In The Particulars of Peter (Grand Central, Dec.), Conaboy explores the world of dog ownership.
How did you decide which topics to investigate for the book?
I assume it’s this way for a lot of people who have dogs, but every day there are new questions that I have about Peter and about how to best take care of him, so it wasn’t hard to come up with a list of areas that I wanted to explore. It was really just about narrowing it down to what was actually possible. We could take agility lessons, we could take dancing lessons, we could go to Woofstock, so we did that.
Were there any questions that you just couldn’t fit in?
There were a lot of things that I ultimately didn’t use. For one, there’s this thing of having parties for dogs. You hire these people and they will come to your house and throw a lavish event for your dog. I thought that would be funny and I wanted to do it for Peter, but I couldn’t get a real sense of how expensive it would be and how it would actually work, so that fell apart.
You mix humor with research and reporting. What’s your method for balancing these?
I’ve been a blogger for 10 years or so, and it’s something I’ve done for a long time: trying to be funny but also offer something that’s not just a joke. Not that a joke is a bad thing, but just to add value. I did a lot of research and interviews for the book, and I put them all in when I was doing my first round of writing the chapters. And a lot of them, when you read them back, would be like “I’m reading five thousand words just about the science of diseases you can contract from different animals by sleeping with them.” I get bored very easily, so if I’m reading something I wrote and I’m feeling myself getting bored, I use that as a guide for where to pull back and decide, “Maybe we can just stick to two scientists rather than six.”
What was the most surprising thing you learned about dogs in writing the book?
Something I talk about in the book is that you as a dog owner can fall into projecting yourself onto your dog because you’re together all the time, so it seems like “We feel this way about this.” With Peter specifically, obviously he loves running and playing and everything dogs love, but I thought, “We’re more chill. We don’t care about that kind of stuff.” And to an extent that’s true, he loves just hanging out, but he was clearly very interested in learning all the different tricks and doing all the different activities I had him doing.
Do you think fame is going to change Peter?
That is a great question. I think he’s pretty levelheaded. I can’t imagine he’s going to become a diva about it. I think he’ll be able to keep his cool.