A Big Little Life by Dean Koontz is a joyful memoir

Wonderful memoir of a writer and his dog

Rating: 5 stars

Dean Koontz loved his dog Trixie. There can be no doubt of that. In his memoir about life with Trixie, A Big Little Life, Koontz uses humor, passion, love and just good storytelling to describe life with this unique creature.

Trixie was a “release” dog from Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), an organization that trains service dogs and provides them to those in need for free. Most dogs bred for the program do not make it through training; the statistics are about two or three out of every ten puppies graduate. The dogs who do not meet the stringent standards for service dogs are released from service.

Trixie was not a release dog in that she did make it through her training and was matched to a recipient as a service dog. She was released when she needed elbow surgery. So Trixie was one of the elite — a beautifully trained service dog. (Please note that the release dogs are ALL beautiful and well trained).

The memoir frankly discusses Koontz’s horrible childhood spent in poverty. He writes humorously about dating in high school and specifically about dating Gerda, now his wife. Koontz’s writing is nothing if not self-effacing. He describes the slow path to the ultimate success of his writing.

My favorite parts of the book are about how Gerda was steadfast in her support of her husband. She offered to support them for five years during which he could try to make a career of writing. He did, and their relationship seems as strong and solid today as it must have been then.

Dog lovers will recognize in the memoir a truly special dog. Trixie was not a run-of-the-mill Golden. She was extremely intelligent, intuitive, loving, and, according to Koontz, a great judge of character. She also may have been able to see ghosts. Koontz believes that she was an angel.

He writes: “In this big world she was a little thing, but in all the ways that mattered, including the effect she had on those who loved her, she lived a big life.”

What comes across most in the pages about this remarkable Golden Retreiver is the love that both Dean and his wife felt for this dog. In spite of their almost obsessive-compulsive cleanliness, they dealt with the hair, vomit and feces that dogs inevitably produce (although it probably didn’t hurt that they can afford cleaning help to sweep every floor daily and have Trixie groomed weekly).

This book is a tribute to Trixie and the wonder of the human-dog bond. Although our dogs may not be quite as special as Trixie, our love for them is no less than the love the Koontz family had for their dog.

Perhaps one of the best ways that Trixie impacted the lives of the family is that they are now involved with CCI and generously have donated money for their Oceanside campus. The facility is lovely, and this reviewer has seen first-hand the life-changing work that goes on there.

Many of Koontz’s books “written” by Trixie benefit CCI. Visit Dean at his website.