LR: Welcome to Pure Dog Talk David Frei, wow. This is pretty awesome
DF: Thank you, thanks for having me on it’s nice to be on and talk about my favorite things. My dogs and my dog people.
LR: Absolutely. And David, I’ve known you for pretty close to 30 years now, back to the Seattle days
LR: I’m very happy that you’re joining me as special guest on our Mentor Monday program, and I think it’s really important because in a lot of ways, your voice at Westminster Kennel Club for close to 30 years, has been for some people, their 1st introduction to pure bred dogs.
DR: Well, I feel that pressure really. I mean when I started doing the show in 1990 for the 1st time, you know I was just kinda making it up as I went, but that’s over 27 years. I think I was able to bring it around to be something more than just, and I say “just” in quotes, but more than just the world’s greatest dog show. But rather have become a celebration of all the dogs in our lives, pure bred and otherwise, and I think that’s part of the pressure is talking to people about responsible ownership and talking to people about pure bred dogs, and talking to people about the great joys that our dogs can bring us outside of the show ring as well as inside the show ring.
LR: Absolutely, absolutely, I think you’ve done a beautiful job with that. So, we’re talking today about a couple things. First, we’re gonna talk about the Beverly Hills Dog Show presented by Purina and hosted by the Kennel Club of Beverly Hills. And then we’re gonna pick your brain a little bit and we’re gonna get some ideas from “the master” about how some of our local clubs can use some of your wisdom to grow their shows. So, let’s start with Beverly Hills Dog Show, let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about this red-carpet walk-way, this is kind of like mind boggling to me.
DR: Well you know for most people, when you think of Beverly Hills, you think of the stars and the glamour, and the glitz and the red-carpet walkways and things like that. So, why not incorporate that into this dog show for television, let’s get celebrities involved, let’s dress the show a little bit to it looks like maybe a Hollywood event if you will, and I think that’s what makes it fun. When the people at NBC talked to me about coming to work for them full-time, they said we would like to have another dog show in addition to the National Dog Show presented by Purina on Thanksgiving Day. And I said, that’s great! I said, we’ve got three great dog shows on television, but they’re all in the East.
DF: We’ve got Westminster, we’ve got the National Dog Show in Philadelphia, and we’ve got the AKC Championship in Orlando Florida. So, me, of course being a West Coast guy originally,
LR: And we love you for it!
DF: Well thank you, thank you. I’m learning about the time zone differences again, but anyway. I said let’s get somebody, let’s get a show on the West, because look at Westminster through the years. The biggest standard for a number of years, and certainly would remain the number two entry for years for a lot of years, is California. So, we’ve got a lot of great dog people in California and it’s a great place to have a dog show. The sun is out, the weather’s warm, it’s not like February in Manhattan, we’re gonna have fun with it in some respect. You may have seen some of the ads that we shot for it where John O’Hurley and I are standing there in our board shorts and flip flops, and we’ve got surf boards, and palm trees and dogs and sunglasses.
LR: Ya I love that.
DF: So, you contract that will the other shows that we see during the course of the year, we’re going to have fun with it, it’s gonna be a great show. John O’Hurley, my partner once again, Mr. Peterman from Seinfeld, we’ve been partners for 15 years for the National Dog Show, and he lives in Beverly Hills
LR: Perfect, perfect.
DF: So it’s a fun game for him and we’re gonna have fun with it.
LR: I love it.
DF: And the dog show is actually on March 4th and 5th. The Kennel Club of Beverly Hills changed their venue, changed their date, they now have back-to-back dates Saturday, Sunday at The Fairplex in Pomona. As dog show people know that the site of the great mission circuit, one of the great clusters in the sport, and it’s a great site for a dog show. People say geez, Beverly Hills and Pomona, that doesn’t make much sense. Well, you know what, look at all the professional sports teams nowadays that have their stadiums in the suburbs, The New York Giants play their home games in New Jersey for god’s sake. So, it’s not that you have to go where the facilities are, and Beverly Hills doesn’t have 100,000 square feet for talk shows and parking, so it makes sense for us to be in a place that is good for the exhibitors, and it’s convenient for spectators, and being in Pomona is going to be a great site for us. So, anyway on March 4th and 5th, back to back
LR: It airs on Easter Sunday, right?
