Featuring The Bisson Boys: Mack, Kohl, & Duke
By The Get Leashed Doggy Style Team
Author, go-getter, animal lover, mom, and wife to actor Yannick Bisson, Shantelle Bisson is a powerhouse. As comfortable in Louboutin stilettos as she is in sneakers, Shantelle has a bright, colorful personality and a welcoming presence. Fittingly, her dogs have big personalities, too! We were delighted to drop in on her and the three boys at their Toronto home just before the holidays to see how she keeps a busy, split-city life together with grace and humor. While the dogs have their own hierarchy, one thing is clear; they’re really woman’s best friend and Shantelle is top dog! Read on as we get to know Shantelle, Mack, Kohl, and Duke.
Please tell us about yourself, your profession, and what a typical work day is like.
I have an incredibly unique profession in that it all falls under the same “umbrella” or “category” of career but has many different “limbs.” I’m a writer. I began writing back in 2005, short stories, mostly for myself, which turned into creating TV show concepts to pitch to producers and broadcasters in 2008. I had great success right out the gate with CityTV putting a comedy I created into development. Even though we didn’t get put into production to go to series, it will always remain an achievement that I’m incredibly proud of.
From there, I had a burning desire to write a women’s fiction novel. I had a character that wouldn’t stop “talking to me” so I had to put her to paper. I’m now working with an incredible editor out of NYC, and we both believe that this last round of edits will garner a book deal, so that is my current focus: rewrite and sell.
While I was waiting for the edits to come in I began writing the first book in a series of six “How-To” non-fiction books. I love writing non-fiction. It’s fast and it’s fun. The first one is titled How to Raise your Kid Without Losing Your Cool. It’s super tongue-in-cheek, practical advice about not taking parenting too seriously while still making it the most important job of your life.
The life of a writer is pretty solitary, and while writing and waiting I decided to build my brand, along with interest in my writing by beginning a daily blog, that literally brings the reader inside my head. I was inspired by Arsenio Hall, who had a nighttime talk show where he had a segment called “Things that make you go, Hmmm”. On my blog, no topic is forbidden. I write about every single thing, from dealing with hot flashes to world issues.
And just to keep life incredibly interesting, I’ve recently added “guest host” to my work life, and appear on CBC’s newest daytime talk show, The Goods, from time to time!
My workdays are not typical at all. Some days I’m on set filming, and other days, the harder to come by days, I have the luxury of spending 6-8 hours writing. My most “usual” workdays are filled with non-work matters, due to pet parent obligations, two-legged kid parenting duties, wife, or household responsibilities. I’m lucky to get my daily musing up on my website on time.
Please tell us a bit about your dogs. How did they come into your life? Is there a story behind their names or particular breeds?
We have the best pet stories actually. I really believe that all pets come into our lives at the perfect moment, to teach us lessons. Fourteen years ago, Yannick was on set of Sue Thomas F.B.Eye, where he met a movie wrangler who is also a breeder.
Yannick and I had always had a thing for boxers, we loved how athletic-looking they were, how they seemed like they were a great blend of guard dog and family dog. We swore once our current dog, a Dalmatian, went to “The Rainbow Bridge”, we would add a boxer to our family. What we didn’t know was that the wrangler/breeder had just had a litter of boxers, and only had one male left!
We drove out to see the little guy, and as I’m sure you don’t need to be told, we came home with beautiful, wonderful Beau. He was the sweetest, loveliest, gentlest little soul. The entire family was hooked. Even our old guy, Winfield (Dalmatian), who was twelve at the time, loved him, but it wasn’t meant to last. At six months old, he fell ill with a liver disease that forced us to have him put down.
Our hearts were broken. Our breeder’s heart was broken. We all were stunned by the loss. So much so that our breeder didn’t breed for two years, which was particularly hard on us because she told us she would have another litter so that we could have our boxer. Two years gone, and finally she called to let us know that she was expecting a litter of boxers. We were ready to try again, our hearts had mended, and our home was now empty, as we had lost Winfield a few months earlier.
The boxer litter arrived with one of the four males looking identical to our Beau. We picked him. Every week we went to visit him, play with him and get to know him. Each week another one of the littermates didn’t make it. Eventually there were only two dogs left. Our boy, who by then we had named Kuda, and the other little guy. Well, that other little guy thought we were his family. When we would visit, he refused to stay back in the whelping box. In fact, he had so bonded with us, that he didn’t even require a name. Our youngest daughter was obsessed with the “little guy.” She wanted to keep him. As the weeks went on, it became obvious to us that these two dogs were a package deal. So we brought “little guy” home with us and named him Mack. He became Mack because he grew fast and strong, plowing his bigger brother over whenever they would play and wrestle. We likened him to a Mack truck.
Duke came along because I was shooting a sizzle reel about our movie wrangler/breeder, trying to sell a TV show based on her training techniques, which are not for the faint of heart, but effective. She had two litters at the time: one Valley bulldog litter and an English bulldog litter.
We didn’t know how long we would be blessed with Mack in our lives, since by the age of 4, he had battled two types of cancer. We didn’t want Kuda to end up all alone, so we initially bought Duke to be Kuda’s companion when the inevitable struck. We picked the English bulldog because we wanted a dog to be introduced to our pack that wouldn’t try to push the boxers out of their rank. We wanted a nice easygoing quiet boy to add to the family, but we got two surprises when we brought Duke home: one, he was anything but quiet; he drove our boys crazy! The second surprise was the sudden passing of our beloved boy Kuda at the age of 8, leaving Duke to be the companion of Mack. Not at all how we saw their relationship playing out.
