The Kennel Club of Philadelphia (KCP) is not new. Under that name, they have been organized for the sake of purebred pooches since 1879, held their first dog show in 1912, and were elected part of the American Kennel Club in 1913. That all changed in 2002 when NBC broadcast the KCP’s annual dog show at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, PA. The rest, as they say, is history.
The National Dog Show, as it’s formally known, includes 2,000-plus diverse purebred dogs (180+ breeds) which compete for a single and lucrative “Best in Show” title.
“We give a taste of the purebred dog world in an approachable way,” said KCP President Wayne Fergusson. “We reach everyone — children and families joined together for the holidays now make it a part of their annual tradition. We touch the home-bound, elderly, the military, and it’s apolitical and non-religious, so it’s a welcome break for all. We can put smiles on kids’ faces, and when I watch people marvel at all the beautiful dogs on-site, then think about how we are making 25-30 million people happy… it’s pretty amazing.“
John O’Hurley, a classically trained vocalist and actor, known for his roles as “J. Peterman” on “Seinfeld,” and as “Billy Flynn” in “Chicago” on Broadway, is no slouch when it comes to the dog world. Not only has he treasured his own dogs since childhood (“had a dachshund named ‘Taffy’ as a child, and three by my side right now,” he tells us), O’Hurley has written several bestselling books on the furry topic: “It’s Okay to Miss The Bed On the First Jump,” “Before The Dog Can Eat Your Homework First You Have To Do It: Life Lessons From A Wise Old Dog To A Young Boy” and “The Perfect Dog” – the latter of which was turned into a successful stage musical whose Nov. 15 performance at Norristown’s Centre Theater at 208 DeKalb Street features a special, post-show talkback performance with O’Hurley at 9 p.m. (the show also runs Nov. 16). “The artistic relationship that I have with dogs is the same as the personal – dogs are there to teach us all that we need to know in life. Our greatest life lessons are learned from our four-legged friends. I write in that perspective.”
The 2017 National Dog Show’s winner, German Shepherd Rumor. (Reuters)
‘A dog show might be fun’
As for his role with The Kennel Club of Philadelphia and its inaugural National Dog Show in 2002, O’Hurley – who had worked with NBC on “Seinfeld” – said it came together fast and furious. “Three days, actually. I had no idea why they wanted me. NBC Sports wanted to schedule something for Thanksgiving Day… and decided a dog show might be fun. The network executives, at first, were not amused but Jon [Miller, the president of programming at NBC Sports], was undeterred, so they licensed the Philly show, as it is the oldest and most respected, re-branded it as ‘The National Dog Show,’ contacted Purina as the presenting sponsor, then called me. Miller said ‘Woof, woof,’ so I was their host, and have been so ever since.”
And now, he’s delighted to have a nearly a dog loving audience of nearly 30 million – people and purebred pooches – hanging on his every word. “It’s something of a ratings apocalypse. And the dogs seem to love the attention of the cameras and the crowd. They’re the stars. I’m just here for support.”