Never Follow Dogs in a Parade, Do Watch Dogs Who Follow a Parade



            Dogs participating in the National Dog Show presented by Purina will have an audience of around 18 to 20 million people and maybe as many dogs watching from noon to 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day (November 22) on NBC-TV. This is clearly the dog show with the largest TV audience, in great part because it follows the Macy Day Thanksgiving Day Parade.

            Announcing the show for the sixth consecutive season, David Frei, also the voice of Westminster, says “The show spans the generations, the kids and the grandparents and everyone in between.”

            Over 2,000 individual dogs are in the show from Philadelphia (which was actually held on November 15 through 18 with highlights taped for broadcast), representing over 150 breeds and varieties.


Peterman and Elain on Seinfeld

            Media Renaissance man John O’Hurley is Frei’s broadcast partner. O’Hurley does it all. Of course, he’s arguably best known for his J. Peterman character on “Seinfeld;” he was a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars;” he appeared the Las Vegas production of “Monty Python’s SPAMALOT,” recorded music cd’s, is frequently seen on TV commercials and his latest gig as host of  “Family Feud.”

            Among his odd jobs in recent years, O’Hurley has hosted various televised beauty pageants, including Mrs. America and Little Miss America. “I’ll tell you the truth; it’s much more civil behind-the-scenes at a dog show than one of those beauty pageants, a whole let less growling among the dogs.” He’s kidding, or half-kidding, it’s hard to tell.


            The pro that he is, O’Hurley slides right into a plug for his most recent book, “Before You Dog Can Eat Your Homework. First You Have to Do It: Life Lessons From a Wise Old Dog To A Young Boy” (Hudson Street Press, New York, NY, 2006; $19.95). “We all have something to learn from dogs,” he begins. “The book is written by my wise old man (16 ½-year old) Scoshi (a Maltese) offering life lessons to our nearly year old child William Dylan O’Hurley. Clearly, Scoshi doesn’t trust me to teach anything of value to a child.”

            Is there seriously a lot we can learn from dogs? “You bet,” he continues. “Enjoy life every moment – that’s what these dogs in the show (National Dog Show) will be doing.”

            “Yes, spontaneity,” adds Frei. “Dogs don’t have meeting first or develop position papers on how they’re going to respond. And, of course, they just want to have a good time.”

            Frei adds, “If they’re not having a good time out there (in the show ring), they just don’t make it this far. I know from showing Afghans, it was really a struggle for me to work with individual dogs who just didn’t enjoy being in a dog show, with all the travel, the noise, and everything else. It’s not something all dogs enjoy. The truth is that dogs who don’t like it just don’t do very well. Dogs do much better who are having fun, who express a little old-fashioned showmanship.”

            O’Hurley says his youngest dog definitely could not be a show dog. Aside from the fact that 10 year old Betty is a half black Labrador and half Dachshund, and might get laughs rather than points for her looks, O’Hurley says, “She’s the sweetest dog – but she’s too shy to show all her stuff in front of strangers.”

            As for Scoshi, “Oh, he’d win the show – by intimidation. He’s wouldn’t take ‘no’ for answer from any dog show judge or anyone else. He knows who’s in charge – and they’re not people.”

            Frei – who with his wife Cherilyn – founded and participate in a nation-wide animal assisted therapy program called Angels on a Leash says, “Dogs just want to please, they want to make us feel good – and animal assisted therapy dogs do that,” he says. “You’d be surprised – dogs are dogs, even show dogs…many Champion show dogs participate in animal assisted therapy, or share the bed with their owners because they’re family members like most all or dogs are, or – on occasion – even take a sip from toilet.”

            At commercial breaks during the National Dog Show – keep an eye on your dog, so he doesn’t wander into the lavatory for a sip that canine Perrier.

                                                                        ©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services