Raise the Woof! Bark Prize doghouse design contest returns to Home & Garden Show

Headed to the  West Michigan Home & Garden Show at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids this weekend? If you’re going (the show runs March 6-9), a MUST-SEE at the annual event is Bark Prize, a designer dog house competition.

The 2013 Best in Show winner at Bark Prize was a pirate ship design, complete with a "poop deck."

The 2013 Best in Show winner at Bark Prize was a pirate ship design, complete with a “poop deck.”

Five custom dog houses, designed and built by west Michigan companies, will be available to the public via silent auction. If you checked out the houses last year, you know your dog would be the envy of the neighborhood if you were to score one of these fabulous abodes.

And the best part is, 100 percent of the proceeds from the silent auction benefit the BISSELL Pet Foundation. Last year, $2,000 was raised for BPF, a non-profit started right here in west Michigan by Cathy Bissell.

The organization’s mission is to help reduce the number of animals in shelters, and to support organizations dedicated to the humane care and treatment of animals through pet adoption, spay and neuter programs, micro-chipping and foster care. BPF has given nearly $1.2 million to support homeless pets across the country in less than two years of existence.

Last year’s Bark Prize winner (the public can vote for “Best in Show”) was “Scally’wag,” a dog house designed like a pirate ship. It even included a “poop deck.” It was built by Mike Fraser of Out On A Limb Playhouses. Fraser will back this year with “Ye Olde Paw Mill,” a dog house resembling a saw mill, complete with a fully functioning water wheel.

“Last year’s Bark Prize custom dog houses were so unique and so fun and raised $2,000 for homeless pets, so we knew we had to make this an annual event,” Cathy Bissell said in a news release about this year’s event.  “The idea behind Bark Prize came from Mike Fraser, who owns Out on a Limb Playhouses. We are so thankful for that idea, and to the Home & Garden Show for welcoming the fundraiser and to all the builders giving time and materials to create the custom dog houses. The West Michigan community is very supportive and giving toward our animal welfare organizations, and this is a great opportunity to raise even more awareness.”

 The featured dog houses range in value from $250 to $4,000, so there’s something for everyone. They’ll be on display in the Grand Foyer at DeVos Place, outside the Expo Halls.

Whether you bid on a custom dog house or not, you need to stop by the exhibit and appreciate the creativity of these designers and builders. And don’t forget to add your vote to “Best in Show.”

 

 

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.

Dental cleaning, surgery for older dogs fine — with proper testing beforehand

Editor’s note: With pet dental health month upon us, we turned to Dr. Wendy Swift,  Associate Veterinarian at Ottawa Animal Hospital in Michigan and owner of Affinity For Nature LLC, to help answer a reader’s question regarding getting her senior dog’s teeth professionally cleaned.    

Dear Dr. Swift,

My veterinarian has recommended a growth removal and dental cleaning for my 14-year-old Shih Tzu.  I do not think my dog can safely have surgery, and why should a dental cleaning be performed if all she really needs is a growth removal?

Dear Reader,

Your pet’s age should not dictate whether or not surgery and a dental cleaning should be considered.  At 14, your dog should have pre-anesthetic bloodwork performed, including liver, kidney, and blood sugar tests, to ensure that there are no systemic organ concerns.  A complete physical exam also is essential, along with a specially tailored anesthetic protocol to fit your dog’s age, breed and current condition.

The growth removal should be considered if the mass is growing rapidly, if it bothers your dog or if it is ulcerated. Surgery should be performed immediately as your dog most likely has a mass that is potentially cancerous.  If the mass is slow growing and not changing in shape and feels soft, an aspirate of the mass should be performed and a cytology can indicate whether there is a concern for cancer or not.

Location of the mass may also play a part in whether it should be removed. Masses on the lower part of the legs are difficult to close surgically and should be excised when they are small.  Masses in the armpit and inguinal areas are also areas of concern as masses here can impede your dog’s ability to move. Even fatty masses in these areas should be removed.

The "cone of shame" has come a long way, with more streamlined collars available (such as this inflatable one) to keep your dog from licking incisions without banging into everything in sight.

The “cone of shame” has come a long way, with more streamlined collars available (such as this inflatable one) to keep your dog from licking incisions without banging into everything in sight.

