Happy Friday: Many step up to help neglected dogs, Peanut finds a home

Peanut, a terrier/Corgi mix who was part of a neglect case, was spruced up free of charge by Green Paws Unlimited and had much-needed dental work done (also free) before going to his "forever home" on Friday.

Peanut, a terrier/Corgi mix who was part of a neglect case, was spruced up free of charge by Green Paws Unlimited and had much-needed dental work done (also free) before going to his “forever home” on Friday.

We could use a little good news these days, and we got some Friday. We happened to meet a friend at the Kent County Animal Shelter, who was waiting before the doors even opened to adopt a little terrier/Corgi mix named Peanut.

Peanut, whose name was Harmony when he came to the shelter, was one of the 37 dogs seized in late July in a neglect case in Grand Rapids.

Our friend had wanted Peanut from the get-go, and she finally was able to bring him to her home on a lake Friday morning. As we met at the shelter’s doors, Lisa LaPlante, communications manager for the Kent County Health Department, wandered over to share great news.

Peanut waits in the adoption room at the Kent County Animal Shelter as his new owner listens to instructions from the shelter worker. (Photo by Yvonne M. Reames)

Peanut waits in the adoption room at the Kent County Animal Shelter as his new owner listens to instructions from the shelter worker. (Photo by Yvonne M. Reames)

Area vets in Grand Rapids were doing a remarkable job with the dogs from the seizure case, most of home had severe dental disease. And when the bill came to pay for all that dental work… well, it didn’t come. They donated their services for these special dogs!

Dr. Laurie Wright, Kent County Animal Shelter veterinarian, had put out a call to west Michigan area vets to “adopt” a dog to provide the care they needed, KCAS said in a news release Friday.

If you know Dr. Wright and the respect she has earned in this community, you know the vets answered her call.

“Within minutes, I had veterinarians offering to care for these struggling pets,” Wright said in the release. “They wanted to make a difference in the lives of these dogs.”

So far, 11 veterinary offices have provided free care or pledged care: Great Lakes Hospital for Animals in  Belmont, Animal Medical Center of Wyoming, Kelly’s Animal Hospital in Walker, Eastown Veterinary Clinic of Grand Rapids, Northland Veterinary  Hospital of Rockford, Westwood Hills Animal Hospital of Grand Rapids, Allendale Animal Hospital, Wyoming Animal Hospital, Safe Harbor Veterinary of Cascade, Animal Hospital of Kentwood and Weisner, Innis & Schoen, PC of Grand Rapids.

In addition, Green Paws Unlimited has provided grooming services for many of the dogs, also free of charge. And a wonderful job they have done. For before and after pictures of their remarkable work, check out the Green Paws Facebook page as well as this feel-good story by Barton Deiters, who has been following the story for MLive.com.

Happy Friday!


Rescued dogs and puppies from South available at HS West Michigan

hswm puppies 1

The “Puppy Pipeline” to the Humane Society of West Michigan is now open! Potential adopters were lined up outside of HSWM a half hour before the facility even opened, hoping for a chance to adopt one of the 35 dogs and puppies that arrived in West Michigan Friday morning.

The dogs, the majority of which are puppies, arrived Friday morning from Dothan, Ala. They are of varying breeds, from spaniels to retrievers to huskies to Australian shepherds, and everything in between.

The Puppy Pipeline, out of southern states, connected with HSWM staff at the Humane Society of the United States national conference in Nashville, Tenn., in May. Since HSWM’s puppy room was virtually empty, the organization agreed to take this batch of puppies, who would have  been euthanized at their previous shelter because of overpopulation.

“Our number one priority is assisting the animal population in West Michigan,”  Trudy Ender, HSWM Executive Director, said in a news release. “In fact, we just transferred in 15 dogs from multiple shelters in West Michigan in the past few weeks. However, our puppy room has been empty the majority of the summer and we have the ability to adopt these puppies into loving homes rather than being euthanized due to lack of space in the South.”

The South struggles with spay/neuter programs as funding for shelters is scarce and they are facing an epidemic of dog overpopulation as a result.

“Our staff is excited about the chance to save these puppies’ lives while knowing we are helping to alleviate the overpopulation problems in the South,”  Nicole Cook, HSWM Marketing and Events Coordinator, said. “This transfer gives us an opportunity to stress the importance of spaying and neutering to our community and help West Michigan recognize that pet overpopulation is still a very serious problem in our nation.”

