Jon Harris explains the unusual genesis of pal Richard M. Cohen’s newest book
By JON HARRIS February 4, 2013 5:32PM
Updated: February 5, 2013 10:14AM
A year ago, Richard M. Cohen, best-selling author and husband of award-winning television personality Meredith Vieira, was discussing possible topics for his next book with his agent.
Cohen’s previous books have dealt with serious topics, such as his bouts with chronic illnesses. However, during this particular brainstorm, the family’s tail-wagger, Jasper, was repeatedly yelping in the background. The barking got so bad that Richard finally admitted, “I’ll tell you, I’d really like to write a book about how I want to kill the dog.” Ladies and gentlemen, this is how a book is born.
Now, I consider the Vieira-Cohens among my closest friends — I met Meredith at a charity event nearly 20 years ago, where we spent the evening sharing a bottle of wine, laughing and trading stories about our kids and families. I’ve been dear friends with Meredith and Richard ever since, and can assure you that Richard would never hurt a dog — or any animal, for that matter. So, animal lovers, you have nothing to fear. That said, Richard jokingly admits that he might be indifferent “if a meteor fell on Jasper’s head.”
The family adopted Jasper more than 10 years ago, and their world hasn’t been the same since. Richard accuses Meredith of being a “happy puppy prisoner and true animal apologist.” To which she responds, “Yes, I’m 100 percent guilty of this and proud of it. I love animals so much that I even free bugs when I find them in the house.”
It’s important to understand that for the greater part of 27 years, Meredith and Richard have had the perfect marriage. In addition to their adopted four-legged son, they have three human children, Ben (24), Gabe (22) and Lily (20). Gabe and Lily currently attend Northwestern University, where I keep a close eye on them. So, with so much strength and love, how could these two be unaligned when it comes to their feelings toward Jasper?
As Richard puts it, “For some reason, Meredith insists Jasper is a smart dog. I do not think so. The animal cannot name the capital of New York and he is content eating dog food every day. That is not smart to me.”
Meredith vehemently disagrees. “Jasper is a family member. He is not nearly as bad as Richard says. In fact, many would say that he’s very restrained.”
Richard admits that while Jasper’s misbehavior can be frustrating, writing “I Want to Kill the Dog” was “a really nice break from the serious topics of my past books.” While the book takes a humorous look at Richard’s trials and tribulations with man’s, um, best friend, it is also about his deep love for his family and partner. As Richard writes, “Meredith is a fabulous mom, a real friend and a great journalist.”
“This book is really about how Meredith and I use humor as a coping mechanism,” says Richard. “It’s something we have shared with our kids and it’s really what helps get you through the day.”
When asked if he owes Jasper an apology, Richard smiles. “Well, I wouldn’t go that far ...”
Jon Harris donated his fee for writing this column to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.