David Frei, co-host of NBC’s “The National Dog Show Presented by Purina,” which will air Thanksgiving Day, started an organization several years ago to make it possible for therapy dogs to visit healthcare organizations around the country.
In an interview last week, Frei, a Cannon Beach resident, talked about how he got into the world of dog shows and also therapy dogs.
He said he grew up in Eugene and later lived in Seattle for about 20 years. While in Seattle, he would come to Cannon Beach “to play.”
Later, while living in New York City, he and his wife, Cherilyn, talked about retiring to Cannon Beach someday. They moved here three and a half years ago.
David Frei owned a public relations agency and two restaurants in Seattle, he said, and handled public relations for the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers.
Although dogs have been a big part of his life, he said, he never had one while growing up. In college, a girlfriend suggested he get a dog. So, he did - an Afghan Hound.
“Three weeks later, the girlfriend left and the dog stayed, which was the best thing for all of us,” said Frei.
As the years passed, he became involved in “the dog show world” and bred Afghan Hounds for 30 years. “I had several top-winning Afghan Hounds, including one with the registered name of Ch. Stormhill’s Who’s Zoomin’ Who,” he said in an email.
“Her name is a title from an Aretha Franklin song.”
“’Zoomie’ was the top Afghan Hound in the country in 1989 and retired as the top-winning female in the history of the breed.”
Frei talked about how he came to host television shows: “During the time that we were flying around the country showing Zoomie, I met the Westminster Dog Show people, who were then looking for someone to do their show on television from Madison Square Garden in New York,” he said in an email.
“They had heard that I had worked in PR for the Denver Broncos and the San Francisco 49ers a few years before, and they took that to mean that I might be a good candidate for them.
“At their request, I did an audition. They liked it, I liked it, and we got together for their 1990 show. I thought, ‘This will be fun, let’s see how long it might last.’
“As we see now, that was almost 30 years ago. I did their show for 27 years, through 2016. That overlapped with me doing the ‘National Dog Show’ on NBC beginning in 2002.”
“He has now added co-host of ‘The Beverly Hills Dog Show,’ which he developed for NBC, to his schedule,” according to a press release from the “National Dog Show.”
“An AKC-licensed judge who has officiated dog shows all over the world, Frei hosted USA Network’s coverage of the ‘Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show’ from Madison Square Garden for 27 years and has a myriad of other television credits.”
Frei said his wife, who now is an administrator at Providence Seaside Hospital, has a master’s degree in theology from Seattle University, with a concentration in animal-assisted therapy. He formed Angel On A Leash and ran that as a 501(c)(3) for 12 years, he said. His therapy dogs have visited healthcare organizations nationwide, including the New York Ronald McDonald House, the Veterans Hospital in New York City and the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
The therapy dog teams also help with “end-of-life issues.”
Dogs provide “unconditional love” and they “help (people) cope with life, make them smile – give them something to think about other than their challenges,” he said.
“My dogs, Angel and Grace, have been therapy dogs all of their lives, and are second-generation therapy dogs in our family,” he said in the email. “They volunteer with me at Providence Seaside Hospital.
“As a part of Angel On A Leash, they are certified to visit other places around the country as well.
“Angel On A Leash was recently re-established as a 501(c)(3) organization by associates of mine, with headquarters in Philadelphia, and all of our teams do indeed visit at various healthcare facilities around the country.
“This re-establishment of Angel On A Leash was just announced at the therapy dog symposium in New Jersey where I was a keynote (speaker) this past Tuesday.”
Added Frei: “My dogs have taken me a lot of places and it’s been a great adventure.”