Interview: Dana Perino Talks About Dogs and Politics
Dana Perino's second book, Let Me Tell You About Jasper, was released this week. In it, the Fox News co-host of The Five (and former White House Press Secretary) shares stories of how her famous dog Jasper (nicknamed America's Dog) has enriched her and her husband Peter's lives. She also explains how dogs can bring people with opposing views together, even in these polarizing times.
I was lucky enough to score an interview with Dana to discuss her book, and some other things going on in her life. Enjoy!
John: You've been entrenched in the crazy world of politics (in one form or another) for many years, and as you've described in your book, it can take an emotional toll on a person. In addition to being a beloved companion, is it safe to say that Jasper has served as a therapeutic device against the stresses of your job?
Dana: Peter and Jasper have been incredibly important to me during this election cycle. I can't imagine getting through this year without them. My schedule is such that Peter has to manage most of the Jasper-related responsibilities, leaving me to be the one that comes home at the end of the day for big cuddles and chances to spoil him.
A new tradition we started is that they walk down to meet me halfway as I'm walking home from the studio. Jasper likes to look in the shop windows at the displays, and when we finally meet up, he goes NUTS! I've enjoyed getting to know some of the NYPD that patrol the area - they always give us a big greeting and look out for me.
Knowing I get to go home to them [Peter and Jasper], safe from the trolls, is a great comfort.
John: You make the point in your book that people's love for their dogs transcends the political division and vitriol that exists in this country. What's one piece of advice you would give to help society recognize that particular area of common ground, and apply it to how we talk to one another?
Dana: In the book I include my rules for the dog park - number one is "no politics." Whenever we go to Central Park in the mornings, we avoid talking about politics. We talk about our dogs, their kids, the weather - anything but politics. It isn't worth getting in an argument with someone about politics when you're there to get some fresh air and see the enjoyment of your dog running around with his pals. The other thing I do is try to remember the names of my colleagues' dogs - that way we always have something fun to talk about, regardless of the news of the day.
John: Fans of The Five have heard a lot about Jasper, and a bit about your previous dog (Henry), over the years. Did you own any dogs before them? Did you grow up with any?
Dana: I grew up with working dogs at my grandparents' ranch in Newcastle, Wyoming (they slept outside...can you imagine?!). And my parents got a dog named Joco when I was two years old. He lived nearly sixteen years, which is a nice long life for a dog. I remember my mom's devastation when Joco died as she was the one who had to take him to the vet. In those days, you dropped off your dog at the vet and said good-bye. She said it was the hardest thing she'd done to that point in her adult life. I am so glad I had the experience of having dogs (and two cats!) when I was younger. I have a saying - every kid needs a dog and every dog needs a kid. That's a good motto for everyone!
John: I've heard you say that your most prized possession is a portrait that your former boss, President George W. Bush, painted of Jasper as a puppy. I can't imagine a more meaningful gift. Putting aside the sentimental value of that painting for a moment, how would you compare President Bush's artistry to that of Greg Gutfeld's unicorn sketches?
Dana: I'm trying to think of how to answer this tactfully...for Greg's benefit. Ha! Greg is a great doodler, while President Bush is an artist who only found out about his talent after he left the White House. I'm looking forward to his next project that will be revealed next March -- he's painted the portraits of sixty-six wounded warriors who served under his command. Those paintings will be compiled into a book and the proceeds will go to fund post-traumatic stress research. It is a historical first, and quite an emotional and meaningful one at that.
John: Wow, that's amazing. His commitment to our wounded warriors has been truly inspiring.
Speaking of artwork, your book includes some hilarious photo-shopped images of Jasper (which my kids love, by the way) that were created over the years by an anonymous fan who goes by the Twitter handle "FiveFanPhotoshops." Did you plan all along to include these pictures in your book, or did the idea come later? Have you ever actually met FiveFanPhotoshops?
