Kelly Conaboy loves her dog. She loves her dog Peter so much that she wrote a book, “The Particulars of Peter: Dance Lessons, DNA Tests, and Other Excuses to Hang Out with My Perfect Dog,” about him. Like most of us canine fans, she loves her dog to distraction. She obsesses about her dog more than most of us, and she writes about Peter in a humorous and touching manner that few of us could match.
Peter is the epitome of canine perfection. When Conaboy agreed to foster him, she wasn’t sure she should actually adopt a dog. The rescue was adamant that fosters are not allowed to adopt their foster dogs. But Conaboy fell in love with Peter, something she describes as both inevitable and the best thing that ever happened to her. Chapter 1, “How Did We Get Here?” outlines how she begged and pleaded and finally got to adopt Peter, the cutest dog in the universe (at least in her eyes).
Conaboy describes Peter as “my great love and my obsession. My sweet number one man.” She explains her guilt that as she is writing about her favorite topic, the only thing she wants to write about, she is getting paid to do so. She judges people who use their dogs for fame-grabbing or to make money on social media. She cringes when people “talk” like their dogs in baby talk. She did some activities with Peter so she could write about them, and she says, “I’m so sorry to take you down all of these horrible paths of self-obsession, please feel free to skip ahead — it’s guilt-making to be a writer when undergoing experiences. I always hate admitting that I’m doing something to write about it to those who are doing it simply for the experience of doing it. It makes people suspicious, like I might have some sort of cruel ulterior motive, and it makes me feel like a phony.” But in writing this, she reveled in the fact that she got to hang out with Peter all the time, and “think about him all the time, and write about him all the time. I wanted to spend time getting to know him. I feel so lucky that I was able to do that, to make him into work. What an incredible scam.”
If you’ve concluded that her writing is naturally conversational and filled with wry humor, you would be correct. Kelly is self-deprecating as she makes fun of her anxiety about taking care of Peter, about always doing the right thing for Peter, and about making sure that Peter’s life is as wonderful as it can possibly be.
We learn about Peter’s DNA test and why she picked the one offered by a company called Embark. Spoiler alert: it was the most expensive one and she wan’t paying for it! She reached out to the rescue group that had rescued Peter from a high kill shelter in the South, and as most of us who have rescue dogs already know, there was precious little known about the first three years of his life. And Kelly is upfront about her sadness that she couldn’t protect him during those first years of his life. (Most of us can empathize. One of my rescues, a pittie, has an uneven chest from what probably was an embedded harness. My rescue from China came with a damaged leg that needed surgery. She was hit by a car as a puppy running in the streets, and her broken leg was left to heal on its own. We can only deal with their wounds – physical and emotional – after the fact.)
Luckily for us, Kelly often veers off topic. In the chapter about doggie festivals, she describes driving to Canada to attend what was billed as the largest dog festival in North America. She then digresses and discusses seat belts for dogs. After learning that dogs should be restrained in moving vehicles, she bought a dog vest and dog seat belt that is anchored to the backseat headrest. She continues, “plus I got a net for between the back and front seats that will definitely do nothing in an accident but still provides the level of mental comfort that spending money on something unnecessary can provide.” Her narrative about the Hyatt Regency in Buffalo? Priceless.
You won’t learn anything important about how to care for your dog by reading this book. There’s nothing about which is the best dog food or which grooming tools are a “must have.” Most of us know the answers to the questions that make up the titles of each chapter: questions like, “Should my dog play a sport?” and “Should I sleep in bed with my dog?” Incidentally, in my opinion, the answer to the last question depends on several factors (number of dogs, size of bed). Kelly only has one dog, so yes, Peter sleeps in bed with her. She tells us, “When it’s time for bed I’ll ask Peter, ‘Do you want to go to bed?’ He doesn’t really have any agency in the situation, since he is technically my prisoner, but I like to offer him the illusion.”
What you will get out of this book is an appreciation for Kelly’s complete and total adoration of Peter, and you’ll smile and chuckle often while reading each chapter. I wish I could share more of the absolutely hysterical musings that Kelly includes in the book, but there’s only so much space. Suffice to say that if you have a dog, you will laugh continuously at Peter’s antics and even more at Kelly’s over-the-top devotion to Peter and Peter’s happiness.
Do dogs like music? Can dogs learn to talk? Can you communicate with your dog via a pet psychic? Can dogs hunt ghosts? Find out the answers (kind of) to those vital questions in “The Particulars of Peter.” Get ready to look at your dog through new eyes. Get ready to smile. Or give this to someone you know who is obsessed with their dog. They’ll love it.
This review was first posted on Bookreporter.com.
Please note: This review is based on the advanced review copy provided by Grand Central Publishing, the publisher, for review purposes.