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The National Dog Show Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

John O'Hurley and David Frei

This is an interview with John O'Hurley and David Frei on November 15, 2011 about The National Dog Show.

Question:
Have you ever considered breeding dogs, and if so what kind?

John O'Hurley:
The closest we've come was really the dog that we have right now, Sadie, our little Cavalier King Charles. But she has a little bit of overbite so she's not show quality, but I still think adorable nonetheless. And actually David, I think you have her brother; am I right?

David Frei:
Her sister; yes.

John O'Hurley:
Oh her sister, I'm sorry.

David Frei:
Her sister Angel.

John O'Hurley:
And her bite is perfect of course.

David Frei:
Of course.

John O'Hurley:
Yes, so we got the ugly step-sister I guess.

David Frei:
We should get them together.

John O'Hurley:
But to answer your question, I love that breed, I really do. They're just great. They're wonderful pets and they're just so loving and affectionate. But I also love the other breed that we have too which is the Havanese, and I think that turned out to be a wonderfully happy surprise for us. In terms of just being loving, maintenance-free dogs they are just the best.

Question:
John, you've done acting, hosting, dancing, writing books. What's next for you?

John O'Hurley:
I've got some new television stuff coming up this year. I'm currently on Broadway right now as I will be tonight, celebrating the 15th anniversary of the musical Chicago. And so life stays pretty busy. I've got the outline of a third book that I'm writing right now, and actually David has a book out this year as well which is a record of his experiences with the therapy dogs, too. So he's the author this year.

David Frei:
With a nice forward by John O'Hurley. I didn't get to answer the question about breeding dogs that I was involved with Afghan Hounds for 30 years and bred quite a number of them and finished about 20 or 25 champions, including the top running female in the history of the breed. I'm probably not going to be doing too much breeding any more with living in a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. So I think I'll just cling to the glory of those days for my breeding record.

Question:
What kind of therapy was it to do with dogs? Did you have a particular kind of patient you worked with?

David Frei:
My two dogs and I we visit a number a different places, but the three places we're visiting right now are Sloan Kettering Cancer Center here in New York City where Angel and I go every Monday night and visit in the women's health unit. And Grace and I, my Brittany, and Angel both visit at the Ronald McDonald House here in New York City, visiting with pediatric oncology patients. And John has been there too. And I just started visiting at the V.A. Hospital here in New York City with Grace, so we have a number of different audiences that we see and they do great work wherever they go.

Question:
David, could you talk about the six new breeds we'll see this year?

David Frei:
Six new breeds, it brings us to a total of 185 breeds and varieties. But, we have a little bit of everything. You know we had six new breeds last year as well, but the six new breeds that are on for this year include the Chesky Terrier, the Entlebucher Mountain Dog, the Xoloitzcuintli, and the American English Coonhound, and the Finnish Lapphund. So those are the six new breeds that are eligible. We're still waiting to make sure they all get entered and they'll all be there but we'll certainly have something new for everybody.

Question:
John, in addition to the impressive dogs in the competition, what is it about the National Dog Show that keeps you coming back?

John O'Hurley:
For us it's selfishly one of the more enjoyable days I spend during the year. My wife and I just love spending time backstage and I get the chance to see all the different breeds and just to kind of breathe in the excitement that goes on backstage, outside the best-in-show ring actually, because that's where all the breed competitions are going on. So it's very, very exciting. You have thousands and thousands of people back there.

And because this is the last remaining benched show which means everybody is hanging around back there, the public gets a chance to talk to the breeders and learn about a dog that might fit well into their life or additional tips on a dog that they currently have. It's almost like a carnival atmosphere back there. And thousands and thousands of people and it makes it such a great family event on traditionally the greatest family day of the year.

And additionally, I love doing it because David and I have become close friends and it's good programming on television. And having a 5-year-old child now, my focus really is on good television programming.

Question:
David, with your new book and everything being released and naturally you're going to be here at this show, are you planning any book signings or anything around the country coming up?

