Tillman the Skateboarding Dog Takes New York (And We Meet Him)


As soon as you give a dog a skateboard, the iPhones come out. After all, skateboarding dogs are pretty much the perfect storm of YouTube video success (one-of-a-kind moments, extreme sports, and cute animals), and no one does it better than Tillman. You may know him from the iPhone commercial, or maybe from one of Time‘s 50 Best YouTube videos. Tillman lives with his owner Ron Davis and family in California, but he’s visiting New York this week with a couple of performances lined up — including skating in Times Square on Friday night, which Ron calls “the highlight of his career.” Highlight of our career? Getting to meet Tillman.

Tillman will throw out the first pitch at Citi Field on Saturday night as part of a special night at the ballpark called “Bark in the Park,” which is put on by Tillman’s sponsor Natural Balance Pet Foods. The event encourages pet owners to bring their pets to the game with them. Tillman’s owner Ron can hardly believe it. “Has Tom Cruise done that?” he asked. (No.)

But like Tom Cruise, Tillman is well practiced at his craft. He was adopted when he was only 8 weeks old, and early on, “I started practicing with Tillman — just pushing the skateboard,” Ron explains. Tillman then began to develop skills of his own. On top of skating, he can now also snowboard, skimboard, and surf. Ron says, “I’ve seen him pull stuff that’s made a whole skate park faint — a 50-50 backwards tail flip.”

Following Tillman’s success, Ron has added other bulldogs to Tillman’s “team.” There’s Sully (named after the pilot who landed the plane in the Hudson) and Rose (the only girl of the group). Lexi Beermann will train newcomer Wally to be the fourth member of the pet ensemble. When asked if she’s nervous Wally won’t take to the board, Lexi doesn’t seem to worry at all. “The dogs feed off of each other’s energies,” she says.

While in New York, the dogs and the team are staying at the Hilton Hotel in Midtown. Their RV, which bears a giant picture of Tillman, is parked right outside the hotel and got its first New York parking ticket this week (you’re one of us now, congrats!). The team is also in the process of filming a reality show pilot and shot some scenes in the lobby of the hotel.

Crowds circled around Tillman as he rode a luggage cart and then his skateboard earlier today. More than 20 iPhones, 5 flips, and countless cameras filmed Tillman’s spontaneous performance. Seeing Tillman in public is like watching the internet come to life — it’s strange, original, and if you blink, you might miss the dog riding by on a skateboard.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 21, 2011

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