DR: We do a show on the 4th, ya, taping the show on the Saturday show on the 4th and then it will air on a 2-hour entertainment special on Easter Sunday, which is April 16th on the USA Network. It repeats the next morning on USA, and repeats a week later on Sunday the 23rd on NBC. So, we’ve got the best of all worlds and I’m sure that we will be able to have a great audience. The people who are doing this show are the people who, for the last many years have been my production people at Westminster when Westminster was on USA Network, which is owned by NBC. They’re people that are used to doing dog shows, they’re used to doing the National Dog Show and they do a great job of putting dogs on TV. Now, we’re going to do a lot of other things too with The Beverly Hills.
LR: Ya I wanted to hear about the special events, you had some very cool special events that you were talking about David.
DR: Well we of course are still working on celebrity involvement, we’ll have some noted Hollywood celebrities there, the paperwork is still going on with most of them, so we’re not ready to give out names. But, for now certainly the celebrity of John O’Hurley looms large for us, but he’s become a great dog person through the years I hope with my help. And, we have Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski, the great skaters have been involved with the National Dog Show, they’re wonderful dog people and great fun to have around, so they’re part of our presentation as well. And, of course Mary Carillo the NBC start of Olympic coverage and on HBO’s Real Sports Show with Bryant Gumble, she will be there as well working in the back talking to people in the grooming area, and talking about human interest stories and great fun things with the dogs. So, we’ll add to that a few Beverly Hills/Hollywood stars and we think it’s gonna be a fun show for everybody.
LR: I love that. So, talk to us a little bit about some of the special events. There’s to be a handler make-over, and some working dog discussions? Tell us a little bit about that.
DR: We are doing a handler make-over, and we asked for volunteers and you have to volunteer yourself, because I don’t want to get anybody in trouble when they suggest that their friend needs a makeover, I didn’t want to do that. And I also was smart enough to remove myself from the judging process
LR: Yes, good choice
DR: So that I had nothing to do with picking the winner, but we had over 40 responses from people that were interested in going through a make-over. So, Johnny and Tara are going to take them shopping to Beverly Hills and work with them a little bit on their make-up and hair and stuff. But, mostly it’s gonna be a fun time to help people feel a little better about themselves when they’re running around the ring. They don’t often get the chance to think about it, they’re so busy thinking about how their dogs look, they sometimes forget about what their wearing.
LR: True enough
DF: And we all know in the dog show world it’s not an easy thing to do. Especially for women to have to be bending over, or running in certain shoes that really aren’t made to be run in. Guys, it’s easy. We’ve got plenty of pockets, we got shoes that we can wear, and it’s easy enough to run around. But, for the ladies especially, when they go to St. John’s store and try to find a beautiful dress with pockets in it, it doesn’t always work out.
LR: No. And St. Johns Knits, can we just avoid the St. Johns Knits, can I just put a plug here? Sorry man!
DF: I thought you might want some future sponsorship in there, no?
LR: Yes, well…..Ya, I think it’s really important one of the things that I was reading about, you have set up a situation where the proceeds from the spectators, the gate will be going to a certain charity. Can you talk to us about that?
DF: Sure. And this kind of falls into the idea of local clubs getting involved with their local communities. Beverly Hills is Beverly Hills, but is still like any local club in that you’re a member of your community, and the things that you do in your community with your dogs or with your dog show, and things that reflect back on dog ownership and dogs everywhere. And, what we were lucky enough to do, we wanted to find a charity that made sense for all of us, I have a special attention to therapy dog program. So, I went to the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles and they have a thriving, I mean more than thriving therapy dog program. And the Amerman Family Foundation has what they call is The Amerman Family Foundation Dog Therapy Program. They have over 100 volunteer teams that are part of their program, they have a full-time staff person that oversees it, it’s a great charity partner for the club in the community, doing good things for dogs and kids who are patients there, and their families and staff at the hospital as well. So, $1 for every ticket sold goes to the foundation to support the therapy dog program there, and that’s kind of exciting because one of the things that it does, is it brings in we’re hearing a lot about that these days, but it brings in the non-pure bred dog in our circle of influence. There are a number of dogs that are involved in the program that are not pure bred dogs, but we want to show the world that we support all dogs, we want a better life for all dogs when they’re being part of our family. Or, doing something beyond that like therapy dog work, and we want to be supportive of that and do things that are good and noted in our community. So, that’s one way of getting involved, and I think that’s so important. You know, our role is not just in promoting the pure bred dogs, it’s promoting responsible ownership and