Pet oral care is an essential part of maintaining a healthy dog.  At 14, your small breed dog most likely has signs of dental disease.  It is very important that a dental prophylactic cleaning be performed as directed by your veterinarian to prevent bacteria from spreading from the mouth to the rest of the organs of the body.  Routine dental cleanings can prevent kidney, liver and heart disease.

Check out some exciting information on National Pet Dental Health Month that is occurring in February at the AVMA website.  Share your oral health success stories and learn more on how to properly care for your pet’s oral health.

There are always risks when placing a pet under anesthesia, but if all concerns are addressed before hand, age is not a determining factor in performing a much-needed surgery or dental cleaning.  Speak with your veterinarian about any questions you may have before the procedure, including recovery time and any possible complications. Ask if any medications or special foods will be necessary after surgery.  It is always better to plan ahead for pain management, including canned food if needed after tooth extractions.

An e-collar, otherwise referred to as “the cone of shame,” may need to be worn if there is concern with incision licking. New streamlined e-collars are available that are a ring shape and are worn with your dog’s collar. These provide the anti-licking protection you are looking for without the awkward cone shape bumping into walls and doors or knocking items off the coffee table. Make sure you have a crate or quiet room available if your dog’s activity has to be restricted after surgery.

Overall, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so follow all discharge instructions and your dog will soon be on the road to recovery and have wonderful kissable puppy breath!

 

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

 

 

New west Michigan animal welfare alliance debuts Saturday at Grand Rapids event

A terrific event is happening on Saturday that will benefit animals in need all over west Michigan.

Thanks to a collaborative group of animal welfare advocates, shelter animals in west Michigan will have a better chance at finding a loving home.

Thanks to a collaborative group of animal welfare advocates, shelter animals in west Michigan will have a better chance at finding a loving home.

The Subaru of America “Share the Love” event takes place at Delta Subaru, 6025 28th Street in Grand Rapids, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Subaru of America has joined with several charities, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, to donate $250 from the purchase or lease of every new Subaru. The buyer can designate which of the participating charities, including ASPCA, gets the donation.

But Saturday’s event is about more than just getting a slick new Subaru. It also marks the “coming out party,” if you will, of the West Michigan Network of Animal Protection. The WMNAP is a collaboration of six area animal welfare organizations working to increase pet adoptions and put an end to pet overpopulation and euthanasia through education, advocacy and spaying/neutering of animals. The six organizations forming WMNAP currently represent care for 95 percent of west Michigan’s homeless pet population.

Many in west Michigan already are familiar with the organizations that make up WMNAP: Kent County Animal Shelter, Humane Society of West Michigan, Community Spay and Neuter Initiative Partnership (C-SNIP), Vicky’s Pet Connection, Carol’s Ferals and Reuben’s Room Cat Rescue. The groups began meeting in late 2011 and WMNAP has been busy planning throughout 2013. It was awarded a $5,000 capacity building grant from the Dyer-Ives Foundation in May.

As part of Saturday’s festivities, WMNAP and Delta Subaru have created an off-site adoption event at the Grand Rapids dealership. If you’ve been thinking of getting a new dog or cat for the holidays, come by and meet some of the shelter animals available.  There also will be free pet ID tagging, dog licensing and appointments for low-cost spay and neuter.

Attendees also can help “Stuff the Subaru Outback” with donated pet food and supplies for homeless pets under the care of WMNAP partners.

The logo for the new group dedicated to helping animals in west Michigan.

The logo for the new group dedicated to helping animals in west Michigan.

If you’ve had interaction with any of the organizations involved in WMNAP, you no doubt are aware of the struggles they face every day. By joining forces, the groups can brainstorm new ideas, share resources and simply help one another out. West Michigan is fortunate to have such a dynamic and dedicated group working on behalf of the homeless animals in our area.

“Nearly 10,000 pets are still entering the two largest shelters servicing our community each year,” Jennifer Self-Aulgur of HSWM said in a news release. “The bleak reality for these animals is that there simply are not resources to find all of them a home. In 2012, positive outcomes were achieved for 43 percent of the animals entering the shelters.  Working together and sharing new and innovative ideas is the only way we will be able to help solve the problem of pet overpopulation and homeless pets in our community.”

I urge you to take the time to stop by the event Saturday. You can meet the folks behind the WMNAP, discuss how you can be a part of their efforts and help the homeless animals of west Michigan. Don’t forget to bring some dog or cat food to “Stuff the Subaru Outback,” which has a direct impact on our homeless cats and dogs.

