A Big Little Life:A Memoir of a Joyful Dog

by Dean Koontz. Hyperion Books. $24.99.

BigLittleLifeIf you’ve ever been owned by a golden retriever – or any dog – the shimmering intensity of this memoir is certain to pointedly affect how you look at your four-legged friend today and remember those special ones of the past.

A successful novelist with more than 20 No. 1 New York Times bestsellers, Koontz’s first foray into nonfiction ranks as the fillet of his career.

The author pours his heart and soul into the beautiful chronicle of how a retired 60-pound Canine Companions for Independence service dog impacted the lives of himself and his wife Gerda over almost nine years. In fact, the CCI training facility in Oceanside, Calif., is named the Gerda, Dean and Trixie Koontz Campus, with all author proceeds from this volume being donated to the organization.

Koontz admits to always wanting a dog, but never believing he or Gerda had the time to devote to its care and needs, since the workaholics PT (pre-Trixie) spent between 50-70 hours weekly on the job.
But the resourceful and adventurous Trix changes all of that – and a lot more – in this spirited portrayal, which evolves into a poignant trade-out of values. It isn’t, however, just about what this dedicated couple did for Trix; the eureka moments she delivered in return are inexorably linked.

Here are some of Koontz’s most poignant observations:

“For a dog, the world is an ever-expanding carnival of mysteries. Every new experience enchants, and every morning is full of promise.”

“Trixie inspired me to look at things from a new perspective, made the familiar fresh again, somehow shared with me her recognition of great beauty in mundane scenes, and reawakened in me an awareness of the mystery that woven into the warp and weft of everything we perceive with our five senses but can know only with our hearts. This may be the primary purpose of dogs: to restore our sense of wonder and to help us maintain it, to make us consider that we should trust our intuition as they trust theirs, and to help us realize that a thing known intuitively can be as real as anything known by material experience.”

“When you have dogs, you witness their uncomplaining acceptance of suffering, their bright desire to make the most of life in spite of the limitations of age and disease, their calm awareness of the approaching end when their final hours come. They accept death with a grace that I hope I will one day be brave enough to muster.”

But it’s the savory mosaic of anecdotes like these you’ll savor even more: Trixie’s never-give-up quest for tennis balls outside the fences of nearby tennis courts and her ability to utter “baw”; her immediate recognition of Tinsey, a littermate she had not seen in years, at a CCI dedication; her dogged determination to pull mom and dad away from work nightly at 5 p.m. rather than 7 p.m.; and an ears up, let’s- go look when the word “nachos” was uttered by Koontz, three months after a first encounter with the tasty treat at a nearby restaurant.

The piercing realism and sharp-eyed analysis of “A Big Little Life” give powerful new meaning to the spirit and responsibility of dog ownership and serve as a steady diet of humility that man’s best friend should never be taken for granted.