educating people about the pure bred dog, but also educating them about how to find the right dog for your family. No matter what dog that may be, no matter what breed or mixed breed that may be, you have to make sure you’re getting the right dog that fits your family, fits your lifestyle, so that a dog like that, if it disappoints you later you don’t turn around and run it to the shelter because it grew up to be something you weren’t ready for. I always say to people, you know every dog is a cute little 3-pound ball of fluff at some point or another. And if you’re buying them when they’re cute little balls of fluff and that’s the reason you’re getting them, you’re gonna be surprised later when the dog grows up to an 85-pound dominant dog, then that be the right dog for you. If you’re an athlete and you want to run a couple of miles every day and you buy yourself a dog that’s not right for that, like a Bulldog, or French Bulldog or some of these dogs that aren’t used to be doing that kind of running, you’re going to be disappointed, the dog’s going to be disappointed too. Because, the dog wants to do stuff with you, and the more things that you can do with your dog, that’s great. If you sit at home at night and watch TV, and that’s the most important thing to you, get a dog that can sit on the couch next to you and have fun. There’s a lot of stuff in between too. If you want a dog that you can go places with, you can turn loose on the beach, that you can throw a dog for in the park, I think those are all important considerations. And that’s part of our job in the pure bred dog and in the dog show world, and these families and people are walking around in our dogs and it’s important for all of us to grab onto them and say, hey, how to you like our dog? Or, are you thinking about getting a dog? And they may say, you know what, ya, I’m thinking about getting a dog like yours, a Beagle, tell me about Beagles. Or maybe they come up to you and say I’ve got a Beagle and he just turned two years old, and now he’s starting to do this, this, and this, what am I going to do about that? And the owners, the people, the breeders, the people who’ve grown up with these breeds for their whole lives, some of them for generations in their families, maybe you can answer that questions and suddenly the dog goes from being a problem to being a happy member of the family again. We talk about all those things, whether it’s training or just socialization, or just making sure your dog is healthy and happy and getting the right diet and things like that. I think those are all things we can contribute and we can make people aware of how important that stuff is. And that’s what a dog show’s supposed to do, whether your there is person, or whether you’re watching us on television, and I’m going and on here. You can throw yourself down in front of me anytime!
LR: No, I totally am laughing, I’m laughing out loud literally because you stole! You must have read my notes because my question is why is mainstream televised shows, why are these important? So, I’m like boom, he already did it for me, he’s a genius.
DF: Well, I’ve got three reasons for people to watch our show. One, they’re gonna watch the competition, it’s just the good old American way, we want to see who’s gonna win, who’s the best dog today. But I also think they’re watching us for entertainment. You’ve got over 160 breeds different breeds and varieties, up to 202 that are recognized right now by the AKC, so there’s some entertainment. You’ve got that great variety, you’re gonna see something of every size, shape, hair, color you ever want to see. And you’re also going to hear about what they were bred to do, and that’s going to give you an idea about why they look the way they do, what their condition needs are, what their grooming needs are, what their personalities and temperaments are like and why, and why that happens. And hopefully, when I’m talking about a breed generically on TV, I’m able to say to you, you know here’s why these dogs are bred to do, that’s why they’re herding your children around in your living room, so that’s part of it too. But I also think, and this is the most, what I think is the greatest reason to be able to watch and the most fun is what I call the alma mater factor. I’m sitting at home with my Brittany, I want to see the Brittany on TV and we’re gonna wait for the Brittany together and say you know Grace, you and I could be out there doing that!
DF: Maybe I’d give you a bath every two weeks instead of every two months. We need a little road work, both of us, and if we get a little training that looks like it would be fun for us to do. I can’t hit 250 yards like some of these golf guys, and I can’t go to the hoop on LeBron James, but I can get out in the show ring with my dog, and compete with anybody else who’s out there and probably do just as good of job as any professional handler perhaps, so.
LR: I love that
DF: I think that’s part of why people are watching us too, and I hope that’s one of the things, you know it’s a great family sport. You know that Laura!
LR: I grew up in it!
DF: We’ve known people that are in their 3rd generation, maybe 4th generation of being involved with dogs and dog shows. I was using this illustration the other day about Pat Trotter winning her 11th group at Westminster. I said you know what, this is her impact on her breed, in her world that for years, I always called them “Craig Hounds” which was her original name, Pat Craig. I said we always called them Craig Hounds, nobody called them Elkhounds, we called them Craig Hounds because it’s her dog. Or Kathy Coonhound, after Kathy Corbett, she was always Kathy Coonhound.
