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Master of His Domain - Seinfeld Star John O'Hurley
On Life With Two Dogs, A Baby, And A Jam-Packed Career

by Diane West

Packing boxes are scattered throughout the O'Hurley household-which currently includes John, wife Lisa, a 15 year-old Maltese named Scoshi, one year-old dachshund/lab mix Betty and, the most recent addition, John and Lisa's first child, William Dylan, who joined their home in December. They're a true "blended" family--Mr. O'Hurley brought Scoshi with him to the marriage, the couple found Betty as a bedraggled stray in the Hollywood Hills, and everyone seems over-the-moon about William Dylan's arrival. On this particular day, the family was in the midst of preparing for a big move to Las Vegas, where Mr. O'Hurley will play King Arthur in the immensely popular Monty Python hit, "Spamalot" at the Wynn Theater for the next eight months.

Yet with all of this going on--boxes, baby, dogs and all--the actor's Southern California home emanates an aura of calm and order, as if all is as it should be. Pulling this off is no small feat for anyone, and if you look at how busy Mr. O'Hurley's life is it can seem, well, doggone impossible.

In addition to joining the cast of "Spamalot", Mr. O'Hurley is juggling a multitude of other professional and personal roles. One can hardly turn on the television without seeing O'Hurley's trademark head of perfectly coiffed, bright-white hair, expressive, dark eyebrows and towering frame. There he is on a re-run of the New York City-based hit comedy "Seinfeld", playing the role of eccentrically charming businessman J. Peterman (he actually does know the real J.Peterman and is co-owner of the company). There Mr. O'Hurley is again, "Dancing With the Stars". And there he is yet again, keeping the peace as the latest host of the long-running game show, "Family Feud." (His name is also on a short list of potential successors to Bob Barker on "The Price Is Right".) Oh, and by the way, he is also an accomplished pianist and cellist, often playing one-handed with his son on his lap. And his book, It's Okay to Miss the Bed on the First Jump - And Other Life Lessons I Learned From Dogs, made it to number 15 on the New York Times best-seller list.

"I live in an airplane 300 days out of the year," Mr. O'Hurley quips when asked how he does it all. "These are the times where I'm lucky enough to mold and reinvent my career. Still, I made a decision a long time ago that I would be married first and an actor second. Then my wife and I agreed we'd be parents first. I try not to let anything get in the way."

But ask Mr. O'Hurley what his favorite professional gig is and he doesn't hesitate. "Hosting Purina's National Dog Show is one of my favorite days of the year," he says of what is fast becoming a Thanksgiving Day tradition. "We go backstage, and there's like 2,000 dogs there." A life-long dog lover, Mr. O'Hurley says hosting the annual show has not only instilled in him "a deep amount of respect for the American Kennel Club's breeding standards, but a deep respect for the people who work in the animal shelters, too."

To some, this may sound like Mr. O'Hurley is straddling the fence between a fondness for purebred dogs and shelter dogs. He disagrees. "I don't think people with purebred dogs and rescue dogs should be in conflict with each other," he says. "I just wish people would be more responsible pet owners, period." Mr. O'Hurley is also a judge of "Dog Show USA", also presented by Purina, an online contest open to purebreds and mutts alike throughout the United States. "Dog Show USA" is one of the latest initiatives by the Nestlé Purina company, which has also sponsored the "Incredible Dog Challenge", a national agility competition, for the past ten years.

Your Own Bark, Your Own Fur
Mr. O'Hurley's book can best be described as an autobiographical book filled with pearls of wisdom he's picked up during his very busy life-with Scoshi, and later Betty, serving as two of the "teachers" he's encountered and learned from. With chapters named "When a Dog Barks-Listen" and "Own Your Own Fur", Mr. O'Hurley tries to paint his observations and interactions with dogs-both his own and others-as lessons in dealing with life's everyday challenges. (A good number of his experiences, in fact, take place in New York City, whether walking the dogs along Broadway after the theater or riding the subway.)

In one part of the book, Mr. O'Hurley recalls waiting on line behind a woman who was continuously ignored until he spoke up and asked for her to be attended.

"She didn't have a bark," he says. "You can't walk through life apologetically-you have to have a bark. And in a city like New York, where you have a compression of humanity, you really have to stand up and use your 'bark'".

Having a "bark", he says, goes hand-in-hand with owning your own fur, with having confidence that you are enough, just the way you are. " A dog instinctively knows that he is lovable," he says. "Many people don't realize they are lovable, too."

Everyone in the O'Hurley house, however, knows they are loved, and the dogs are getting used to the newest human member of their family. "They don't pay the baby much attention, but it's changed the energy and the focus of the house, totally," Mr. O'Hurley says. "Scoshi parks right at the base of the feeding chair and curls up there with his big blue elephant toy. He is protective all day long. And Betty's new thing is to take all of her toys into the baby's room."

In many ways (other than being a famous celebrity) Mr. O'Hurley's life is like that of many New Yorkers-a constant balance of family and career. He credits dogs with teaching him how to keep it all in perspective. "Dogs live in the present moment," he says. "I try to respect the concept of living in the moment, not worrying, and trusting that everything will take care of itself."

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Most recent update: 6/16/07
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