The puppies, ranging from four months to just weeks old, are being dewormed and vaccinated today. While potential adopters can fill out applications today for younger dogs, they likely won’t be available until the end of next week.

Here’s a glance at more of the dogs who arrived this morning.

A couple of the older dogs brought in on Friday wait in their kennel at HSWM. The dog on the left has only three legs.

A couple of the older dogs brought in on Friday wait in their kennel at HSWM. The dog on the left has only three legs.

Ashley Dahl of HSWM takes one of the puppies in for a vaccination.

Ashley Dahl of HSWM takes one of the puppies in for a vaccination.

Tiny puppies await their evaluations before they’re placed in the “puppy room” at HSWM.

Trudy Ender, executive director at HSWM, shows off one of the young puppies brought in Friday.

Trudy Ender, executive director at HSWM, shows off one of the young puppies brought in Friday.

Mike the puppy chews on his puppy medication after being examined.

Mike the puppy chews on his puppy medication after being examined.

One of the puppies seems curious about all the attention of the media.

Terry, an Australian shepherd mix, receives his oral medication.

Terry, an Australian shepherd mix, receives his oral medication.

Tiny puppies await their evaluations before heading to the "puppy room" at HSWM.

Tiny puppies await their evaluations before heading to the “puppy room” at HSWM.

One of the older puppies patiently awaits a turn at evaluation.


Potential adopters lined up outside the door a half hour before HSWM even opened on Friday.

A fresh look at some of the dogs in the GR seizure case


This gallery contains 14 photos.

When it was announced there would be an opportunity for media to meet some of the dogs forfeited to the Kent County Animal Shelter in the case against Kimberly Savino of Grand Rapids, Katy Batdorff Photography was on hand as … Continue reading

Dogs from Grand Rapids seizure case will need time, medical attention before adoption

Dr. Laurie Wright holds one of the puppies brought out to meet the media Friday.

Dr. Laurie Wright holds one of the puppies brought out to meet the media Friday.

The dogs seized in a Grand Rapids neglect case have been forfeited to the Kent County Animal Shelter. Now, it’s time to get them the help, the rehabilitation, the medical treatment, the loving homes they need and deserve.

Kimberly Savino, who faces criminal charges of neglect in the case involving the seizure of 39 dogs from her Grand Rapids home, did not pay Kent County the $106,430 required to hold the dogs until after her upcoming criminal trial. For the news story on the forfeiture, click here for Barton Deiter’s story on MLive.com.

The dogs, of varying breeds, mixes and sizes, became the property of KCAS on Friday afternoon. Dr. Laurie Wright, veterinarian at KCAS, and animal shelter staff brought some of the dogs, including 11-week-old puppies, out into the shelter’s play area to meet with the media. The dogs appeared happy and healthy.

The puppies will need to be spayed/neutered before they are available for adoption, Wright said. Other dogs still face an uphill road to recovery. Some of the dogs will be made available for adoption as soon as possible, likely at the end of next week. Many others will take longer.

But keep in mind, even those dogs available in the coming weeks will require patience from their new owners. They will need time to adjust to new surroundings. They have been in a kennel at the animal shelter since June 27, and can suffer from kennel stress as a result. As with adoption of any dog from a shelter, patience is the key.

All the dogs will be re-evaluated and it is likely many will be transferred to rescue agencies, some of which may place them into foster homes before they’re ready for adoption. Some have behavioral issues – they may show aggressive tendencies, anxiety or lack of socialization. They will need to be rehabilitated, and KCAS will work with individuals and rescue groups to ensure they get the training and behavior modification they need before they are made available for adoption.

“Some of the dogs have severe behavioral and medical issues that require treatment,” Kent County Animal Shelter Supervisor Carly Luttmann said in a news release. “We are working with partner agencies to help transfer these dogs to places that can best meet their needs. As dogs are treated and deemed ready for adoption, they will be moved from KCAS on-hold status to adoption kennels.”

The Humane Society of West Michigan is one option for the dogs. Trudy Ender, executive director of HSWM, said her staff would welcome some of the dogs.

“Humane Society of West Michigan will definitely partner and help to the best of our abilities in caring for these animals if the Kent County Animal Shelter needs us,” Ender said Friday. “We have a great relationship with KCAS and collaborate and partner in situations such as these.”

