TV’s John O’Hurley dishes on his new book, canine inspiration, and serving his houseguests doggie treats
By Lauren Lewis
In his debut book It’s Okay to Miss the Bed on the First Jump: And Other Life Lessons I Learned from Dogs, award-winning actor and TV host John O’Hurley takes a heartening and humorous look at the dogs that have inspired him. Probably best known for his role of J. Peterman on Seinfeld, O’Hurley also claims the title of dance-off champion in NBC’s Dancing With the Stars, and is host of NBC’s The National Dog Show. He lives with his wife, two dogs Scoshi and Betty, and their newborn son.
Tails: What motivated or inspired you to write It’s Okay to Miss the Bed on the First Jump?
John O’Hurley: I wanted to write a book that was hopefully inspirational and hopefully poignant enough to celebrate the effects that dogs have had on my life since I was four years old. I thought I would write something from the standpoint of everything I ever needed to learn in life, I basically learned from my dogs. I don’t need Dr. Phil, I don’t need Oprah; I just have to look at the four little legs at my feet.
Tails: During The National Dog Show this Thanksgiving you and your co-host David Frei promoted Purina Pro Plan’s “Rally to Rescue,” which aims to raise $1 million and awareness for smaller pet rescue organizations. What are your thoughts on adopting pets from shelters and rescue groups?
JO: There are certain points we try to hit every year because I know we get such a large audience—between 20 and 25 million people—and we feel that we can accomplish a lot if we just say some of the right things. One of them is about responsible dog [guardianship]. As I travel the country I see too many animal shelters filled with too many dogs.
Tails: You’ve been encouraging shelter groups to come out to your book signings right?
JO: Yes, they’ve been coming to the book signings, and bringing their own dogs to the signings, and introducing me to the dogs, and bringing the pictures of the dogs. The book signings have been some of the most enjoyable times, they really have been…especially because of the dogs.
Tails: In one essay in your book, A Cold Can of Meat is Still a Feast, you talk about your celebrity panel
on the game show To Tell the Truth unknowingly dining on human-grade dog food. Have you ever tried dog food?
JO: I will tell you in a previous marriage—you know the little hot dog doggie treats—I bought some for my dog and I had them in a little bowl there and sure enough some of the relatives from the other side were popping them in their mouth with a beer, and I didn’t stop them!
Tails: Have you had any pets other than dogs?
JO: I’ve had every pet you can imagine. I’ve had little horned toads, I had turtles, I had frogs, I had hamsters, I had mice; I got two mice and the two became 24. I even had cats one time. I had Himalayan cats because they were the most like dogs.
Tails: In another essay in your book, you talk about shadowing a therapy dog for a day thinking it might be a good fit for Betty. Tell us about that experience.
JO: That’s another thing I think David Frei has sensitized me to—is the wonderful work that dogs do within the healthcare industry, and specifically the therapy dogs that are used for patient visitation, patient therapy, patient communication, and cases of abuse. Dogs just change the energy in our lives, and that is the broad stroke message. And because of that they’re wonderful companions for even a child with cancer. These kids…the wind has been knocked out of them. When the dog comes in the room it just changes the energy. That’s the beautiful thing about dogs—they do great things and yet they know not what they do.
Tails: What is the one greatest thing you’ve learned from dogs?
JO: I think the core message of the book—dogs live in the present moment—and that is the most powerful thing for a human being to do. Whether you are praying, whether you are in yoga, whether you are on a vacation—everything we do as human beings is to try to relieve ourselves of the compression of time. [Dogs] have no sense of time, no sense of time passed, they don’t carry regrets, they don’t carry expectations…anything you want to do is better than what they were thinking of doing so they’ll do what you want to do.