Tomorrow is a day for giving thanks and, if you’re like us over at Unleashed, one thing we’re thankful for is the National Dog Show. It’s become a family tradition for many … and has grown from a healthy viewership of 19 million in 2002 to what’s predicted to be closer to 30 million in 2017.
We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to catch up with the event’s host, John O’Hurley. (Yes, that John O’Hurley.) Not only did we learn that he recently added six-month-old Charlotte (a Yorkie/Pug/Pomeranian mix rescue) to his furry family of two 10-year-old pups Sadie (a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel) and Lucy (a Havanese), but we also learned a bit more about his experience on what he considers one of his favorite days of the year.
Unleashed: Obviously you love dogs, but why do you think the show is so popular?
John O’Hurley: Whether you’re four years old or 94, everyone can watch. When you have one remote and one TV, everybody's gathered in one room ... the dog show is fun because it's just something that nobody can disagree on … except maybe cat people.
Unleashed: How would you rate your dog expertise in year one versus now?
JO: I've probably gone from a 1 to a 7. I can look at a shepherd and say ‘yes, that may be the best shepherd we've seen in the life of the show.’ So my eye is getting much more trained.
Unleashed: How do you prep for the show — any special meal, fitness routine, outfit?
JO: It’s not an athletic event. (laughing) You know, I just don the tux. I just make sure the tux is clean. Although one year, I did arrive without my pants.
Unleashed: Uh oh, did you have to have someone bring them in?
JO: Well, we had to change with somebody else. I had to do a hand slap for a pair of pants.
Unleashed: Is there a particular breed you get most excited to see every year?
JO: I love seeing the Irish Setters. When they come into the arena, it's just eye catching against the blue carpeting there. It looks like an auburn ballerina coming in — they're very stately looking, very erect and I jokingly say that it looks like the redhead that just walked into the cocktail party. All the heads turn.
Unleashed: Then are there any breeds that historically get a really big crowd reaction?
JO: There are just particular dogs that have certain personalities, that just seem to have the wonderful leaps. They're just so glad to be there and the audience responds to that. There’s an adrenaline rush for the dog when you're around that many great smells and you're around that much human excitement. Every dog that's a champion is a champion for certain reason. They have a certain type of engagement with not only the judges but with the audience as well. So you'll see a champion because they know how to react in that environment.
Unleashed: What’s the funniest moment from a past show?
JO: One year in the Best in Show grouping, the Great Dane is sauntering around with the six other entries and stops right in front of the NBC booth. It was a black and white Great Dane — I remember it like it was yesterday — it stops and just turns around and looks at me straight in the eye, squats down and leaves a mess on the floor and you'd think an elephant had just come through. Then walks off just totally having forgiven itself. That stopped the show in its tracks. And we had to have something that looked like a hazmat team come out and sanctify and purify the area.
Unleashed: Yikes, what about this year — is there anything special that we should look out for?
JO: Yes! If you hashtag #dogthanking during the show, Purina will be donating a dollar for each of those social media [mentions] to go directly towards all the dogs affected by the weather tragedies. These dogs are abandoned in many cases because people either have perished or they're lost or they're displanted, and the dogs remain behind. Purina will be contributing up to $50,000 for all people that tweet in. They're a good company and they walk their talk.
Here's hoping this year includes lots of #dogthanking mentions and bingo games ... and little-to-no poop on the blue carpet. The 2017 National Dog Show airs on Thanksgiving Day at 12p.m. on NBC in all time zones.
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