Most of the dogs need medical attention, particularly in the area of oral health. They came to KCAS with dental issues, some severe. Some have heart murmurs. Others have issues that will require daily medication. Medical treatment for these dogs will be expensive and will be ongoing, and I would caution anyone seeking to adopt them that they should be prepared to take on those expenses.

The animal shelter could be inundated with applicants once the dogs are put up for adoption. Again, patience will be required. The staff there will do its best to handle the influx of applications. They will take their time in deciding where the dogs in their facility will be placed. For dogs sent to other facilities or rescues, applicants will be screened by those groups once the dogs are available.

If you are interested in adopting an animal from the Kent County Animal Shelter, applications are available at ICPAWZ.com. Cost to adopt a dog, thanks to a grant from the Bissell Pet Foundation,  is $50, plus the licensing fee ($12 for one year, $30 for three-year license; $6/$15 for senior citizen adopters 62 or older).

Applications can be submitted to the animal shelter in person, via email or by fax. Getting an application in for pre-approval will expedite the adoption process. They may be emailed (Cathy.Hand@kentcountymi.gov) or faxed to 616-632-7324.

Dogs in Grand Rapids neglect case deserve a better life

Many of the dogs in Kimberly Savino's care were kept in small crates normally used for transport purposes.

Many of the dogs in Kimberly Savino’s care were kept in small crates normally used for transport purposes.

It is likely I’ll lose some Facebook friends over this blog post. I can’t be too concerned about that. Many of my friends on Facebook are mere acquaintances, people I’ve never met. Others already were my friends long before Facebook, or have become true friends the past several years. Those friends are the people with whom I surround myself.

Kimberly Savino, one of my friends on Facebook, falls into the “acquaintance” category. She is among a group of hundreds of Corgi owners to which I belong. Like many “friends” on Facebook, I have never spoken with her, never met her. I hadn’t seen her in person until Tuesday.

That’s when I sat in the courtroom in Grand Rapids listening to testimony at the hearing to determine whether dogs owned by Savino would have to be forfeited to Kent County. Savino has been criminally charged with neglect in a case involving 39 dogs seized from her home (or, more precisely, Sue and Ryen Strotheide’s home) by Kent County Animal Control. Kent County was seeking to have the dogs forfeited to them.

Savino, the defendant, wants the dogs returned to her. Savino testified she has, for many years, rescued dogs she said “other people didn’t want to deal with,” including those with special needs and medical issues. She moved to Grand Rapids from Massachusetts into the Strotheide home, in part because the city has no limit on the number of dogs allowed in a residence. She moved to their home in May 2013 as a temporary move. In June 2013, she said, she moved her permanently, but said the housing situation was temporary.

Yet the “temporary” arrangement had not changed by June 27, 2014, when animal control seized the dogs (including two dogs belonging to the Strotheides). Photos entered into evidence showed dog crates, the smaller plastic type in which animals are usually transported, stacked on top of one another in a room in the house. More dogs were in another room, also in crates. Yet more dogs were kept in the basement.

Animal control officer Joe Dainelis, who led the seizure, said many of the dogs could not turn around or stand up properly in their too-small crates. The house smelled of urine and feces and many of the crates (and dogs) also contained urine and feces, he said. Dainelis had visited the residence on previous occasions and had not filed any complaints, he testified.

Savino didn’t bring all her rescue dogs from Massachusetts at once. Some were rescued here in Michigan, from a Barry County shelter a few months ago. Savino’s own veterinarian who testified Tuesday said she saw only 10 dogs on an occasion in November 2013 and two more in December. The vet said she wasn’t aware Savino had 39 dogs until the news story came out and she was called to testify.

Kent County Animal Shelter veterinarian Laurie Wright was called to the stand and detailed the condition of each dog as they arrived at the shelter on June 27. She went through 37 dogs (the two dogs owned by the Strotheides are not included in this forfeiture), by name, and described their breed (or mix), sex, age (or approximate) and then condition. A video shown prior to her testimony showed the dogs upon intake and supported her testimony.

The majority of dogs were underweight and had dental diseases, overgrown toenails, ear infections and skin disorders. One tested positive for heartworm. Several had chronic eye problems. Most of the issues, Wright said, were to such a degree that the problems would have been easily recognized and are treatable.

