Reviews for Big Little Life : A Memoir of a Joyful Dog


Booklist Reviews 2009 July #1
*Starred Review* In 1998, after years of consideration, Dean and Gerda Koontz finally got a dog. Trixie was a golden retriever trained by the Canine Companions for Independence, which Koontz has plugged in the acknowledgments or afterwords in some of his books. Retired early from companionship by joint surgery, she was three years old, highly intelligent, good-humored, and a seemingly instinctive fit with her fastidious new owners--she absolutely would not defecate on their property. She so quickly lightened everyday life that, four months after she arrived, Koontz told her he knew she was actually an angel. That provoked "the first and last time she wanted distance from me," which he doesn't interpret as confirming his suspicion, but which he does place in chapter 1 as "a spooky moment around which the entire story revolves." That story is, to be sure, another memoir of a beloved pooch, but far from just another. Besides quite regularly manifesting her extraordinariness, Trixie made Koontz ponder the nature of intelligence, interspecies communication, sympathy, intuition, love and the loyalty it engenders, and other species' degrees of consciousness, including the knowledge of personal death. Koontz leavens his musings on such weighty themes with plenty of both self-deprecating humor and Trixie's comic élan to make this one dog book that everyone other than the most flint-hearted dog-haters will deeply enjoy. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

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BookPage Reviews 2009 September
Lessons from a golden retriever

Classic suspense and intricate plots are the usual domain of mega-best-selling writer Dean Koontz—a touching story about a beloved dog, not so much. But Koontz’s boundless love for his golden retriever Trixie shines through his latest book, A Big Little Life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog. Koontz had always been good at capturing the canine spirit in print, and he did in-person research on guide dogs for one of his books at Canine Companions for Independence, an organization that trains assistance dogs. Koontz and his wife Gerda had spent nearly every moment of 24 years together, childless workaholics who thought they were too busy for a dog. But CCI kept asking if they were ready to adopt one of their course “failures.” Enter Trixie, the force that would change Koontz’s middle age forever.

It’s not every pooch that has the opportunity to rub its Kong toy on a pricey oil painting, or get a dish of Swedish meatballs at a favorite restaurant. Trixie’s down-to-earth joy and antics are the cheerful squeaky toy at the center of this moving story. Part sitcom, part prose portrait, spiritual quest and eulogy, A Big Little Life is a page-turner in its own right—even if every dog lover knows how the plot must play out. “Most of us will never be able to live with as much joy as a dog brings to every moment of his day,” Koontz writes. “But if we recognize that we share a tao, we then see that the dog lives more closely at that core than we do, and the way to achieving greater joy becomes clear. . . . Dogs know.” And so will readers and dog lovers everywhere who bask in the reflected glow of Koontz’s unwavering love for Trixie.

Copyright 2009 BookPage Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2009 July #1
In his nonfiction debut, mega-bestselling novelist Koontz (In Odd We Trust, 2008, etc.) presents a humorous, poignant portrait of his remarkable dog.The author and his wife adopted three-year-old Trixie in 1998. Elbow surgery forced the golden retriever into early retirement from Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), an organization that raises and trains assistance dogs for people with physical disabilities. Trixie fit right into the Koontzes' disciplined writing life and spotless California home. She was so well-trained that she relieved herself on command and rested calmly under restaurant tables, ignoring tasty scraps thrown to her by other diners. But impeccable behavior and uncanny intelligence--including attempts at speech--never diluted her exuberance or innocence. These qualities restored Koontz's sense of wonder and encouraged him to take more risks in his fiction writing. Here, the media-shy author opens up about childhood poverty, love for his wife and his spiritual beliefs. He also provides plenty of laughs, borne more of his self-effacing humor and mastery of language than doggie antics--though Trixie's "own" essay is certainly a highlight. Any post-Marley dog memoir cannot escape comparison to John Grogan's blockbuster. Determined to convey that the exquisite magic and mystery of Trixie put her on a different plane, Koontz preempts the debate early on. "This is not going to be a memoir about a pillow-destroying, cat-chasing, furniture-chewing, miscreant kind of canine," he writes, "she was something more than a dog…this spirit was a wonder and a revelation." Trixie defied conventional wisdom from animal behaviorists who believe that dogs cannot express emotions, judge character or remember things as humans can. Friends, family and strangers corroborated that Trixie was "special" in an otherworldly sense. Unprompted, an Indian neighbor informed Koontz, "Your dog is a person who has almost arrived at complete enlightenment and will in the next life be perfect and blameless, a very great person."Heady stuff for a pup, but Koontz's talent lies in making the preposterous believable. Was Trixie some sort of angel? Regardless, her enchanting story will have fans panting for more. Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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