DF: So the great things that our sport can bring to people, and bring to the families and individuals is having a sense of accomplishment, but also a sense of having a dog that you love and doing something with them whether it’s the show ring, or taking a trip or going to the hospital and visiting sick kids. I think these are all things we try to bring out in our telecast, and tell people, how lucky you are to have a dog and do the right thing for them, and take good care of them and find something for them to do.
LR: Ok, so I’m gonna put one in here. I’m not trying to poke holes an anybody, but I want to talk a little bit about how we’re gonna balance the respect for our sport, with the glitz and the glam of Hollywood, and it’s become a topic of conversation.
LR: So, let’s talk about how we’d do that properly.
DF: Well, I think the main thing is, the message that I’ve always give, and I was on the Ellen Show and once introduced Paris Hilton. But I was handing the introductions that day on Ellen’s show, that was kind of fun, that’s a whole different story. But I always say, hey you Hollywood people, these dogs are not fashion accessories. Ya, they make look good with you, but make sure that you’re doing other things with them as well as taking them with you and going to the places that you go. And it’s kind of fun, and my charity, my Angel on a Leash Charity was involved with a doggie fashion show called The New Yorkie Runway that raised money for a charity in New York City, and ya we had fun with the dogs. And sometimes we’ll dress them up and sometimes the dogs are into it, and sometimes not, but we want to know that dogs are a part of your life, and if you want to make them glamorous and be part of it that’s great. But they don’t have to be glamorous, they can be quote “just my dog” sitting next to me on the couch, and doing things with me, and waiting for me to drop something on the floor, or waiting for me to pop the tennis ball. This is what we mean when our dogs bring great joy to us. We also want to show that we believe that, that we’re real people, we’re not just dog show people. That our dogs are real dogs, they don’t just sit around in our homes all week long, eating doggie bon-bons sitting on doggie cushions, and then dressing them up a little bit and taking them to dog shows on weekends. My dog will pee on the floor every once in a while, my dog barks at neighbor, or barks at the mailman, barks at the toll both operator, or steals food off my counters, and maybe even drinks out of a toilet once in a while.
LR: Yes, yes.
DF: My dog is a real dog. It just so happens that I get to take him to dog shows on Saturday and Sunday, which is usually, hopefully fun for the dogs, it’s fun for me. I’ve got a great social circle because of my involvement in dogs, the people that are in my world are mostly people from the dog show world, and look at what a great life it’s given me personally to be able to do these kinds of things too. I never had a dog as a kid, I didn’t grow up with a dog. I tell this story all the time, I’m moving into my own house in College and my girlfriend says, let’s get a dog! I said, ok, you know guys will say anything to their girlfriend if there’s a benefit in it somewhere, and I said, what kind? She says how about an Afghan Hound! And I said what the hell is that? And we got an Afghan Hound about 12 weeks old, we brought it home, three weeks later the girl left, the dog stayed, and it was the best thing that could have happened to all three of us! But, that led me into meeting other people with Afghan Hounds, meeting other people involved in the dog show world, meeting people who became mentors to me in the dog show world, brought me to a certain level of participation in the dog world. Which then, basically introduced me to the Westminster people who offered me a job, yadda, yadda, yadda, and here I am.
LR: And here you are today.
DF: That’s right. My dogs have brought me great things in my world and in my life. And I think them every day for letting me be the guy on the other end of the leash, and I think everybody needs to do that. Look down at that dog and say you know what, what a great day, let’s go do something. Let’s go sit on the deck at The Driftwood Restaurant and have a glass of wine. It’s a fun job, it’s beautiful here, let’s go do that.
LR: Excellent answer. So, I think one thing that I’d like to talk about in closing. I think it will great, it gonna be off where I was gonna go, but I like this idea. Talk to me about some of your early mentors. We’re on Mentor Monday, who were your mentors, who helped you? Who brought you along in Afghan’s? Who brought you along in Brittany’s? Where did you get your mentorship, where did you get your guidance that brought you to where you are today?