Wright explained the dental health issues are rated on a grading scale of 1 to 4, with 1 being healthy and 4 on the other end of the spectrum. Of the 37 dogs presented (the Strotheide’s dogs were not included) into evidence, 11 had Grade 2 dental disease, 10 had Grade 3 and 10 had Grade 4. Five puppies were not included, nor was a Great Pyrenees who would not tolerate an oral exam because of pain and nervousness, Wright said.

Some dogs were missing teeth, including one with no teeth except the lower molars and another with exposed tooth roots and bone. Aside from the dental issues, Wright noted many of the dogs had feces matted in their coats (including one who needed a sanitary-area shaving in order to eliminate normally), urine soaked and stained feet, discharge from the eyes, and debris and hair in the ears, some of which were inflamed. A few had heart murmurs.

Savino testified the dogs were in fine condition before she and Sue Strotheide left for a trip to Massachusetts in late May. They were gone five days; Ryen Strotheide was in charge of the dogs. Savino said she found the dogs in distress and having seizures upon her return. They had not been fed or watered properly, she said. A door to the “dog room” was to be left open to allow for proper ventilation. Ryen had closed the door and opened blinds, causing overheating, Savino testified. Two dogs died within a couple of days of her return, despite her efforts to save them by rushing them to the emergency vet and performing CPR.

Shortly after the incident, and after he was served with divorce papers, Ryen Strotheide filed a neglect complaint against Savino. When asked why he hadn’t filed a complaint earlier, Ryen Strotheide said, “I thought things would get better. I thought we would develop a system. We were promised help and it never materialized.”

Wright said the condition of the dogs she witnessed was not a result of four or five days of neglect by Ryen Strotheide, but neglect that had built up over time. Judge James Robert Redford, in his ruling, agreed.

“I find the defendant’s testimony incredible,” Redford said. He said Savino’s claim that the conditions resulted from four days of neglect by Ryen Strotheide “is illogical and unsupported.”

“The defendant failed to provide adequate care and the manner in which the defendant chose to warehouse these animals (in transport crates) was completely inappropriate,” Redford said.

He offered two photos admitted into evidence, of the same room inside the home. One, admitted by the defense, showed the room in “perfect” condition, with a minimal number of crates, fresh paint, clean.

“I don’t know when exhibit G was taken,” Redford said, regarding the photo admitted by the defense. “But exhibit 7 (the peoples’ photo) was 24 days after Ryen (Strotheide’s) complaint and it is absolutely disgusting, the filth these animals were required to live in. “Thankfully, the dogs were taken out of the home.”

Redford ruled the county acted appropriately in seizing the dogs from the home. Savino was ordered to pay $106,430 by 4:45 p.m. Friday or forfeit the dogs. If she pays, the dogs will remain in the Kent County Animal Shelter until Nov. 30, at which point Savino’s criminal trial should be finished (a probable cause hearing is Aug. 28 in Grand Rapids District Court).

If she does not pay, the dogs will be turned over the animal shelter and eventually made available for adoption. It is likely west Michigan rescue organizations such as the Humane Society of West Michigan will offer assistance, as has been the case in the past with animals seized in puppy mill or hoarding cases.

After hearing testimony and watching the intake video, I couldn’t agree more with Judge Redford. These dogs deserve individual attention and love, not the kind of attention (or time) one person can give to 39 dogs under one roof. They need medical attention. They need to be free to run in their own yard, sleep in their own bed, eat outside their crates and drink water whenever they want.

They need to be dogs.

If Kimberly Savino truly loves these dogs, as she says, she will give them their freedom and not fight to keep them in the shelter until after her criminal trial for neglect.

It has been my experience that they will get that chance to be dogs once they are made available for adoption. West Michigan animal lovers certainly will line up with applications, ready to give the dogs the happy and loving homes they deserve.

At last, the saga of little Foxy has a happy ending (or beginning)

A little dog who went through a very strange odyssey has found her forever home.

The story of the Chihuahua mix is a sad and bizarre one, but alas, it has a happy ending (so far). At just eight weeks old, Foxy was “found” in a trash can by a young woman in  Grand Rapids. The woman said her family couldn’t keep the puppy, and did the right thing by bringing it to the Kent County Animal Shelter.

Foxy had a badly injured eye that required surgery, which was performed the day after she was brought in. The eye couldn’t be saved, but the veterinarian at Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners in Grand Rapids said because of her age, she should have no problems adjusting to life with one eye.

