John Hill is a man of many talents. Hill has appeared in Broadway musicals such as Hairspray, The Boy from Oz, and Ms. Saigon, and currently lives on the west coast working as a TV producer and writer. From documentaries on MTV to Project Runway, Top Chef, and Watch What Happens Live, Hill is dialed in to the reality TV scene and the LA lifestyle. While he spends much of his time loving up his dogs Pete and Colonel, you can catch him in the SiriusXM studios co-hosting with Bravo’s Andy Cohen or hosting his own show, The Feels, on the Radio Andy channel. We caught up with Hill to find out more about life with his canine companions.
TAILS: Tell us about your current pets.
John Hill: I have two dogs. Colonel, a 22-pound Terrier/Chihuahua mix who my ex-boyfriend and I adopted from Dogs Without Borders in Los Angeles. We taught him how to sing, and he knows exactly what we’re thinking at all times. Colonel is a magical dog and everyone who meets him immediately knows how special he is. After my ex and I amicably broke up I moved to New York for work. Colonel would spend a few months with me and a few months in LA. But after a couple of years of that, the person who didn’t have Colonel was miserable.
Two years ago my ex told me his neighbor’s dog had a litter of Chiweenie puppies and they were looking for homes. He sent me a picture and I said yes without blinking, knew his name was Pete without thinking, and immediately flew to LA to get him. Our plan was to switch off every six months in a shared-custody type of situation. Then luckily I moved back to LA, so now I get to see Colonel on a regular basis and Pete spends most of his time with me. He’s nine pounds, still a puppy, and never leaves my side. I’m very attached to both of them and sometimes wonder if I’m unhealthily codependent. If I’m away from them for even a short period of time I miss them terribly.
Did you grow up with animals?
I did. I was surrounded by them. I grew up in Texas, and my grandparents had a farm up the road from where I lived. It was a horse ranch but they also had a herd of cattle, a donkey, goats, dogs, lots of barn cats, and a pig named Rose. I was very emotionally attached to the horses. My niece is named after one of our favorite horses, Ellie, and Colonel is named after another.
At home we always had indoor dogs, mostly Dachshunds. The farm dogs were different than our dogs at home. They ran around with the cattle and mostly stayed outside keeping watch. My grandfather’s dog, Daisy, had puppies and he gave one to me. His name was Jake and he was an Australian Shepherd/ Blue Heeler mix. Sadly, he died after getting into coyote poison and I was heartbroken. I also come from a long line of hunters. My dad took me hunting when I was young and I couldn’t have hated it more.
What’s your favorite part about having pets?
Pets are family to me. They are the best teachers. Colonel has taught me about sensitivity, loyalty, patience, and intuition. Pete has taught me about happiness, fearlessness, the importance of being present, and the joys of simplicity. I think of them as little anchors to this world. When I get stressed out or up in my head or overwhelmed, they are there to remind me that time is precious and to use it wisely.
Do you think your companion animals are good wing-dogs for your social life?
I’m very much a hermit so they do get me out and about and force me to interact with my neighbors. I definitely don’t think of them as props to meet cute guys, but I will say, Pete and Colonel are both dogs who stop people in their tracks. I know everyone thinks their dogs are special and unique, but there is truly something spiritual and weird going on with both of my dogs where people can’t pass them without stopping. They are both great communicators.
You used to date Andy Cohen and you’re still friends. Did your dogs get along, and do they still hang out?
Not to pat myself on the back too much, but I take credit for Andy committing to adopt Wacha, his current dog. We went to meet him, walked him a few blocks, and I said, “He’s yours. Just bite the bullet. Take him home.” As for how our dogs get along….Colonel can’t stand Wacha. He steals his toys, steals his bed, and needs all the attention. It’s terrible. Pete, on the other hand is obsessed with Wacha and they play together perfectly. Even though Pete is a tiny little ant compared to Wacha, they roughhouse like best friends and are great pals.
How do you use your voice and platform to help animals?
I have a psychic on my radio show every month, and recently we started getting a lot of questions about animals. It was completely unplanned but they started flooding in. I hadn’t even asked our psychic friend Mikey if he deals with animal readings but he jumped at the chance and we’ve been able to help a lot of people who are worried about their pets’ behavior and also communicate with pets who have passed. It’s been fascinating.
I’m also a chronic re-poster of dogs who need homes, mostly from organizations in LA and NY that list shelter dogs who need immediate help. Last year I also used my producing skills on the Animal Planet show Life At Vet U, which follows fourth year veterinary students at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.
Do you have any future plans of combining your love for animals with your work in the entertainment industry?
I’d love to do a documentary on the work my sister’s children do with 4-H in Texas. I know that it may be controversial because the animals are eventually sold and, I assume, used for food. However, the experience my nieces and nephew have had is amazing. They raise goats, sheep, and chickens from birth until they’re ready to sell. It teaches them so much. They’ve all formed such a bond with their animals, and they’re a part of the family. They just got a new goat who had such separation anxiety he shrieked every time my niece left him, so now he’s in the living room!