Published author, radio and TV show host Harrison Forbes is the featured guest at Beaverton Toyota’s Pet Party, happening July 16, 11-3.
To really get a feel for Forbes’s standing in the pet world, click on the video at HarrisonForbes.com.
Here is Forbes on Larry King Live . . . Regis & Kelly . . . CNN . . . on stage with Tim and Faith with all the fanfare of a major Nashville event. This guy is big!
Spot had the pleasure of chatting with Forbes last month as he traveled to the next stop in his current tour for Toyota’s Pet Safety Initiative. The mission statement for the initiative is: “To educate American consumers surrounding the importance of properly protecting and securing pets in automobiles and align this initiative with Toyota’s vehicle safety features.”
In line with this, in addition to meeting with the public at the July 16th Pet Party, Forbes will spend time with the crew at Beaverton Toyota, helping them fine-tune their sensitivity to and skills in serving a pet-loving public.
So how does a celebrity pet expert end up at the head of the conference room with auto dealership staff? The answer becomes clear as you get acquainted with this amazing man.
While “amazing” might sound a little gushy, consider this: at 42, Forbes’s professional resume includes animal trainer, police dog import business owner, real estate agent, published author, and award-winning radio and TV host. When asked how he’s accomplished all he has in so few years, he laughs.
Which brings up the fact that, yes, by the way: in addition to being cover model handsome and scary smart, he’s also friendly and fun. The ingredients for success? You bet.
So how does one build that kind of professional resume in so few years? And how do animals fit in?
“It all started when I was working for a vet at age 12,” he says. Yep. 12. “Maybe it was before child labor laws,” he says, chuckling. “Certainly”, he adds, “it was before veterinarians really began practicing medical specialties. “ He interrupts himself to offer this amendment: “Oh, wait. It really started when . . . I had been working at the local mom and pop pet store at age 8.” The pet shop was owned by the son of the high school principal, who had been a military K9 trainer during World War II.
Forbes had started training dogs while working at the pet store. At 15, he traveled to Austria to visit his older brother who was in school there for a year. The high school principal (who was also owner of Kennel next to his son’s Pet Shop) was a dog trainer, and he had friends in Germany doing canine military/police training. By the time Forbes was in college, he says, he was traveling back and forth to Germany and Holland, bringing police dogs in through the import business he operated at that time.
Forbes’s trajectory would take a turn in 1992, a time, he says, when talk radio “had become legitimate.” A friend of his dad’s was a radio host, and a pet lover. After listening to his show many times and calling in to question or correct “the latest outrageous thing he’d said about pets,” Forbes was invited to sit in on the show as a guest pet expert.
At first Forbes broadcast one Friday a month, then every Friday, and finally, was asked if he’d like to do his own hour-long radio show. His response? “Not really.” Only because, he says, “This was a really busy time.” He was frequently traveling to Europe, had acquired his real estate license, and had other pursuits as well.
In ’93 Forbes finally conceded to doing a radio show, Pet Talk, which in 1994 won the excellence in media award from the Tennessee Veterinary Association. For the next decade Forbes continued with the radio show and his police dog business. In 2004, he began hosting a regional Regis & Kelly-style cable show (not pet related). This venture led to more travel, and meeting many new people, which interestingly during a trip to New York included the producer of the actual Regis & Kelly Show.
When asked whether his progression to celebrity was easy, scary, comfortable or challenging, his response revealed a little more about how — and how easily and quickly — things came together.
Forbes comes from a family of “mostly doctors,” and his mom is an author and speaker. Now in her 70s, she continues to be booked for 100 speaking engagements each year, and has published two books this year alone. Another of Forbes’s brothers is the current president of the Holistic Medical Association and, says Forbes, in addition to being a doctor, is an activist and frequent speaker himself.
Another piece of back-story that explains the ease with which Forbes moved into — and easily made himself at home in — the world of celebrity, is that growing up, his family lived next door (and became like family) to Isaac Tigrett, co-founder of the Hard Rock Cafés.
“Isaac would fly us to the openings and premieres of all the Hard Rocks,” says Forbes, “so I got to meet Dan Ackroyd, Eddie Murphy, and others.”
“So the catalyst that made me decide six years ago to really get into this,” says Forbes, “was a phone call from Isaac, who said ‘I saw you on TV. Get out of that town and do something big.” Forbes said okay, Isaac said he would make a few calls, and shortly Forbes was on his first trip to LA.
“Doors opened, and it just paved the way,” says Forbes.
When asked how writing his best-selling book Dog Talk came about, Forbes explained that while he doesn’t consider himself a “writer”, when he learned he could ‘write’ the book through spoken recordings that would be transcribed and edited, he was game.
“I always call it the book that Wal-mart wrote,” he said, a smile in his voice.
Forbes’s mom-in-law had passed away at the time the book was being composed, he explained. So he and his wife were in her small home town, tending to her mother’s home and effects. Because there was no cell reception at the house, Forbes explains, “90 percent of that book was written talking on the phone where I could get reception — the Wal-Mart parking lot.” His smile comes through the phone, loud and clear.
Forbes and his wife have three kids, “boy, girl, boy,” he says, ages 6, 8 and 12. The oldest had an adventure recently that once again teased the thread of sweet serendipity that weaves through Forbes’s life story so far.
“He’s a rock drummer,” says Forbes of his 12-year-old son, “and he was invited to play with Sammy Hagar recently at the original House of Blues on Sunset Boulevard in LA.” Here’s the sweet spot: The House of Blues was the next venture of Isaac after he sold his Hard Rock Cafés. So it was a thrill to call Isaac after his son’s gig . . . “It just sort of brought things full circle,” says Forbes. “What a small world.”
When asked how he manages kids, family, the job, the travel (the Toyota tour has him booked for about three appearances per month), Forbes makes it all sound easy — something that seems to come naturally whatever his topic.
Because he comes from a family of speakers and travelers, and because he’s well inured to the demands of broadcasting in New York or Los Angeles on weekends, he, and the family, are comfortable with the routine. “In fact,” he says, “It’s not that unlike any business executive. I often leave Thursday or Friday and am back home by Sunday evening or Monday morning.”
Dubbed the go-to guy for national pet stories, and a man with a breathtaking record of accomplishment, spending time with pets and people still ranks high on Forbes’s list of priorities. “Radio and TV are fun,” he says, “but with TV you can tape a segment, it might air six to nine months later, and it’s just . . . not as connected. That’s why I love live radio. I like talking to people . . . it helps me keep my finger on the pulse of how people are thinking and feeling, and what’s really going on in the world.”
Forbes looks forward to meeting Northwest ‘pet people’ during Beaverton Toyota’s Pet Party July 16th. And as is clear from this brief opportunity to meet the man, spending time with him is both fascinating and tons of fun.
Kristan Dael is a freelance writer and the alter ego of Jennifer Mccammon. She lives in Portland with her 3-pack, and strives to produce articles that inform, edify, engage and entertain.