It’s difficult to find something that John O’Hurley can’t do. The man is the epitome of versatility.
Mainstream stardom for O’Hurley started in 1995 when he portrayed J. Peterman, a fictionalized version of clothing catalog entrepreneur John Peterman, on the hit sitcom “Seinfeld.” The role earned him a Screen Actor’s Guild Award.
His popularity continued to climb in 2005 when he was a contestant on the first season of “Dancing with the Stars,” when he reached the final competition but lost to soap opera star Kelly Monaco. Fans cried foul, and a “grudge match” dance-off competition was held, which resulted in O’Hurley emerging as the winner. He was later named one of People magazine’s “Sexiest Men Alive.”
He’s starred in several daytime dramas and TV movies, has hosted “Family Feud” and “To Tell the Truth” game shows and performed voiceover work for countless TV shows and videos, including “The Looney Tunes Show,” “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “Hey Arnold!,” “Kim Possible” and “Buzz Lightyear of Star Command.” He’s no stranger to the Broadway stage and has toured the country with such hits as “Chicago” and “Spamalot.”
A self-taught pianist and classically trained vocalist, he’s also released two Billboard-charting album projects entitled “Peace of Our Minds” and “Secrets from the Lake.”
Since 2002, the noted dog enthusiast has been seen by millions of homes every Thanksgiving Day, when NBC airs The National Dog Show Presented by Purina. The Kennel Club of Philadelphia’s annual show has become a family tradition, with TV viewership growing from 18 million in the first year to nearly 30 million in 2017.
O’Hurley has his own opinion as to why the show, which is sanctioned by the American Kennel Club, is so popular.
“I think a lot of it has to do with the circumstances of programming,” he said. “Thanksgiving is the most important family day of the year, even more so than Christmas. It’s a day when families are gathered together, and the dog show comes off the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. It’s something there for everybody. If you’re 4 or 94, everybody loves to look at the close-up of a dog’s face on a large-screen TV.
“The appeal of the show is everybody loves their dog,” he continued. “It is television everyone can watch on the biggest family day of the year. It’s something everyone can watch and nobody disagrees with it. And it’s an easy show to watch.”
There’s no mistaking that The National Dog Show Presented by Purina has become an annual tradition for dog devotees. Due to its successful track record, O’Hurley was selected to host the Beverly Hills Dog Show Presented by Purina, which premiered in 2017 and is hosted by the Kennel Club of Beverly Hills each spring.
“The Philadelphia show, which is the national show, is the standard, elegant show,” he said of the comparisons between the two dog shows. “It has a long, right history. The Beverly Hills show is a bit more casual. It’s a dog show done differently. It’s more of a Hollywood celebrity event. We have a little more fun with it, as only Tinseltown could. For the Best in Show class, we’ve designed the arena to look like a Victoria’s Secret runway.”
“I’m a better person because of dogs,” he said. “I’ve had dogs ever since I was 4 years old. My first was a little brown dachshund named Taffy. She followed me down to the swamp every day. My one-man show [called ‘A Man With Standards’]… includes a story about her.
“I believe that dogs are the closest representation that we have to what we refer to as angels,” he continued. “Their job is to love us; it’s unconditional and permanent. In that regard, they are the closest things we have to angels.”
Dogs have also inspired O’Hurley to be a writer. He is an author of two New York Times Bestsellers, “It’s OK to Miss The Bed on Your First Jump, and Other Life Lessons I Learned From My Dogs” and its sequel, “Before Your Dog Can Eat Your Homework, First You Have to Do It.”
“Every year, I write something for the dog show — sort of an Andy Rooney piece,” O’Hurley said. “One year, I wrote an essay on life lessons I’ve learned from my dog. It was way too long and they couldn’t use it for the show, so it ended up on the scrap heap. On the flight back to LA, I thought it was an interesting idea. I fleshed it out and came up with 15 different things that I could honestly say are life lessons we could learn from our dogs. I thought, ‘That could be a good book,’ and I had never written a book. Whatever my imagination tells me to do, I do. I found a literary agent and, lo and behold, I had a publishing deal.”
The book covers feature O’Hurley with his own dogs, a Maltese named Scoshi (who was a birthday gift in the early-90s from his wife at the time) and Betty, a dachshund-black Lab mix that he found as a stray.
“Betty was a stray that I found lost in a field,” he said. “I had her from the mid-90s to 2009. She looked like the perennial black Lab puppy. When she ran, she ran on three legs, but never on the same three legs. She instinctively picked one up. She was a doll. What a sweetheart of a dog.”
After the success of his first book, he decided to write a second one, but with a different background, one that was somewhat biographical.
“The premise of the second book was that my wife was giving birth to our child, Will,” he recalled. “Scoshi knew he was getting on in age, and he knew he wouldn’t live long enough to really be a companion to my son. Scoshi wrote his lessons of manhood as he understood it, on little scraps of paper the he would place under the big blue elephant that sat next to my son’s feeding chair. Each of these scraps of paper by the dog to my son were the chapters in the book on how to be a man.