Inside the show ring at the 2013 National Dog Show

Dogs Unleashed magazine photographer Jennifer Waters attended the 2013 National Dog Show presented by Purina on Nov. 16 and captured some beautiful images of the breed winners as they took to the ring for Group competition.

Here’s a look at her great photos from the show, which airs on Thanksgiving from noon to 2 p.m. on NBC.

The Pekingese requires quite a bit of grooming, even on the judge's table.

The Pekingese requires quite a bit of grooming, even on the judge’s table.

The Bischon Frise focuses on a treat before heading to the meet the judge.

The Bischon Frise focuses on a treat before heading to the meet the judge.

The Norfolk terrier often is confused with the Norwich terrier. Here's a handy tip: Norwich terriers have pointed ears, like a witch's hat, while a Norfolk terrier's ears are down.

The Norfolk terrier often is confused with the Norwich terrier. Here’s a handy tip: Norwich terriers have pointed ears, like a witch’s hat, while a Norfolk terrier’s ears are down.

The bearded collie, despite the name, looks nothing like "Lassie."

The bearded collie, despite the name, looks nothing like “Lassie.”

Schnauzers come in three sizes: Giant, standard and  miniature.

Schnauzers come in three sizes: Giant, standard and miniature.

The American foxhound shows his stuff.

The American foxhound shows his stuff.

The Portuguese water dog is the same breed as Bo and Sunny, the famous dogs currently residing in the  White House.

The Portuguese water dog is the same breed as Bo and Sunny, the famous dogs currently residing in the White House.

The German shepherd dog strikes a perfect pose.

The German shepherd dog strikes a perfect pose.

The Pembroke Welsh corgi, shown here, is slightly different than the Cardigan, which has a tail.

The Pembroke Welsh corgi, shown here, is slightly different from the Cardigan, which has a tail.

The locks on a Puli form naturally and feel a bit like felt.

The locks on a Puli form naturally and feel a bit like felt.

This Brittany spaniel zeroed in on our photographer.

This Brittany spaniel zeroed in on our photographer.

It's understandable why the Komondorok (referred to as the Komondor) is a fan favorite.

It’s understandable why the Komondorok (referred to as the Komondor) is a fan favorite.

Yes, there's a whole lot of skin, and weight, to the Neapolitan Mastiff.

Yes, there’s a whole lot of skin, and weight, to the Neapolitan Mastiff.

The boxer, standing at attention, is another crowd pleaser.

The boxer, standing at attention, is another crowd pleaser.

This Ibizan hound looks a little perturbed at the handling by the judge.

This Ibizan hound looks a little perturbed at the handling by the judge.

The flowing coat as it runs through the ring is a characteristic of the Afghan hound.

The flowing coat as it runs through the ring is a characteristic of the Afghan hound.

The wire fox terrier was Best in Show at the 2012 National Dog Show.

The wire fox terrier was Best in Show at the 2012 National Dog Show.

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The Samoyed is white as pure snow.

The big dogs enter the ring as part of the Working Dog Group.

The big dogs enter the ring as part of the Working Dog Group.

The wirehaired Dachshund is one of three varieties of Dachshunds. The others are smooth and longhaired.

The wirehaired Dachshund is one of three varieties of Dachshunds. The others are smooth and longhaired.

Beagles come in two varieties: 16-inch and 13-inch.

Beagles come in two varieties: 16-inch and 13-inch.

Despite their appearance, Whippets are not miniature greyhounds (but they are fast!).

Despite their appearance, whippets are not miniature greyhounds (but they are fast!).

Host John O'Hurley is busy at work taping the show for broadcast on NBC.

Host John O’Hurley is busy at work taping the show for broadcast on NBC.

To the winners go the spoils ... and this awesome trophy.

To the winners go the spoils … and this awesome trophy.

Happy Thanksgiving: Behind the scenes at the National Dog Show

Dogs Unleashed magazine sent photographer Jennifer Waters to the 2013 National Dog Show presented by Purina, held Nov. 16 in Philadelphia.

John O’Hurley, host of the show’s broadcast on NBC, is featured in the November/December issue of Dogs Unleashed. To subscribe to the bi-monthly magazine, click here.

Here’s a sneak peek at Jennifer’s photos from the benching area of the show, which airs on Thanksgiving from noon to 2 p.m. on NBC. Stay tuned for more photos from the show!