After the surgery, applications began pouring in from people interested in adopting Foxy.

This is where the story took a strange turn. Upon investigation, it was discovered that Foxy wasn’t “found” by the young woman… she had Foxy for a few weeks before turning her over to the animal shelter. The woman, who is 18, said she didn’t want to be perceived as a “bad person” for leaving an injured puppy at the animal shelter, so she made up the story of finding Foxy in the trash can.

In late February, while she was still recovering from surgery and awaiting adoption, Foxy had to be quarantined after she bit someone who came to visit her. It’s not unusual for a puppy to bite, nor is it unusual for an injured (or recovering) dog to bite. And while she didn’t have rabies or any other disease that would endanger a human, the quarantine was standard procedure at the animal shelter.

Finally, on Thursday, it was announced Foxy had found her forever home. Erin Fisher, a 28-year-old from Oceana County (just north of Muskegon County) is taking little Foxy home. Erin’s family had previously rescued a Yorkie that was missing an eye and has seen first-hand how well a dog can adapt. The fact that Erin also is familiar with smaller dog breeds bodes well for Foxy.

Here’s to a long and happy life for Foxy, and congratulations to Erin on the new addition to her family.

Senior dogs hold a special place in our hearts

RIP, Buddy

RIP, Buddy

When we decided to dedicate the March/April issue of Dogs Unleashed magazine to senior dogs, we knew it wouldn’t be easy. We sent out a call to senior dog owners to have portraits of their elderly canines shot for this special issue, and ended up with 27 dogs for our “Senior Portraits” gallery.

The owners braved the bitter January cold here in Michigan to attend two photo sessions, and we met some pretty special dogs, ranging in age from 6 to 16. As you’ll read in this issue, age is relative when it comes to labeling a dog “senior,” depending on the breed and size of the dog.

March April final cover
One of our favorites was Buddy, a 15-year-old mixed breed. Buddy had been rescued a few years ago from an abandoned home, where he survived for two weeks with no food or water. Nicole Notario-Risk, who adopted Buddy, is featured in a story about people who go out of their way to adopt senior dogs, giving them a loving home in their last years of life.

Sadly, Buddy passed away just a couple days ago. We’re so thankful to have met him and grateful to people like Nicole who find a way to open their hearts to make sure these special dogs have a few great years before the inevitable happens.

Be sure to pick up a copy of our special senior issue at Pet Supplies Plus stores in West Michigan, Dallas/Fort Worth, Birmingham, Ala., area and Appleton, Wis. It will be available in West Michigan later today and in our out-of-state stores early next week.

If you’d like the magazine delivered to your home, go to getdogsunleashed.com to subscribe.

When you glance through the pages and see the wonderful photography by Jennifer Waters, be sure to remember Buddy and know that he got what every dog deserves — although for him it came later in life — a home filled with love.

Puppy rescued from trash can faces surgery

Foxy, an 8-week-old Chihuahua mix, was found in a trash can in Grand Rapids on Monday night. She will undergo surgery for her injured eye on Wednesday.

Foxy, an 8-week-old Chihuahua mix, was found in a trash can in Grand Rapids on Monday night. She will undergo surgery for her injured eye on Wednesday.

Foxy is a survivor. And because of that, there’s no doubt she’ll wind up in a great home, surrounded by the love she deserves.

The 8-week-old Chihuahua mix was discovered discarded in a garbage can in Grand Rapids’ southeast side Monday night. A woman heard the puppy crying and pulled out the injured and cold Foxy. The woman took Foxy in for the night and contacted Kent County Animal Control on Tuesday.

Foxy, who weighs just 3.4 pounds, has an injured eye and will require surgery, scheduled for Wednesday.

“We noticed right away that the dog had issues with her left eye,”  Dr. Laurie Wright, Kent County Animal Shelter veterinarian, said in a news release. “It appears that she can see, but we could not tell how bad the damage to her eye was, and I knew it was something that needed a specialist’s attention.”

Wright contacted Dr. Cassandra Bliss of BluePearl Veterinary Partners, a board certified ophthalmologist who has assisted the KCAS with injured or impaired pets. Bliss is hopeful the eye can be repaired, but it may be necessary to remove it. She said she isn’t certain at this point if the eye injury was caused by trauma or is a birth defect, and won’t know until the surgery, or even after.

