Monday, November 24, 2008

Interview: John O'Hurley Talks Dogs

(John O'Hurley and friend, a Dogue de Bordeaux. Photo Credit: Mitch Haaseth/NBC)

To most television viewers, John O’Hurley is best known for his role of J. Peterman on Seinfeld or his nearly 12-year daytime-television career on shows including The Young and the Restless, All My Children, Loving, Santa Barbara and The Edge of Night. However, this is the time of year when John goes to the dogs — literally.

On Thanksgiving Day, from noon to 2 p.m. in all time zones (directly following the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade), John will be hosting the 7th Annual National Dog Show Presented by Purina on NBC. John is more than eager to begin his annual hosting duties.

“I am very excited, because we have about 2,000 dogs this year,” John says. “I just did a photo shoot with the Dogue de Bordeaux, a French Mastiff, which is a new breed they are introducing, and it is an absolutely precious dog. It has the face of a Shar-Pei and the body of a Mastiff. They are enormous dogs, but they are as sweet as can be.

“Two of the best in the country were here (for the photo shoot), so I am excited to see how they do among all the other dogs here. I love seeing a new breed introduced, because it brings out all of the breeders to the show to see how theirs match up.”

John himself is definitely a dog man. “Our family has two brand-new ones this year. We lost one of our dogs; we lost little Betty, who was the inspiration for the first book that I wrote (“It’s Okay to Miss the Bed on the First Jump: And Other Life Lessons I Learned From Dogs”). But we have two others: a little cavalier King Charles and a little Havanese. So we have two brand-new breeds in the house, and they go along with our 18-and-a-half-year-old Maltese, Scoshi.”

John’s 2-year-old son, William, is a chip off the old block when it comes to dogs. John tells me: “He is great around dogs. ‘The Dog Show’ is just a wonderful day for him; he gets to wander and look at all the cages and all of the dogs. It’s such a special event for him.”

This special event has become quite a family event for the O’Hurleys. John explains: “We always find a way to put William in the show somehow. It adds a family element to a family day, and that’s really what the show is about. It doesn’t have the pretense of other shows. As much as it is a formal show event, and certainly one of the two top dog shows in the country, we try to keep the presentation of it as a fun family event. So if you’re watching on the greatest family day of the year, you have a chance to watch something that is very family-friendly.”

When it comes to dogs, John knows his facts: “People don’t realize the depth of the AKC registration. There are more than 165 different breeds that are recognized, and all of these have a history as to their function. ‘The Dog Show’ really is a celebration of the history of breeding.

“These days we celebrate dogs as pets, but they weren’t always pets. Dogs were a function: You needed them to hunt, to retrieve, to do farm work or for the simple act of keeping you warm. Many of these smaller breeds were bred for warmth, back when there were no heaters — the early Chinese were breeding dogs for that reason. So there’s a wonderful history of breeding, and ‘The Dog Show’ is a wonderful way to celebrate the tradition and the depth of the history.”

John has been hosting the show since its beginning in 2002, and he looks forward to it every year. John says: “We present one of the most enjoyable events, I feel, that is on television all year long, and I would never give it up.”