In his bachelor days, Jerry O’Connell didn’t have a pet of his own, so his world changed in more ways than one when he tied the knot. After marrying Rebecca Romijn in 2007, the actor inherited his bride’s love for rescuing animals. And in addition to his twin girls, O’Connell’s home soon became filled with dogs and cats. Currently, the couple has four dogs and two cats. “We’re outnumbered,” he jokes.
The star, a self-proclaimed dog lover who has also developed an affinity for cats, has also recently signed on to host the American Kennel Club’s National Championship Dog Show Presented by Royal Canin.
“It’s so fun to hang out with dogs behind the scenes, learn about so many different breeds, and see what goes into getting them into the ring,” he says.
He also jokes that during his training, he learned the art of properly working a dog in the ring, but that no matter how hard he’s tried, his own pups have yet to comply.
“I tell them to stand and they sit. I tell them to sit and they stand,” he quips. “I’m not sure they are cut out for the ring!”
PawCulture caught up with O’Connell to hear about life with his animal pack and how he couldn’t imagine a home without furry family members.
PawCulture: Tell us about the O’Connell/Romijn pets.
Jerry O’Connell: We have four dogs. We have Holiday, a Great Dane, Pirate, a German Shepherd, Pip, also a German Shepherd, and Phil, a Saint Bernard/Pyrenees mix. Phil, Pip and Holiday were adopted. My wife found them all in Southern California on adoption websites. Pirate we got from a breeder in Ventura.
We also have two cats. They came from shelters here in Southern California. My wife just loves to adopt. She’s got an adopting bug.
PC: How has owning animals changed your life?
JO: As crazy as it makes our lives, once they are here, I just fall in love with them. And everybody gets along. Occasionally, one of the dogs will be really interested in what one of the cats is doing and maybe one of the cats will hiss but that’s about it. Everybody chills out. It seems to be pretty harmonious.
We are totally outnumbered. We have six animals here and only four humans. They are just as much a part of our family as I am … actually more. They get to sleep in the bed, and I know my wife would prefer to have them in the bed than me. I use up maybe a half a foot, just a sliver of bed. And forget about a blanket. That’s done!
PC: Will you keep expanding your animal clan?
JO: I’m trying to cap it at six pets but I said that when we were at five. And I said that when we were at four. I have no control over these things. If I go away for a weekend, there is a good chance that there will be another animal here (laughs).
PC: What’s a typical day in the life of an O’Connell/Romijn pet?
JO: We have property out here so they get around a lot. About three times a week, I take the dogs a really long walk, about three miles. I call it a “wog” actually – a walk/jog. I love to go wogging with them. During the week, my wife will take them on hikes right around here. Phil especially loves to get up in the mountains. It’s just their natural element.
PC: You weren’t traditionally a cat fan. How did these two felines make their way into your life?
JO: I’d never owned a cat until I got together with my wife. And my wife didn’t get a cat until we had been together about three or four years. My wife was threatening to get a cat. I said, “Don’t do it. I’m allergic. I’m allergic. I’m allergic.” And I went away one long weekend and when I got back, there were not one but two cats here. I thought I was going to really dislike them, but they are, along with my dogs, my best friends. I also sleep with them every day.
I used to think I was just a dog guy, but after living with cats, I may be a cat person as well. Cats make you work for their love, whereas dogs will just jump all over you. Our cats are like the super cool person in the club who is in the VIP lounge. And then when they finally give you the time of day, it’s an honor and a privilege. They are so lovable though.
It’s so rewarding for me when my kids come home from school and the first thing they do is get on the floor with my dogs. And my dogs miss them as much as my kids miss the dogs. I think it keeps us together as a family. It’s a beautiful thing.
PC: Are the kids learning responsibility from the dogs? Are they picking up the poop?
JO: You would think that they would be. With four dogs, there is a lot of number two around. I’m really the only one who does it. I wish I could tell you that they help out in that department. Everybody feeds the dogs, it’s just the hard work of getting rid of number two, that’s really, bad pun intended, fallen into my hands. But I have a technique of flicking it into the bushes.
PC: You did some work at the AKC National Championship last year as well. Did you have any funny dog bloopers you can share from that experience?
JO: When I was doing the show, I had to interview a Chesapeake Bay Retriever. It’s a breed I didn’t even know existed. It was so funny. I had the microphone and he ate the microphone. He just grabbed it. He’s a retriever. That’s what they tell them to do. He really went all for it; it was crazy. Those mics are expensive too!
Images courtesy: Jesus Aranguren for Michael Simon and Jerry O’Connell