 

Chauncey, a Hungarian Komondor, shakes off in protest while being blow-dried by owner Denise Wilczewski, just minutes before showing.

Chauncey, a Hungarian Komondor, shakes off in protest while being blow-dried by owner Denise Wilczewski, just minutes before showing.

With all the primping and prepping over, Chauncey waits for his turn in the ring. Owner Denise Wilczewski asked spectators not to pet him, but explained that his fur feels like felt.

With all the primping and prepping over, Chauncey waits for his turn in the ring. Owner Denise Wilczewski asked spectators not to pet him, but explained that his fur feels like felt.

Jenny, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, gets a brush and a little turn with a curling iron to tame a cowlicky tuft of hair. Jenny is co-owned, so she splits her time between a home in Connecticut and one in Massachusetts, depending on her show schedule.

Jenny, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, gets a brush and a little turn with a curling iron to tame a cowlicky tuft of hair. Jenny is co-owned, so she splits her time between a home in Connecticut and one in Massachusetts, depending on her show schedule.

Who can resist a look at the Basset hounds?

Who can resist a look at the Basset hounds?

Yes, there was time for a little fun and a treat, even in the show ring.

Yes, there was time for a little fun and a treat, even in the show ring.

Believe it or not, this big clump of fur is a standard poodle being groomed for the show.

Believe it or not, this big clump of fur is a standard poodle being groomed for the show.

 Daphne, a Westie from Florida, kills time in the bench area watching The Adventures of Tintin on an iPad. Owner Loren Marino, who now uses Daphne as a service dog instead of a show dog, explains that Daphne can use a remote to change channels, and can even turn the TV off if someone tries to watch a show she doesn't like.

Daphne, a Westie from Florida, kills time in the bench area watching The Adventures of Tintin on an iPad. Owner Loren Marino, who now uses Daphne as a service dog instead of a show dog, explains that Daphne can use a remote to change channels, and can even turn the TV off if someone tries to watch a show she doesn’t like.

This standard poodle seems to be a little annoyed with all the goings-on backstage.

This standard poodle seems to be a little annoyed with all the goings-on backstage.

8-year-old Awen, a Gordon Setter, gets his ears wrapped by owner and handler Iris Kaye Frankel. Wrapping keeps the freshly washed and dried ears from dragging in dog food when Awen gets a meal.

8-year-old Awen, a Gordon Setter, gets his ears wrapped by owner and handler Iris Kaye Frankel. Wrapping keeps the freshly washed and dried ears from dragging in dog food when Awen gets a meal.

This golden retriever struck a perfect pose while being readied for the ring.

This golden retriever struck a perfect pose while being readied for the ring.

 Another breed newly sanctioned by the AKC is the Chinook, a sled dog developed in New Hampshire. Callista, shown here, was one of two Chinooks in the National Dog Show, both owned by Karen Hinchy of New Jersey.

Another breed newly sanctioned by the AKC is the Chinook, a sled dog developed in New Hampshire. Callista, shown here, was one of two Chinooks in the National Dog Show, both owned by Karen Hinchy of New Jersey.

 Tango, the Portuguese Podengo Pequeno, is the No. 1 Podengo in the country, according to owner Stacy Faw of Florida. The Portuguese Podengo Pequeno was just recognized by the AKC.

Tango, the Portuguese Podengo Pequeno, is the No. 1 Podengo in the country, according to owner Stacy Faw of Florida. The Portuguese Podengo Pequeno was just recognized by the AKC.

This Xoloitzcuintle, or Xolo for short, got a lot of attention in the bench area for his unusual hairless skin. Most notable were pale scratches all over the skin, which, according to his owner, go away each time the dog goes in the sun--only to come back next time he gets an itch!

This Xoloitzcuintle, or Xolo for short, got a lot of attention in the bench area for his unusual hairless skin. Most notable were pale scratches all over the skin, which, according to his owner, go away each time the dog goes in the sun–only to come back next time he gets an itch!

Velvet, a 6-month-old Smooth-Coated Dachshund, sleeps in owner Kevin Herkelman's arms after his turn in the ring. Velvet is still learning the ropes as a show dog, and while he's worn out, Herkelman says the young dog is doing well.

Velvet, a 6-month-old Smooth-Coated Dachshund, sleeps in owner Kevin Herkelman’s arms after his turn in the ring. Velvet is still learning the ropes as a show dog, and while he’s worn out, Herkelman says the young dog is doing well.

