack.”
At first, Gallahue assumed the pitch from the casting team was fake. “I thought, ‘This is cool, but it doesn’t seem real,’” he said.
But Hollywood kept calling, and eventually Gallahue filled out the application. To his shock, he got a call back. Then the production company sent him all the equipment he would need to start training Derby at home.
In December, Kentucky and Derby joined the group of potential contestants for two weeks of hands-on training in Los Angeles. Knowing how to surf gave Derby a leg up, but to become part of the on-air cast, the team would have to ramp it up skill-wise.
“We trained them in all sorts of things for the show. They learned ziplining, rappelling, trick-training, scent-finding,” said Nicole Ellis, a certified dog trainer and a member of the show’s dog-safety team. “Learning to wear goggles or booties, that was part of the training. It was a real step-by-step process. These were not professional dogs. These are regular people and regular pet dogs, and this shows that any dog can learn anything and grow with their partners.”
During the series, the teams compete in many countries, weather many climates and mingle with people of all stripes. And viewers are treated to a warm and fuzzy collection of stories about the humans and animals and the love that keeps them together. Kentucky and Derby are no exception.
“I had been a bartender for almost 20 years, and when you’re in the bar business, drugs and alcohol can take over. I was at the point where I was living with the candle burning at both ends and I didn’t care what happened. It was just all about me,” said Gallahue, who is now in the construction and handyman business. “When I got Derby, I realized I had someone else I had to take care of. If he hadn’t been with me, I don’t think I would have ever left my apartment.”
When this season of “The Pack” ends, the winning team will take home $500,000 and the charity of the winner’s choice will get $250,000. If that team ends up being Kentucky and Derby, the charity chunk will go to the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe. But even if they aren’t the last team standing, they feel like winners already, Gallahue said.
“I love making people smile, but I’m not one to immediately start a friendship,” he said. “But through this experience, I have made some incredible friends, and Derby has made some great dog friends. It was so amazing to open up and meet these people. This definitely changed me.”
— Karla Peterson is a columnist for The San Diego Union-Tribune. La Jolla Light staff contributed to this report. ◆
Get the La Jolla Light weekly in your inbox
News, features and sports about La Jolla, every Thursday for free
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the La Jolla Light.