David Frei:
Well yes, we do have a few book signings coming up. We're doing two in Philadelphia this weekend, one on Friday night at the Westchester County Bookstore. And then we're going to do a book signing at the Dog Show as well on Saturday. And then I come back on Sunday to do a book signing at the AKC event at Javits Center called Meet the Breeds. So that's a start. We've got a few other things going on. I'm excited about the book. I'm proud of the book, and I hope that we'll get to see a lot of people, just because it means we can get the message out to people about the great things that these dogs do as therapy dogs.

Question:
John, how are you doing out there?

John O'Hurley:
I'm celebrating a lot of anniversaries all at one time. I've got the 15th anniversary of Chicago, and the 10th anniversary of the Dog Show. So the nice thing is I'm wearing the same tux to both.

Question:
John, what's your take on the additional six breeds? Is it hard to keep up every year with everything going on?

John O'Hurley:
Yes, and I have to say, this year I'm a little bit concerned because as I look down the list, I had to start in early October to try and learn how to pronounce the Xoloitzcuintli's name. I'm not kidding you. Three nights in a row I had to go on to YouTube to coach myself on how to pronounce that dog's name. And the Lapphund, then it's like they're just playing with me now.

But you know the nice thing is that looking back now is that over the history of the show now we've had ten years and we've introduced 23 new breeds. It's been kind of remarkable to see this world that celebrates the history of breeding grow so rapidly right before our eyes.

David Frei:
It is amazing. We get new breeds and the new breeds, it's sort of a misnomer because they've been around a lot of places around the world. It's just they're new to us here in this country in terms of recognition by the AKC and eligibility in the Dog Show. So it helps us bring a little something new and special to the Dog Show every year.

Question:
Great. One last quick comment John, I wanted to congratulate you on your Ellis Island Medal of Honor. I know you're involved in a lot

Question:
Is there anything different that the viewers can anticipate in this year's show?

John O'Hurley:
I think we're going to try to go back and kind of revisit some of the kind of the good memories of the last ten years because we've had some beautiful champions there come out of the show that have gone on to win not only National but also Westminster. And so we're going to go back and revisit some of those quiet moments there too. And David and I will be weeping all the way through the show, nostalgically.

But it is kind of fun to think back on the ten years, because this really began on a wing and a prayer. You know, when NBC started this ten years ago, no one had any idea that it was going to be as successful as it was. The first year was everybody was just just hoping that someone would go home and watch this. And we were so elegantly surprised by not only getting an audience by holding an audience for as many years as we have to the point really where we really feel that it is a holiday tradition. And I certainly as I've gone around the country had so many people say that the world stops on Thanksgiving so that the whole family can watch this.

David Frei:
I also love the story of John's phone call asking him to do the story; how that came about from NBC.

John O'Hurley:
John Miller who was one of the heads of NBC Sports there, took home Best in Show over the weekend, and just happened to watch, and it was a tremendously popular cult film. And at the time they were running the reruns of It's A Wonderful Life and garnering a 1.3 rating, and there wasn't much they could do about it. After the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade they kind of lost their audience before football came around in the later afternoon. But it was John's idea to say hey this may sound crazy but we should have a dog show. And so by that afternoon he had negotiated with the Kennel Club of Philadelphia and they rebranded one of their shows as the National Dog Show. And then Tuesday morning he called me out in Los Angeles and I pick up the phone and I said, ???Hello.??? And he said, ???Woof, woof.??? And that's how it began.

Question:
David, how does this show compare to the Westminster Show to you?

David Frei:
You're really trying to get me in trouble now aren't you? The great thing about both of them is that they're seen by a national audience. And the show, the Thanksgiving show is really an entertainment special that's built for the timeslot and built for the day. And the Westminster is much different because it's historically been around a long time and has it's standing as the most competitive duo in the dog show world.

So there is quite a difference in that respect, and I think that they each have their place and they're both doing wonderful things to further the world's understanding of not only the sport, but also of being a celebration of the dog in our lives. And what better way to do that on Thanksgiving Day than to be there in front of the whole family and then at Westminster time than to see all these great dogs in the same place at the same time.

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