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My Interview with Hy Conrad & Jeff Johnson
Hy Conrad and Jeff Johnson, the authors of Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know, agreed to answer some questions for me about their life and their writing careers. I hope you enjoy their answers as much as I did.
The title of your book is Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know. Why doesn't our dog want us to know these things?
Our inspiration came from a series of late-night infomercials. “Things the Banks Don’t Want You to Know.” “Things the Government Doesn’t Want You to Know.” The idea of dogs not wanting you to know their secrets seemed like a natural follow-up. Why do puppies bite? Why do dogs lean out of car windows? What do they do while you’re gone all afternoon?
Once we actually got into the book, we found there were relatively few things that dogs kept from us. For the most part, they ‘re eager to communicate, if it weren’t for that pesky language barrier. So the title may be a little misleading. But it’s a great title.
How many dogs did you try to convince to talk to you?
We tried to interview every dog we met. Some weren’t interested. Some just wanted to ask us questions. Some couldn’t get their humans to sign permission slips. But the majority were cooperative and wound up saying the same thing. “Is that a treat in your pocket? Is that a treat in your pocket? Is that a treat in your pocket?”
How hard was it to convince these eleven dogs to tell you their stories?
Since dogs are naturally friendly, getting them to spill their guts was easy. The hard part was finding 11 dogs with fascinating stories. (There are only so many times you can listen to “yesterday at the park” or “guess what I found in her closet”.)
We like to think we came up with a good balance. For example: Gabby, the girlie dachshund who is just discovering life – and boys; Axelrod, the yellow Lab who is mystified by everything; Dimples, the single mom with plenty of puppy-rearing advice.
Would you care to divulge exactly how you finally convinced these dogs to talk?
“Yes, that’s a treat in my pocket. Yes, that’s a treat in my pocket. Yes, that’s a treat in my pocket.”
Once you convinced these dogs to talk to you, how did they feel about the secrets they were sharing with you being published?
Dogs don’t understand publishing. But then, who does?
Tinkerbell, the Chihuahua, it turns out, likes e-books. She says the larger ones make really good yoga mats. But most of the dogs we interviewed prefer traditional publishing, especially the old smelly paperbacks they can tear into a million pieces and digest rather easily.
The photos of the dogs and the added drawings make the book even more enjoyable. What made you decide to use the talents of Dean Stefanides in the book?
Dean is an advertising art director who has made everything from cars to toilet paper look fantastic. He’s a friend who happens to own two apartments on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. One is for him and his wife. The other is for his eight dogs. Dean’s snooty neighbors are not all that fond of this arrangement..
Which story was your favorite?
It’s hard to pick. But we’re very fond of Bandana’s story, “My Time in the Pen.” It’s the saga of one dog’s incarceration on the rock – “Coral Rock Pet Boarding” – and the great escape that he carried out with his fellow inmates. We don’t want to spoil the ending, so we won’t.
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