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John O’Hurley and friends appear today on the annual broadcast of the National Dog Show.

Thanksgiving Day going to the dogs

Broadcast shows off AKC breeds

After a year of endless politics and bad economic news, Americans just may be really, really looking forward to a Thanksgiving Day of food, friends, family and football – but NBC hopes they’ll carve out time for its annual broadcast of The National Dog Show.

Once again, actor, author, musician and “Family Feud” host John O’Hurley teams up with canine expert David Frei as hosts for the broadcast, taped the weekend before Thanksgiving at the Kennel Club of Philadelphia’s annual event. It’s one of only six remaining “benched” shows in the country, where dogs remain in the facility to interact with the public.

“I think it’s a rally of the troops this year,” O’Hurley says, “a sense of ‘This is what we have,’ and you start to appreciate what you have rather than what you have not.

“The show will do well this year. I think Thanksgiving will be a deeper, more meaningful Thanksgiving this year, for the things that are in your grasp and controllable.”

O’Hurley is speaking during a break in a photo shoot in Burbank, Calif., in which he’s posing with two representatives – one of each gender – from the latest breed to be recognized by the American Kennel Club.

While it’s new to the AKC, the Dogue de Bordeaux, sometimes referred to as the “French mastiff,” is hardly a new breed. It’s been around in one form or another for centuries in France and got its formal name in 1863 following its debut at a canine exhibition in Paris.

These red dogs are huge, calm, friendly and very, very slobbery.

“They just had puppies, these two,” O’Hurley says. “The faces are just extraordinary, the color, the redness of the skin. They must be the cutest puppies in the world.”

In case you’re wondering how such an ancient breed only just got the AKC stamp of approval, Frei says there’s no conspiracy at work against the breed.

“There’s a process to be recognized by the AKC,” he says. “First of all, there has got to be a certain population of the dogs in this country. There has to be sufficient interest, as evidenced by the population, by geographical distribution, and there has to be a parent club.

“Just because a dog has been around for thousands of years (isn’t enough). There may not be enough of them in this country, or they may all be on some farm down in Georgia. That’s not how it works.

“You have to have a functioning parent club that tracks the dog and advocates for the breed. It just doesn’t happen. Somebody’s got to make the effort.”

And certain fanciers of lesser-known breeds are perfectly happy that the breed remains lesser known.

“Sometimes it’s the people involved with a breed,” Frei says, “who just don’t want to get it recognized by the AKC for whatever reason. They want to keep them to themselves.”

Also on hand for the shoot are Frei’s wife and toddler son, and two of their dogs – a Cavalier King Charles spaniel and a Havanese. Sadly, O’Hurley recently lost one of his dogs, a rescued mixed breed named Betty, and his other dog, a Maltese named Scoshi, is getting up in years.

If you’re up to wagering another helping of pumpkin pie over which dog takes this year’s Best in Show, remember that the 2007 winner was a female Australian shepherd who goes by the name of Swizzle. But this past February, a beagle called Uno was the winner of the Westminster Kennel Club show in New York.

So it’s anyone’s guess.