It’s likely the little dog will adjust whether she keeps the eye or not, said Lisa LaPlante, Marketing and Communications Manager for the Kent County Health Department, which oversees the animal shelter.

“With younger dogs who lose an eye or a limb, they don’t seem to realize it’s gone … they adjust that quickly,” LaPlante said.  “We’ve had quite a few successes with animals who lost an eye or a limb when they’re really young.”

LaPlante said it’s unlikely the animal shelter will investigate the incident as a cruelty case. She said because of the cold temperatures, it’s likely no one was around to see how Foxy was discarded in the trash.

“It’s going to be hard to prove anything at this point,” LaPlante said. “Given the fact there was all sorts of snow and it was cold out, no one saw anything. There’s not much to investigate.

“Our primary concern at this point is she gets healthy and gets adopted.”

There’s no doubt Foxy will find a loving home. Once LaPlante posted her story on IC Pawz, the animal shelter’s Facebook page, comments and phone calls began pouring in.

LaPlante said anyone interested in adopting Foxy, who also will undergo spaying during her surgery Wednesday, should visit the animal shelter at 700 Fuller NE in Grand Rapids, to fill out an application.  Having her spayed in necessary before the shelter can adopt out Foxy – or any other dog in their facility.

“They need to go through the (adoption) process,” LaPlante said. “All kinds of people might want to open up their hearts and homes to this dog, but can’t adopt her out to the first person who gets in line. We need to make sure they can give her a good loving home and know the expectations of adopting and owning a dog.”

Information on adopting pets from the Kent County Animal Shelter is available at icpawz.com. Adoption fees are $50, plus $12 for a one-year dog license. Cats from KCAS can be adopted for just $5.

Iago and his owner a tale of inspiration for those with PTSD

Our latest issue of Dogs Unleashed magazine features some pretty amazing dogs. When we first met Iago, a short burly pit bull with tightly cropped ears (we later learned his ears had been cut off and he was abused before he made his way into a shelter) we knew we had to feature him some day.

Iago, a rescued pit bull who is now a service dog, graces the cover of the latest issue of Dogs Unleashed. (Photo by Jennifer N. Waters)

Iago, a rescued pit bull who is now a service dog, graces the cover of the latest issue of Dogs Unleashed. (Photo by Jennifer N. Waters)

Iago and his owner, Shannon Schaefer, attended an event last year that both photographer Jennifer Waters and I also attended. We learned Iago was a service dog and that Shannon, a former U.S. Marine, suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. While he was hesitant to talk about it at the time, Shannon soon warmed up enough to tell his story to writer Susan Harrison.

The organization responsible for Iago and Shannon’s training, Stiggy’s Dogs, provided a few more  veterans for us to interview, and Susan wrote of the frustration of their condition and the appreciation and love for the dogs trained to help them cope with their mental and physical disorders. To a person, each veteran told Susan they don’t know where they’d be without their service dog.

While we featured just a few vets suffering from this very real disorder in the January/February issue of Dogs Unleashed, we know there are thousands more suffering. For many, a therapy dog might be the answer. Many states have organizations like Stiggy’s that work to pair up veterans and service dogs.

By publicizing the fact there is help for veterans suffering with PTSD — and for many dogs in shelters who can be trained to assist these veterans — it’s our hope readers will share these stories and perhaps provide a little help for those in need.

Mary Ullmer is creator and editor of Dogs Unleashed magazine. To subscribe to the print edition of the bi-monthly magazine for just $9.99 per year, click here



John O’Hurley, aka J. Peterman, has gone to the dogs

Editor’s note: The following feature story is reprinted from the November/December issue of Dogs Unleashed magazine. If you’d like to subscribe to Dogs Unleashed, click here.

Editor, Dogs Unleashed

John O’Hurley, the man with the perfect voice, has found the perfect dog.
The multi-talented star, perhaps best known for his role as J. Peterman on Seinfeld, discovered the perfect dog last year as he was preparing for his role as host of the annual National Dog Show Presented by Purina, which airs on Thanksgiving Day on NBC.

John O'Hurley graces the cover of the latest issue of Dogs Unleashed magazine.

John O’Hurley graces the cover of the latest issue of Dogs Unleashed magazine.

