On Thanksgiving Day, quarterbacks won’t be the only ones barking signals. From noon to 2 P.M., the best dogs representing more than 170 breeds will vie for top honors in the 10th annual National Dog Show Presented by Purina on NBC. The event is hosted by The Kennel Club of Philadelphia and is regarded as one of top American Kennel Club-sanctioned dog shows.
More than 25 million viewers are expected to watch the show, which will be hosted by actor John O’Hurley, best known for his role as J. Peterman on Seinfeld, and David Frei, the voice of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
On the eve of the Thanksgiving Day special, Vetstreet’s Arden Moore caught up with O’Hurley and Frei, who’ve become friends beyond the show ring.
You two are like the dynamic duo of the dog world. Congratulations on teaming up again for this Thanksgiving tradition.
John O’Hurley: On screen, we have a partnership that clicks. Off screen, we have a deep friendship that’s shared by our wives and family.
David Frei: Dynamic duo? I’m not sure which one of us is Batman and which one is Robin. But John and I have become close friends. My wife, Cheri, is a Catholic chaplain and she arranged for John’s son to be baptized by the monsignor on the Upper East Side in New York City.
Is it true that you are also dog in-laws?
Frei: We have Cavalier King Charles Spaniels who are half-sisters from the same breeder. I have Angel and he has Sadie. The dogs have actually never met.
O’Hurley: Sadie has a bit of an overbite, so she doesn’t compete in dog shows, but she is adorable. David’s dog is the spitting image of Sadie, but we live on different coasts, so they don’t get to see one another. If they could, it would be as if they were looking at themselves in the mirror.
Do you remember the first time you met?
Frei: Definitely! We were in a production meeting for the first telecast of The National Dog Show. John walked into the room and he looked and sounded just like J. Peterman. We hit it off right away. I kept expecting to see Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer to pop in at any moment.
John, you’ve had great success teaming up with partners. You won the first Dancing with the Stars title with professional dancer Charlotte Jorgensen, and for 10 years, you’ve worked with David on the dog show. What’s it like?
O’Hurley: Charlotte is the #1 ballroom dancer in the world, and David is the most knowledgeable guy in the world about dogs. I feel quite fortunate.
So you don’t plan to challenge David to a game of canine trivial pursuit?
O’Hurley: Definitely not. He would kill me. I stand in his shadow.
John, any new challenges this year?
O’Hurley: We started this show with 162 breeds and we’re now up to 185 breeds that are recognized by the American Kennel Club. One breed is not so new, but it fell out of favor, and it’s now back. It’s taken me since October to learn how to correctly pronounce the name. I’m talking about the Mexican hairless, the Xoloitzcuintli. Let me say that name again, Xoloitzcuintli.
Frei: See how John can just have that name roll off his lips? The Xoloitzcuintli comes in three sizes. All six new breeds will be joining the party on Thanksgiving Day.
Any parting comments?
Frei: I grew up in a football family and I’m a football guy. You can see hundreds of football games all season, but only one National Dog Show on Thanksgiving. So I’m urging everyone to set their TVs to NBC at noon and hide the remote until 2:00.
O’Hurley: We plan to bring back some of the best clips for this 10th anniversary show. Call over your dog to join you on the couch. It’s fitting that the National Dog Show is shown on Thanksgiving, when people are all together. I promise that this show will have something for everyone, whether you’re nine or 90.
To learn more about The National Dog Show, and hear more from Frei, O’Hurley and other key people involved in the show, tune in to Arden Moore’s “Oh Behave” show on Pet Life Radio.