ENID – In 2008, Travis Brorsen, a native of Perry who was then living in Los Angeles and working as an actor, and his dog, a brindle boxer named Presley, appeared onGreatest American Dog, a CBS reality show.
At end of the 10-week series, they were declared the winners of the 12 sets of owners and dogs that started with the reality show.
Presley, also a native of Oklahoma, was about 16 months old when they were selected for Greatest American Dog and being on the show helped build the relationship between dog and owner.g
“Through the challenges on the show, we built a real bond that a lot of the other people on the show already had,” Brorsen said. “Half of the other contestants were dog trainers.”
After the reality show series ended, Brorsen and Presley returned to Oklahoma and their bond continues to expand – they are business partners.
Operating from the James W. Strate Center for Business Development at Autry Technology Center in Enid, dog and owner have combined their talents in an entrepreneurial effort – Adventures with Travis & Presley.
The new small business has created a curriculum for pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first-grade classrooms designed to teach social skills and manners. The set of eight lessons is marketed as the Good Manners Series Classroom Doghouse. Each set includes a teacher’s guide, books available in English and Spanish, DVDs featuring Travis and Presley, pointers used with an interactive board and reading along and Adventures with Travis and Presley sticky notes.
Books and DVDs accompany the eight lesson titles – “Please and Thank You,” “How to Deal with a Bully,” “Good Table Manners,” “It’s OK to be Different,” “Good Teamwork,” “Share and Take Turns,” “Respecting Others” and “Be Polite.”
“We have theme songs for all eight of our volumes,” Brorsen said.
Although Brorsen and Presley gained their initial fame on Greatest American Dog, the Good Manners Series Classroom Doghouse is entirely Oklahoma-produced.
“One of the neat things about this is that is it was all done in Oklahoma,” Brorsen said. “We filmed and produced all eight videos in Oklahoma.”
Brorsen worked with KJ Productions, an Enid-based video production company, to produce the series. Songwriters for the series included Brendan Parker and Chris Wiser, both of Oklahoma City.
What is now an eight-part series got its start last year with one book and one DVD.
“We teamed up with KJ Productions and wrote a book and produced a DVD – Adventures with Travis and Presley,” he said.
The theme of the initial part of the series was “Please and Thank You.”
The 3,000 self-published copies were sold in three months. Marketing was local.
“We really did it in a 50-mile radius of my hometown of Perry,” Brorsen said.
Brorsen then developed a business plan and submitted it to the Autry Technology Center and the Enid Regional Development Alliance. Adventures with Travis & Presley was accepted as a tenant in August at the James W. Strate Center for Business Development
“This being my first entrepreneurial venture, I am learning everything, including marketing,” he said.
Being in the business development center has advantages.
“They are here to encourage and help in any way possible and guide us in the right direction,” Brorsen said. “We would not be able to do what we have done here without the technology center and the Enid Regional Business Alliance.”
The eight-part series is ready for distribution.
“We just sent off an order to get 12,000 of the kits to send to the schools,” Brorsen said.
Schools can buy one of the eight sets in the series or the entire Good Manners Series Classroom Doghouse, he said. If a school buys the doghouse series for a classroom, they can get licenses for additional teachers in the school to use the curriculum.
“One of the benefits of our curriculum is that Presley and I are real,” Brorsen said. “We have videos and our website where we challenge children to do well in the classroom.”
They also do personal appearances.
“How neat is it for the children to be reading the Travis and Presley book and watching the DVD and Travis and Presley walk into their classroom,” he said.
Going Hollywood was not in Brorsen’s plan when he graduated from Perry High School in 1997 and headed for Oklahoma State University.
“I did theater in college and I loved it,” he said.
He graduated from OSU in 2001 with a degree in agriculture communications and returned with his love of acting to the family farm near Perry.
“I went back home to work on the farm and one day I was in a pickup following my dad on the tractor,” Brorsen said. “I was dreaming of being an actor and was not paying attention and ran into the back of the tractor.”
That night, Brorsen said, his parents sat down at home and asked him what he had been thinking about.
“I told them I was thinking about going to Hollywood,” he said.
So he left the family farm in Oklahoma and moved to California as a professional actor. He had success appearing on television shows including Bones, Desperate Housewives and JAG.
“The last three years I was there I was able to live without a second job and there that is considered a success,” he said.
He got Presley from his sister in Perry after a rescue dog she was keeping had puppies. When Brorsen returned to California, one of the puppies, Presley, went too.
A year later, Brorsen and Presley were hiking in Hollywood’s Runyon Canyon Park when Brorsen was approached by a woman who recruited the dog and owner for the tryouts forGreatest American Dog.
“They ended up choosing us as the final of the 12 sets of dogs and owners for the show,” Brorsen said. “I think they thought we would be the first ones off the show.”
Skills Presley learned while they were contestants on the television show have been useful in the new videos.
“Presley became a studio training animal from being on the show,” Brorsen said. “He learned everything from sneezing on command to turning a light off and on.”
Now the skills are being used teaching children manners.
“We are providing an innovative tool for teaching good manners,” Brorsen said. “Presley will lose his bone and by using good manners, the kids will help him find it.”