When Kuda passed, Duke fell into a depression, but worse than Mack did. We could literally see Duke’s personality slipping away in front of our eyes and knew he needed a new comrade. Even though we had had such terrible health issues with both our boxers, we were in love with the gentleness of the breed, and their ability to make you feel like their entire world. We went on the hunt to acquire another beautiful male boxer, did our research to find a responsible boxer breeder with clean lines, in order to eliminate some of the health risks that we had run into with our other two boys. Enter Kohl.
His is a funny story. He looks almost identical to our boy Kuda. When I was communicating with the breeder via email, I sent her a photo of our boy we had lost too soon, and told her that we did NOT want her male who looked like a carbon copy of Kuda. She missed the memo, thought we said we DID want him, and put him aside for us. By the time we got back into communication with her and realized her error, he was the only one left. All the other males were gone. So we took that as a sign, and brought the doppelganger home with us!
We know you split your time between Toronto and LA. How do the pups travel with you?
Yes, we do split our time between our two homes, and the boys come with us all the time. We’re not big fans of flying dogs, especially not our guys: Mack is too neurotic to put in the belly of a plane and way too old to sedate; Duke, thanks to his short snout, is not recommended to fly; and Kohl has a heart condition, which would make us way too nervous to sedate just to transport, so we purchased a 40-foot RV to get them back and forth. Yannick had to get a special truck-driving license to be able to operate it!
The boys really love the road trips. They enjoy hiking in new spots, and lying on couches to sleep – something they’re not allowed to do in their actual homes. They really take advantage of “being on the road.” When the RV isn’t getting us back and forth, Yannick uses it as his trailer on the set of his series Murdoch Mysteries, so it really never sits idle waiting to drive the boys from one home to the next. It is always working!
You are such an animal advocate on social media. Have you always been a dog person?
I have been obsessed with dogs my entire life. I think they’re some of the most underrated creatures on earth. I’m amazed how brilliant they are, how they have such large vocabularies, and how willing they are to work hard for us and care for us. I’m weird about dogs. Some might say I give them way too much credit, but I don’t care, my love will not be rocked! I would have been a vet if a) I had been better at math and science b) if I could have also done the most impossible task of helping owners at that brutal time where we must end their lives on their behalves, and c) if I hadn’t gotten pregnant straight out of high school!
How would you describe your personal style?
Oh man…please don’t ask me this! I’m such a laid back chick – I really am. If I had my way, I would spend every single day with my hair in a topknot, no makeup on, a Rails plaid shirt, with some sort of Free City sweat pant and a pair of Golden Goose sneakers. I call on my three girls, particularly our middle girl who has a fashion degree, when I need to get gala-ready.
How would you describe the look and feel of your home?
Our home is incredibly warm and welcoming. It has equal parts of “me” and my husband throughout it. People who know us will often say; “Oh, your L.A. house is totally YOU” and “The Toronto house is so Yannick.” It’s cool the way our homes reflect our distinct personalities. Our houses are so not “precious” at all, I’m not sure if that’s because we’re so low key, or it has more to do with the fact that it is a house that has three dogs roaming around it, so it can’t be; “Oh they got mud on the Montauk sofa!!” You know what I mean? I don’t want to have a mini-heart attack every single time one of my dogs slobbers on the corner of any of the furniture.
What does your ideal weekend look like?
My ideal weekend is a luxurious sleep in. We have some of the best blackout blinds on the market in our room, so even though we have floor to ceiling windows it literally feels like night well into late morning! It is heavenly! After that, I would love to pad around the house in my PJs, catching up on reading, sipping a decaf coffee with my pups nearby, and Yannick on the other chair doing his own thing. Then around 1pm, head out to one of our favorite brunch places to eat pancakes, waffles, croissants and scones, because on the “ideal weekend”, calories obviously wouldn’t count!
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by a great many things, but I’d have to say that the one thing that inspires me and pushes me to step outside of my personal comfort zone every single day of my life is witnessing other people’s bravery. Whether they’re being oppressed by their governments, but still speak their truths, or if they are children who have battled cancer most of their lives but still sing, dance, and celebrate life. Regardless of what they are fighting against, when I observe somebody suffering in their lives, but standing up every single day and continuing to battle on without knowing if they will “win” their fight, that bravery and determination inspires me to take stock of my own circumstance or roadblock and to challenge myself to be more and to do more.
Finally, can you leave us with a funny story about one of the pups?
This will be so difficult! If I have to pick one, I would have to talk about bringing Duke home. When we picked Duke out of his litter of eleven brothers and sisters, we chose him because he literally sat in the back, against the wall of the whelping box and all the other pups would take turns beating him up. I kid you not, it was so sad. There was this little tiny blob of a pup, sitting alone, quiet in the corner. He didn’t have a collar on. Nobody had claimed. We took one look at him and knew he was our dog!
We figured he would be submissive enough to come into the house with two four-year-old boxers and know his place. We couldn’t have been more wrong about him, or his character! The second we got him over the threshold of our house, he turned into a complete and utter nightmare. He drove Kuda and Mack crazy. He would nip at them, he would climb on them, he walked on them… anything you can imagine a pup doing to two full-grown dogs, he did, and he did it constantly. The boxers could barely get a moment’s peace. He would antagonize them so badly that they would eventually get so annoyed with him that they would leap up and go after him. He was smaller and moved quicker, and his go-to move was dart under the couch, spin around while under and lie there and mouth of at them. Yipping at them, taunting them. If he had been a kid who could talk I swear he would have been saying; “Nanny-nanny-boo-boo, you can’t get me.”
This went on day in, day out, until finally that day came, where Duke was doing his thing, driving the big boys crazy, being chased, running for his life. When he made his move to dash under the couch, and BANG he hit his head, bounced backward and never fit under the couch again. And just like that, that particular method of torment toward his older brothers was over.