“It was very fun,” he added. “In many respects, it’s a letter from me to my son, but everything was from the perspective of the dog.”
In 2013, he published his third book, a children’s novel titled “The Perfect Dog.”
“Again, it was me trying to write something for the dog show,” O’Hurley explained. “I wanted to write something that was poignant. Right before the dog show, late one night, my son was sitting in my arms. He asked, ‘Dad, is the dog that is best in show, is that the perfect dog?’ I thought that’s an interesting question. That’s what I’m going to write about this year. I wrote a poem, ‘The Perfect Dog,’ to answer my son’s question.
“When I finished it, I did a video of it during the dog show, and it turned out to be so darn popular, people wrote and wanted a copy of the poem, so I wrote it really as a children’s book,” he continued. “The premise is that the dog that is perfect is the one next to you. My son’s stuffed animal, which is called Puppy, is the one on the cover. Puppy still sleeps with him every night.”
In 2015, the Amazon best-seller was turned into a children’s musical by Eric Idle of the famed British comedy group, “Monty Python.” “The Perfect Dog,” the children’s show, premiered during dog show week and has since expanded beyond dog show week to being performed all over the world.
Although Scoshi and Betty have passed — within a year of each other — O’Hurley currently has three dogs at home.
Two of the dogs, Lucy the Havanese and Sadie the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, are both 11 years old.
The newest addition was introduced due to O’Hurley’s support for many fundraising efforts that benefit animal shelters across the country. He traveled to Maryland Heights, MO, in April 2017 to help dedicate a new facility at the Humane Society of Missouri.
“I was helping the humane society open its $35M state-of-the-art hospital and surgery center,” he recalled. “I was doing the keynote there, and I thought it would be appropriate if I was holding a dog. [The organizers] said, ‘Great idea!’ I went back into the shelter and, you know, dogs find you, you don’t find them. This little Toto-looking dog of many mixed breeds happened to catch my eye. It was this little rust-colored dog. I said, ‘You’re coming with me.’ I took her out, went to the podium, began my remarks and the dog started burrowing into my jacket. Every time I would say something more, the dog would burrow further into my jacket and the press would all go, ‘Aww.’
“This went on and on, so when I finally finished my remarks, all I had were two little legs and the back of a tail sticking out,” he laughed. “The rest of the dog had burrowed itself underneath my arm, and it was sleeping under there. I quietly opened the lapel of my jacket and said, ‘Does anyone want to come back to Beverly Hills?’ Sure enough, we had her on the flight that day, and the rest is history.”
According to the humane society, Janelle — now named Charlotte — was approximately 3 months old when she met O’Hurley.
“John brought just the right spotlight to the grand opening of the Humane Society of Missouri’s new Best Buddy Pet Center in St. Louis,” said Kathy Warnick, president of the Humane Society of Missouri. “His regal manner, hilarious wit and big heart for our mission of giving second chances to abused, neglected animals set the perfect tone as we proudly dedicated our magnificent new facility. Watching him unexpectedly and immediately fall in love with an adorable little Norfolk terrier mix available for adoption was truly heartwarming. Putting them both on the plane to California was the icing on our celebration cake!”
“Charlotte’s changed our lives,” O’Hurley explained. “She is the little sergeant of the house. She has taken these other two dogs and has moved them into ship shape. She gets them up and running every morning. They’re more active than they have ever been because of Charlotte.”
As host of “Pet Shoppe with John O’Hurley” on Evine, a multi-channel video retailer, O’Hurley has the opportunity to try a vast array of pet products with his dogs. When asked about his favorites, there are two must-have items that he recommends for dog owners.
“I’m a careful owner, but I let dogs be dogs,” he said. “I’m a fan of the no-pull leashes that cincture the dog behind the front legs so you’re giving a compression to the chest area rather than dragging their neck around. Just turn your wrist and the dog feels the compression [around its rib cage].
“I’m also a big proponent of having moving water for your dog,” he continued. “There are several aerators and fountains for hydration. Dogs are wild animals and, instinctively, if they see a stream or moving water, they will drink from it. It’s been proven time and time again, when water moves, dogs will drink more of it. And the more they drink, the healthier they will be. Keep the water moving, because the more water dogs drink, the healthier their entire system gets.”
He’s also putting his knowledge of pet products to use by creating his own line of pet supplements, called Pet Power ZX.
“A dog is, at its heart, a wild animal,” explained O’Hurley of why he designed the supplement, which he says can be added to a dog’s food to give it the nutritional balance it needs. “And when it eats chicken, it was meant to eat the whole chicken — the bones, everything — and not this rarified chicken that we’re feeding it. We think it’s a great idea to feed our dogs food that’s fit for humans, but that’s not the way their diet should be set up. We’re seeing more diseases with dogs now, and a lot of it is because their diets are too refined. They’re not getting the base nutrients that they need. So we put together a really nice pet supplement that gives them everything they need. It’s a powder that you dust over their food. It’s fantastic.”
The public can order Pet Power ZX through the product’s official website. And if O’Hurley’s track record is any indication, it’s destined to be a hit with dog owners.