Afghan hounds line up for the judge during breed judging.

Afghan hounds line up for the judge during breed judging.

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.

By MARY ULLMER
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.

DOG SHOW GUY
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.”

LESSONS FROM THE DOG
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.”

RIP Little Pup, the love of Dad’s life

Bella, aka Little Pup. March 25, 2000-Nov. 4-2013

Bella, aka Little Pup. March 25, 2000-Nov. 4-2013

I was with my dad when he held Little Pup for the first time. It was only fitting that I was with him when he said his last good-bye this morning.

The first time Dad held Pup on the day he got her.

The first time Dad held Pup on the day he got her.

The 13½ years in between can’t be summed up in one little blog post. Pup, whose real name is Bella, had a life most dogs can only dream of. Dad treated her as if she were his child, the way many of us treat our beloved pets. Yet, as Dad’s actual child, I can tell you he treated her even better.

From the minute he got Pup all those years ago, Dad was in love. The little black and white Jack Russell terrier sat in my lap on the way home from picking her up at a little more than 6 weeks old, but only because Dad was driving. She landed on a 10-acre wooded parcel in Montague, where she and Dad would take multiple daily walks, in between dog naps and car rides.

Dad faithfully took Pup for a ride “into town” every day for the past several years. He stopped putting outgoing mail in his mailbox for the carrier to pick up, choosing instead to drive to the post office in town, Pup in tow, to send out bills or correspondence. It got to the point where Pup expected her daily rides, and Dad happily obliged.

The last picture of Dad with Pup, taken Sunday.

The last picture of Dad with Pup, taken Sunday.

Dad talked to anybody who would listen about his dog. He carried a picture in his wallet, a snapshot of Dad and Pup after graduation from obedience school. He’d proudly show friends – and strangers – that photo, explaining how she graduated third in her class (there were three dogs in that particular class).

Our own dogs would visit Pup on a regular basis. When Dad used to visit his friend in Texas during the winter, Pup would stay with us. Likewise, when we went away, Dad would welcome our dogs to spend time at “Camp Skeeter.” He’d have to be careful not to tip off Pup in either case, lest she get over excited a day or two early.

Pup’s last ride, aside from the one to the vet, was at 6 o’clock this morning. It was followed by a final walk in the woods, just as the sun was coming up. Dad couldn’t sleep, knowing his heart would be broken in just a few hours, so he wanted to get in one final ride and walk.

Pup had quit eating last week, a sure sign of a serious problem in a dog pushing 14. The vet confirmed Dad’s worst fear, that Pup’s days were numbered. Spots on her body and face that were once pink – inside the ears, the gums, her belly – now were jaundice, a telltale sign that cancer was ravaging her little body and has made its way to the liver.

After we got the results last Friday, the vet gave Dad the weekend to see if Pup would eat. If she did, she might be OK to live out her days without intervention. I think the three of us – the vet, Dad and me – all knew what was in store, but none of us wanted to say it just yet. While I wondered at the time about prolonging the inevitable, I’m so very glad Dad had the weekend to spend with her.

The picture from Pup's obedience school graduation, which Dad still carries in his wallet.

The picture from Pup’s obedience school graduation, which Dad still carries in his wallet.

My heart is aching for my dad, and for Pup. We visited Sunday, and as Dad broke down, Pup acted more worried about Dad than she did about her own demise. She didn’t have any signs of being sick until she stopped eating last week, perhaps knowing in the way dogs know things that she couldn’t put Dad through a long drawn-out process of trying to save her only to be left with the same inevitable result. She would do anything for Dad, and he for her. Their bond was that great.

Dad said to me more than once the past few days that he has no idea what he’ll do with himself without his little dog. Pup has been his life for so many years, starting their days with walks in the woods every morning and ending them when Pup paced in front of him in his recliner, signaling she was ready to go to bed. He’s not sure how he’ll get through the days now.

We’ll be there for him, I know, and he’ll survive, he knows. He also knows that, once he’s had time to grieve, he’ll get another dog, a shelter or rescue. As much as losing Pup hurts, Dad’s heart is big enough and strong enough to give to another dog.

For now though, he’ll spend his days walking in the woods, alone this time, the pain subsiding a little each passing day. And he will remember the sheer joy his Little Pup brought to his life.

RIP, Little Pup, and thank you for the joy you brought to Dad.

RIP, Little Pup, and thank you for the joy you brought to Dad.