A couple nights before last year’s show, O’Hurley relaxed on the couch with his then 5-year-old son, Will, in his arms. Part of O’Hurley’s role with the National Dog Show is creating entertaining segments for the viewing audience.
Suddenly, the idea came to O’Hurley and he created the poem “The Perfect Dog.” In the poem, his son asks, “What is the perfect dog?” and, in Dr. Seuss fashion, O’Hurley does his best to find the answer.
In a video piece that aired during last year’s National Dog Show and received rave reviews, O’Hurley and his son search the event’s benching area where visitors can meet all the breed entries and chat with breeders. O’Hurley’s perfect voice recites the poem he had come up with just a couple days earlier.
The poem since has become a children’s book, The Perfect Dog, available at amazon.com. The book includes photos of dogs and O’Hurley’s son. And the cover features a photo of Will’s dog, Puppy, a stuffed animal.
“Puppy follows him around everywhere,” O’Hurley said. “We have two dogs at home (a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Sadie, and a Havanese, Lucy) that we cuddle with, but Puppy is his.
“He’s very excited about the book coming out because, obviously, there are copies of it that will be donated to his school and he’s going to be doing a reading. There aren’t many first-graders who have their own book.”

O'Hurley's latest venture, a children's book, is now available.

O’Hurley’s latest venture, a children’s book, is now available.

It shouldn’t be too difficult for Will to recite the book to his classmates. He has the poem memorized, O’Hurley said.
“I wrote it with him lying in my arms two nights before the show, so it’s kind of neat that just a year later here it is as a book,” he said.

Even before The Perfect Dog was published, it was touted by the Children’s Book of the Month Club. That’s not surprising, given O’Hurley’s previous success as an author.
His first book, It’s OK to Miss the Bed on the First Jump, made The New York Times bestseller list. He wasn’t aware of the book’s success until he received a phone call while at the hospital after the birth of Will in 2006.

“Will was born about 11:30 the night before, so I stayed in the room with my wife, Lisa. I had a cot in there,” O’Hurley said. “I woke up the following morning and I got this phone call and it was from New York. I was kind of in a daze from being up so late the night before. … They said, ‘Congratulations.’ I said, ‘Thank you very much, mother and child are doing wonderfully.’

“They said, ‘No, your book hit the New York Times bestseller list.’ So, it was a happy day all around.”

A dog lover at heart, O'Hurley has been hosting the National Dog Show since NBC started airing it.

A dog lover at heart, O’Hurley has been hosting the National Dog Show since NBC started airing it.

O’Hurley has experienced success in just about everything he has done. Not only is he known by millions for his four-year stint on Seinfeld, he also is the voice of King Neptune on the wildly popular cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants. He hosted the TV game show Family Feud and was declared the winner of the inaugural season of Dancing With The Stars.

He currently stars in the stage production of Chicago and has several stage appearances to his credit, including Spamalot. Perhaps a lesser-known fact about O’Hurley’s career: He’s also an accomplished composer. He has released two CDs, Peace of Our Minds (2005) and Secrets from the Lake (2008).

But it’s his love of dogs that has helped make him a successful author. Before Your Dog Can Eat Your Homework, First You Have to Do it: Life Lessons for a Wise Old Dog to a Young Boy was his follow-up to It’s OK to Miss the Bed on the First Jump and was inspired by his Maltese, Schoshi, who lived to be 21.

“In my first book, the premise was that dogs really teach us everything we need to know in life in terms of life lessons, so that’s why it was entitled It’s OK to Miss the Bed on the First Jump,” O’Hurley said. “Schoshi really was the model for the second book, lessons on manhood to my son. Schoshi totally distrusted that I would be able to teach anything on the nature of manhood to my son, so he took it upon himself to leave a series of notes under the foot of the big blue elephant that sat in the chair in my son’s room. So they’re little scraps of paper, little sayings on manhood … as best [Schoshi] understood them.”

O’Hurley has had dogs as far back as he can remember, starting with a Dachshund when he was 4.

“That dog kind of followed me everywhere, on all my little adventures at the swamp near our house in Boston,” O’Hurley said.

He has had rescue dogs and purebred dogs and has “no qualms or prejudice either way, nor do I think anyone should.” For those who might criticize dog shows for celebrating and developing purebred dogs, O’Hurley points out the main message of both dog shows and dog breeders.

“It celebrates the rich history of breeding, and breeding is an important part of responsible dog ownership,” he said. “They’re trying to secure the history of these breeds, and I think there is a certain place for that. It doesn’t mean a dog is less lovable if they’re not purebred, and it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t encourage adoption among people that don’t want to choose purebred dogs.