Dana: I wanted to showcase this amazingly talented modern artist, FiveFan, and I thought that the gallery of photoshops would tell the story of Jasper better than my words could. And it makes the book so unique. Megyn Kelly told me her son loves the photos so much that he takes the book to bed with him. That brought real tears to my eyes (if you watch Fox News, you may have seen my leaky eye - it's caused by chronic dry eye syndrome, but it looks like the news of the day makes me tear up!). Also, something refreshing in today's world, FiveFan wants to remain anonymous. His humility has reminded me to keep my ego in check.
John: As an author myself, I'm always interested in hearing how other authors go about their craft. When you're working on a book, do you set aside a certain amount of time for writing each day? Are you able to write to music?
Dana: I write in silence. Sometimes that's hard to do in New York City and when I wrote the first book, I remember getting frustrated by the sirens and street noise. I usually write in the mornings or on weekends. If I am under a deadline, I can power through. But I do like to take my time (if I have any!). I'm not a natural long-form writer (I'm much better at talking points and press statements), so sometimes I second guess myself. I've found that if I write like I'm just having a chat with someone, that the words come together very well. When I try too hard, it reads like I've tried to hard. I would like to try to write fiction, and I have an idea for a story - but that project seems so intimidating. I love to read and admire writers like you who can put a story together - I'm fascinated by the process, too. By the way, one of the best books I've read about writing is by Ann Patchett, "This is the Story of a Happy Marriage." I highly recommend it.
John: Last month, you started co-hosting a weekend show on Fox News with Chris Stirewalt, called "I'll Tell You What." It's an extension of the podcast the two of you have been doing for some time. The show's format is noticeably different than that of The Five, in that it takes a more analytical approach to the election. What have you found rewarding about this new endeavor, and is there a chance the show will continue on, after the election?
Dana: The show was meant to be temporary through the election, but we do love it and we'll see if anything happens in the future. For now, we'll keep the podcast going (it's hilarious and informative). What I like about the show is that it is a good combination of smart and fun. We added a news quiz, kept our trivia portion "Stump the Stirewalt" and we've attracted wonderful panelists -- we look to showcase people you may not see on the channel otherwise. We are grateful that so many of them have given up one of their precious fall Sundays to spend with us.
John: You and I are the same age, and both grew up in suburbs of Denver, Colorado. Thus, I always get a kick out of hearing you mention places on television (like the Continental movie theater) that were very much a part of my youth. Do you believe your Colorado upbringing helped shape your political views?
Dana: Skate City on Arapahoe Road! Did you ever go there? Man I loved that place. And Celebrity. Ever have your birthday party at that place? (Indoor water park for those who haven't had the pleasure!).
John: Yes, I went to Skate City a few times on school field trips. And everyone who was anyone back then went to Celebrity Sports Center. Fun days.
Dana: I wouldn't trade my upbringing for anything in the world. One thing I wrote about in "And the Good News Is..." is that I'm living proof you don't have to grow up on the East Coast and go to an Ivy League School in order to end up in the Oval Office advising the President of the United States. I appreciate being from a flyover state and I try not to forget where I came from.
I dedicate the Jasper book to my grandfather, Leo E. Perino - he ran the ranch in Newcastle (my Uncle Matt does now with his sons, Wade and Preston), and I say that he taught me about dignity, patriotism, and a love for animals. I want to keep my western sensibilities while I continue to have the opportunity to give my opinion about the news of the day, and I keep my grandfather in mind often.
John: Last question: According to a large number of anonymous Twitter accounts, you are part of a secret globalist organization (sponsored by the Bushes, Clintons, and other international elites) whose goal is to undermine the Trump campaign, and rule the world through a covert authoritarian government. My question is this: Does this organization have a softball team?
Dana: If we did, we'd be a motley crew! What a long strange trip this election has been. I won't be disappointed to see it in the rear view mirror. SAD!
Thank you very much for your time, Dana. Best of luck with your book!
Dana's book, "Let Me Tell You About Jasper . . .: How My Best Friend Became America's Dog," can purchased through Amazon and wherever books are sold. To catch Dana in your town, check out her book tour schedule.