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Entries from January 2010

a big little life — A Memoir of a Joyful Dog by Dean Koontz

January 24th, 2010 · No Comments · Book Reviews

I have to admit that I am not a fan of Dean Koontz’s novels. I did read one once because others in the family are fans and the book was to hand. All I can recall about this particular novel is that the protagonist was distressed by squirrels who seemed to be both psychic and evil. I was enduring a particularly long, hard winter that year and I began to be troubled by a bold squirrel who developed the habit of staring at me through the kitchen window while I did dishes. I found this increasingly unnerving and I began to wonder, “Who is he? ” and  “What does he know?” I decided that perhaps Dean Koontz was not the best author to read just then given the combination of my over-active imagination and a bad case of cabin fever. Having said that I must hasten to add that I very much enjoyed “a big little life ” .

Koontz and his wife Gerda, long time supporters of Canine Companions for Independence, an organization that trains and places service dogs for people with a variety of disabilities, adopted a dog who had to retire from her post having had elbow surgery which disqualified her as a service dog. Trixie, a lovely golden retriever who embodied all the best attributes of her breed, was of course extremely well trained. She also possessed qualities that can only be described as spiritual. There was definitely  something other worldly about Trixie. After all, she was Dean Koontz’s dog.

The title is apt. Although she lived a dog’s life, in the best sense of that term, and granted that it was a life of wealth and privilege, she was in no way spoiled or corrupted by it. Her sweet and loving disposition endured throughout her life. It was a big life in the sense that she fulfilled her mission which was to bring change and insight to the humans with whom she lived. The bond that was forged between the Koontzs’ and Trixie was deep and was characterized by mutual respect. “The life of a seamstress is no smaller than the life of a queen, the life of a child with Down syndrome no less filled with promise than the life of a philosopher, because the only significant measure of your life is the positive effect you have on others…..If by example of her joy and innocence, a dog can greatly change two lives for the better, then no life is little and every life is big. The mystery of life is the source of its wonder and the wonder of life is what makes it worth living.”

When the end inevitably arrives it comes with dignity and much sorrow. I confess that I wept. I do recommend this book because it is illustrative of the depth and strength of that unique and indeed mysterious bond that is so often created between a human and a dog.

“Maybe loving dogs is a way we do penance for all the other illusions we allow ourselves and for the mistakes we make because of those illusions.”

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Walking Dogs in Winter

January 14th, 2010 · 1 Comment · Musings

I love walking dogs. I’m spending a lot of time doing it this winter. It gives me many opportunities to make observations and discover beauty in unexpected places, in mundane objects. Winter is beautiful but it challenges us and reminds us of our frailties. The dogs I walk are mostly invigorated by the cold and a new fall of snow is exciting to most of them. Snow banks are ripe with yellow messages that must be investigated and of course responded to in kind! Chunks of ice are marvellous crunchy snacks. Some dogs like to lick fat snowflakes out of the air as they drift down. Such delight.

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NEWS FLASH Jeff King wins the Copper Basin 300 !

January 12th, 2010 · No Comments · Mushing-northern dogs

Jeff King won this important mid distance race by beating his closest competitor, Alan Moore, by only a few minutes. See the exciting start, action at check points and the squeaker of a finish. Its all on; check it out!

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Mushing Season

January 10th, 2010 · No Comments · Mushing-northern dogs

This time of year it is impossible not to think of North, not here but the real North, the Yukon, and Alaska. The places where so much of the great dog sledding goes on. The lands of vast frozen beauty that challenge human endurance and have given rise to the legendary partnering of humans and dogs,

The race season is underway. I have discovered a great website called It features interviews with some of the greatest names in mushing, Lance Mackey, Jeff King and Sebastien Schnuelle. You can hear them talk about their training routines and their hopes for this season. It’s great. But do check it out now because they are planning to start charging a fee to see their videos. Right now its still free.

Here’s a sample:

Jeff King interviewed by Benedikt Beisch on Mushing TV

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From My Reading List – Fetching Dylan – The Wolf in the Parlor

January 8th, 2010 · No Comments · Book Reviews

Fetching Dylan  by Stephen Foster

When I discovered that the author of Walking Ollie had a new book out I was very eager to read it. I wasn’t disappointed. Fetching Dylan is a sensitive account of the acquisition and rearing of the saluki pup who has the distinction of being Ollie’s “little brother”. Foster is an acute observer of his dogs as well as a witty and entertaining  story teller.  The book has a literary flavour with plenty of relevant references. All most all of this narrative is set outside in fields or beaches, anywhere that two dogs who were born to run can cut loose and have a tear.  There are hilarious accounts of adventures and misadventures. Stephen Foster is endowed with a rare degree of patience and an intense love for his dogs as they are meant to be.  As the cliche goes, read this book; you’ll laugh; you’ll cry.

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