Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know by Hy Conrad and Jeff Johnson is a cute and funny book designed to entertain. For the most part, the comedy works. And while you’re unlikely to turn to Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know for reference, it does make a great addition to a bathroom shelf or any place you might need some relaxed readings. Sometimes, you’ll even learn a few things about man’s best friend. Oh, and it’s mostly safely for the entire family to read.
Cute and funny require a delicate balancing act. Lean too far left or too far right and your juggling balls might all tumble down around you. Case in point: sometimes I laughed at the revelations of the eleven canines who tell all in letter form; other times I didn’t understand what had happened. One of my favorite dogs is Axelrod. In one letter, he reacts to the fancy new collar he received after he started scratching his ear and the whole side of his face got red. At first he tells his owner, “The good news is I don’t really mind the itch because the collar annoys me in so many ways.” As he elaborates, Alexrod comes to realize that there are so-called good points to the collar such as “the collar makes it more fun to drink water ‘cause I can scoop it up from the bowl then carry it around with me for a while.” One of my least favorite dogs is Moonbeam, who was adopted by a New Age follower. One letter tells how Moonbeam’s owner and a life coach lived in a guest cottage. Edgar the life coach used to secretly feed beef jerky to Moonbeam. When Edgar dies, the owner locks up the cottage but Moonbeam chews through a rotting board to find a way back into the cottage. The owner unlocks the door and calls out, “Edgar is that you?” She repeatedly does that, until one day she instead pulls out a crystal ball. Hmm, now that I’ve taken time to write out the episode, I understand it—but personally still find the scenario to silly to relate to and therefore laugh at. In contrast, most dog owners will understand that Alexrod is talking about an Elizabethan dog collar and know the agony it causes him. They’ll also relate when Axelrod concludes, “I may even miss this lovable thing when you take it off. You are going to take it off, aren’t you? Because it’s not lovable. I made that up.” Funny stuff!
With no single unifying plot, the series of two-page stories in Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know will allow you to dip into the book at any spot at any time. Each of the eleven dogs has their own unique stories which develop over time and are interesting to read. For example, there are letters from new parent Dimples, who recently gave birth to Mutt Junior and Runt. Naturally, each of her letters focus on some aspect of her owners’ dog-parenting techniques until the two puppies are raised and trained. I loved her final note, in which she concludes, “All of that is over, and the boys have turned into regular, boring dogs…. I guess the only solution is more puppies—not that I’m volunteering.” However, each dog’s letters are interspersed with those from other dogs. For instance, I opened to a random page and found these consecutive stories: waiting for table scraps, puppies know they’re cute, the reason I ate the sofa, and days at the junkyard. This eclectic approach left me feeling restless before I’d finished all the tales. That may be because I assumed I was getting a traditional plot structure, whereas if you view this book as a collection of short stories you should avoid this problem. 🙂
My last point regards the targeted audience. I agreed to read Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know, because it was being marketed as being suitable for the whole family. There are many stories such as those about Gabby—who is at that age where she’s beginning to notice boys—which are not only appropriate for all ages but could easily appeal to young people. However, I also consider some parts of the book as best suited for adults only. Bandana likes cigarettes and alcohol, Sarge got fired from his job as a police dog because he took a shine to cocaine and other drugs, and Tinkerbell likes to pop pills to get a buzz. Aside from these “positive” drug references, there’s also the talk about our canine friends being attracted to dogs with testicles, having their balls removed, and being sexually active in a van with a random dog. While I admit that many of these ideas would’ve gone right over my head as a child, that won’t be the case for many kids. For that reason, I’d recommend parental guidance.
As for adults, I intend to share this review with my dog-loving friends. A few of them may frown at or feel confused by some of the stranger tales. In reflecting back upon the stories, however, I can easily think of dozens of tales that will delight many of my friends. So check out Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know, then come back and post which dog letter was your favorite.
My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.
How would you rate this book?