DF: Well, in Afghan Hounds you know I got my first Afghan in Oregon when I was still in College, and then right after that, went into the service in The Army. Was stationed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC, and I made it a point to call up Wally Fiday and say Wally, I’ve seen you and your dogs in ads, I’d never met him, I said I’d like to come down and see your dogs and talk about Afghan Hounds, and that was the beginning of a great relationship that still exists to this day. That would have been more than 40 years ago that Wally took us in like we were family and taught me about dogs, and took me to dog shows. I got meet a lot of other dog show people and then got more involved in dog shows, and from that, I married into a level of involvement with Sandy Withington. She was already pretty successful, but we took it to a whole other level, ended up with a great winning Afghan Hound, the champion, Stormhill’s Who’s Zoomin Who. She was the top Afghan in the country one year and retired at the top winning female in the history of the breed, with 20 all-breed bests. Traveling her was hard but we got to meet and visit with the people from Westminster. Chet Collier is the guy that I would give all my props to for getting me so involved with Westminster. At the time he’d just become president, stepped down to show chair at that point, but was involved with building The Fox News Channel, but he hired me to do the television for Westminster in 1990. We did an audition tape together, they liked it, I liked it, and I though eh, this will be fun for a few years, let’s see what happens. And 27 years later I’m stepping off of that and heading to do things with NBC that are great fun as well. So, Chet, yes certainly. In Afghans, my mentor of course when I met her was Sandy, and Sandy’s mom Jenny. A number of other people along the way, in Brittany’s I got Sherri, my wife came to me with two Brittany’s. That got me deeply involved with Brittany’s, I love me Brittany’s deeply, we dabbled in the show world.
LR: I remember seeing you at a hunt test up in Washington a million years ago, and I thought good on ya Dave! Good on ya!
DF: I love the hunt test, it’s great fun but it’s a long ways away from being in the show ring all the time.
LR: Yes, yes, it is.
DF: We had great fun with that but my Brittany’s also got me very involved in therapy dog work, because they are ideal therapy dogs so that’s how we got involved with them in the year 2000. And Sherri had just gone back to school to get her Masters in Theology and was writing her masters paper on animal assisted therapy, and a mutual friend introduced us because she had heard me talking about therapy dogs on the Westminster podcast, so I helped her with her therapy dog work and I was kind of a wrangler for her dogs when she was presenting papers and working on her masters.
LR: Right, right.
DF: That got me more and more involved in therapy dog world. I started visiting an AIDS hospice in Seattle, was the first place that I was there regularly. Then when we moved to New York we expanded what we did, created Angel on a Leash, the charity that created and administer therapy dog programs all over New York city, the northeast and a few places around the country, so she was my great mentor there. But people like Nancy Moreaveedo, and Jeanie White and the world of Brittany’s, there have been a lot of people along the way. Even, what I do every day I have people that help me every day and I say, there’s a lot of words that come out of my mouth that are coming out of someone else’s brain.
LR: That started somewhere else.
DF: Ya. Cuz I’ve had a lot of help from people, because people understand and take me very seriously when I say I feel a great pressure cuz of all these things that have happened to me and where I am today, I feel a great pressure in representing our sport, and our dogs, to the “outside world.” And I want your help to do that, and I’ve never hesitated to help people for their help. I said I need to know about Vizsla’s so I called Bud McGinder my Viszla friend and he fills me in. Or I’m getting this kind of question about animal rights issues so I call Patty Strand the NAIA person who’s been a great mentor to me through the years in issues like that. But I’ve had help every step of the way, and I want to keep doing that and keep enlisting people in helping me reach the people that are important for the future of our dogs, whether it’s in the dog show ring, in the therapy dog world, or just sitting at our feet as we’re watching television.
LR: I think that’s great Dave. David, thank you so much, I really appreciate your time. You have been a wonderful mentor to many of us, and a great shining example. I wish you the very best of luck with the Beverly Hills Dog Show, and I will see you there.
DF: Thank you Laura. Thank you, I’ll see you there and it will be very soon, but thank you so much for having me on. Best to everybody out there, we’ll see you at the dog show.
LR: Thanks for joining us on Pure Dog Talk. And now, a quick message from your dog show’s superintendent association. It’s Monday, hey guys entries close at noon on Wednesday, why not get them in early, save yourselves the headaches. That’s all for now, thanks for listening.
As always, if you have any questions or input, we’d love to hear from you. The show notes and links to resources on today’s topic are available at puredogtalk.com. Drop us a note in the comments or email to Laura at puredogtalk.com. Remember guys, this podcast if for you so if you want to know something, give me a holler, we’ll do podcast for you. If you wouldn’t mind, you could help me out here, take a couple minutes to visit iTunes and give us a review. This will help share the love with others out there in the sport. This has been Pure Dog Talk with your host, Laura Reeves. We hope you can join us next time as we continue the journey to success with your purebred dog.