The Dog I've Always Wanted

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

January 24th, 2010 · · 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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