“But part of the whole program of the American Kennel Club and corresponding organizations is to teach responsible ownership of pets and that it’s a lifelong commitment and not something to be taken whimsically or temporarily. Unfortunately, too many of our shelters are filled with examples of people that don’t take [pet ownership] seriously. ”

David Frei, left, and John O'Hurley will once again be the voices of the National Dog Show presented by Purina, which airs on NBC on Thanksgiving.

David Frei, left, and John O’Hurley will once again be the voices of the National Dog Show presented by Purina, which airs on NBC on Thanksgiving.

O’Hurley has been involved with the National Dog Show since NBC began televising it in 2002, Jon Miller of NBC Sports took home a copy of the film Best in Show, a satirical look at the dog show world.

“He came in Monday morning and said, ‘I know what we’re going to do with the two-hour time slot we have on Thanksgiving Day. … We’re going to do a dog show,’ ” O’Hurley said. “Before they laughed him out of the office, he was able to license the show from the Philadelphia Kennel Club and had Purina jump on as a sponsor.

“The next day, he called me in Los Angeles … and said, ‘Woof, woof.’ And that’s how it started. He had me at ‘Woof, woof.’ ”

O’Hurley teams with analyst David Frei at the National Dog Show. Frei is communications director for the Westminster Kennel Club and serves as analyst of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show — the “Super Bowl” of dog shows — each February.

“We had never met [before the National Dog Show]. It was a blind date,” O’Hurley said. “But we became fast friends. He’s one of the most gracious and generous people, with the therapy dogs he helps to sponsor around the country and with his ‘Angels on a Leash’ program … it really is quite spectacular.”

Frei has a mutual admiration for O’Hurley.

“He’s a class guy, and I’m fortunate to have a guy like that as a [broadcasting] partner,” Frei said. “We’re good friends and have done a lot of family things together. If he didn’t live in L.A. and us in New York, we’d be doing a lot more.”

Frei said some of his favorite moments during the show come when O’Hurley seems to slip back to his Seinfeld days.

“It’s also fun because I’m a big Seinfeld fan,” Frei said. “So it’s fun to be sitting there sometimes and we’re watching the monitor or maybe doing a voice-over and he’ll say something. I’ll say, ‘That’s Peterman. … Where’s Jerry?’ And I look around for Jerry. And my wife is great at quoting the dialogue [from Seinfeld] to him, and he’ll bounce right back with a response that’s a scripted response.”

And what kind of dog would O’Hurley’s Seinfeld character own?

“My instinct … the first thing that pops into my mind is an Irish setter,” O’Hurley said. “I think since they’re not making dogs out of really exotic corduroy … I think there is something about the Irish setter that kind of bespeaks the whole Peterman — the auburn coat, the outdoor type of dog. I think Irish setter accessorizes the Peterman outfit perfectly.”

O’Hurley said his favorite thing about hosting the National Dog Show isn’t necessarily the show itself.

“I think my favorite thing is really not in the ring,” he said. “It’s when my wife and I get to walk up and down the aisles and there’s more than 2,000 dogs there, 170 breeds, and it’s just a wonderful day, a spirited day. Everybody’s happy.

“That’s the wonderful thing about being around dogs. Nobody’s in a bad mood. When you put 15, 20, 25,000 people in an arena and everybody’s in a good mood because they’re around the dogs, it’s a joyful experience every year.”

O’Hurley, who also has a motivational speech program he presents to colleges and businesses titled The Peterman Guide to an Extraordinary Life, said people can learn a lot from dogs. The main lesson, he said, is to live in the moment.

“Dogs have no sense of future and they have no sense of past,” he said. “If you don’t believe me, if you try to reprimand a dog for something they did 15 minutes ago on the carpet, I guarantee you they’ve already forgiven themselves for it.

“They live moment to moment to moment, and I think that’s the greatest lesson they teach. They’re always joyful because they’re not worried. They forgive themselves very easily and they have very few expectations beyond the present moment. And whatever you’re doing is infinitely more interesting than what they were thinking of doing.

“If you think about it, for we mere humans, time is the biggest burden we have. Most of our stress is caused by either dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. But for people who live in the present moment, like all dogs do, they have very few worries and very little stress.”