I like to think I know what my dogs are thinking. But as evidenced by how I thought Turk’s adoption went down vs. how he saw it, it’s pretty clear that I really don’t know what’s going on in my dogs’ heads. So, of course, I was intrigued when I was approached by Trish Collins of TLC Book Tours to review Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want you to Know by Hy Conrad & Jeff Johnson.
As someone who cries easily, I typically choose dog books that lean towards the funny and not the sad (imagine my dismay at the second half of Marley & Me or the ending of Where the Red Fern Grows), I was encouraged by the endorsement from one of my favorite actors, Steve Martin, on the cover: “I laughed, my dog howled.” So, with the expectation of no tears, I read the book during my flights to and from Portland last week. Here are my thoughts, both the good and the bad…
1. Written as a series of vignettes from eleven different dogs, it is a book you can pick up and put down without worrying you’ll forget key plot points. Each vignette is only 2 pages, so it reads quickly and you never get bored with the cast of characters.
2. Speaking of characters, my favorite vignettes came from Orson the bulldog, who is struggling with the diet his mommies put him on, and Tinkerbell the chihuahua, who gets annoyed that her Mom celebrates her birthday (apparently dogs don’t celebrate birthdays? Who knew?) and puts her in designer handbags. The Orson and Tinkerbell stories had me cracking up.
3. The illustrations in the book (Yes – it has illustrations. No – not like children’s book illustrations) help to give you a better image of what each dog looks like and some of them are pretty funny!
1. As Laura from A Heartbeat at my Feet noted, it was disappointing to see so many stories revolve around dogs getting knocked up or knocking another dog up (Dimples, Gabby, and Rufus T.). I get that the stories are supposed to just be funny, and maybe I am just over sensitive, but I just found those stories to be kind of gross.
2. I wouldn’t say this one is actually a “bad” quality, but there definitely depressing parts… the story of Sarge just made me super sad throughout the book. Sarge is a German Shepherd who goes from job to job, including a police dog, junk yard dog, sidekick to a homeless performer, and actor, trying to find a place where he belongs. With each time Sarge was fired, I became even more sad for him. Also, the reflections of Sophie the Cocker Spaniel as she nears the end of her life definitely made me cry. I was not expecting the sad stuff, so that was a bit of a surprise.
3. A lot of the stories revolved around the bad behaviors of dog owners, which was a little unnerving. Again, I could just be oversensitive, but I would have loved to read more stories about the dogs of responsible dog owners and not just the so-so or bad owners.
Overall I liked the book. It was short and had some funny parts. The funny stories (like when Axelrod the yellow lab explains the words he knows: “don’t run off” and “come back here” – it’s like “walk” without the leash. I think the technical meaning is “go ahead and explore.”) were super witty and made me laugh out loud (literally) on the plane. If you need something silly to read, this is the book for you. If you have a hard time getting past the details (like irresponsible breeding of dogs), then this might not be the book for you.