A Big Little Life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog Named Trixie [NOOK Book]

Overview

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

In a profound, funny, and beautifully rendered portrait of a beloved companion, bestselling novelist Dean Koontz remembers the golden retriever who changed his life. A retired service dog, Trixie was three when Dean and his wife, Gerda, welcomed her into their home. She was superbly trained, but her greatest gifts couldn’t be taught: her keen intelligence, her innate joy, and an uncanny knack for living in the moment....

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A Big Little Life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog Named Trixie

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Overview

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

In a profound, funny, and beautifully rendered portrait of a beloved companion, bestselling novelist Dean Koontz remembers the golden retriever who changed his life. A retired service dog, Trixie was three when Dean and his wife, Gerda, welcomed her into their home. She was superbly trained, but her greatest gifts couldn’t be taught: her keen intelligence, her innate joy, and an uncanny knack for living in the moment. Whether chasing a tennis ball or protecting those she loved, Trixie gave all she had to everything she did, inspiring Dean and Gerda to trust their instincts and recapture a sense of wonder that will remain with them always. Trixie lived fewer than twelve years; in this wide world, she was a little thing. But in every way that mattered, she lived a big life.

CBS Sunday Morning featured A Big Little Life in a rare interview with Dean Koontz that focuses on his philanthropic efforts with and affection for dogs. View it here: http://youtu.be/40bWUc6k_J8




From the Trade Paperback edition.
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  • A Big Little Life
    A Big Little Life  

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Author Dean Koontz always loved dogs (astute readers know that he populates his thrillers with them), but he didn't fully realize the genius of the species until Trixie came into his life. In ways, this 68-pound golden retriever seemed to manifest Buddha-like virtues: a refreshing lack of vanity and an uncanny knack for living in the here-and-now. Though nominally retired as a Canine Companion service dog, good-natured Trixie continued to perform spontaneous good deeds. For Koontz, her gentle nuzzles were transformative, gradually modulating his workaholic ways down to a healthy balance. The soulful book about a short-lived canine companion might surprise those who have only secondhand acquaintance with Koontz's fiction, but nobody with a heart will leave it disappointed.
Kirkus Reviews
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.
From the Publisher
“[A] love letter to his golden retriever.”—People

“Read this book to be entertained, uplifted and deeply moved.”—The Bark
 
“A humorous, poignant portrait of [a] remarkable dog.”—Kirkus Reviews
 
“One dog book that everyone . . . will deeply enjoy.”—Booklist (starred review)
 
“A delightful read. . . an unusually effective brief for the joy that dogs bring us.”—The American Spectator
 
“A tender, insightful, loving homage . . . an inspirational book of love, hope and humor.”—Bookreporter.com
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345532510
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/12/2011
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 41,760
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

Dean Koontz, the author of many #1 New York Times bestsellers, lives in Southern California with his wife, Gerda; their golden retriever, Anna; and the enduring spirit of their golden, Trixie.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Biography

He is one of the most recognized, read, and loved suspense writers of the 20th century. His imagination is a veritable factory of nightmares, conjuring twisted tales of psychological complexity. He even has a fan in Stephen King. For decades, Dean Koontz's name has been synonymous with terror, and his novels never fail to quicken the pulse and set hearts pounding.

Koontz has a lifelong love of writing that led him to spend much of his free time as an adult furiously cultivating his style and voice. However, it was only after his wife Gerda made him an offer he couldn't refuse while he was teaching English at a high school outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, that he had a real opportunity to make a living with his avocation. Gerda agreed to support Dean for five years, during which time he could try to get his writing career off the ground. Little did she know that by the end of that five years she would be leaving her own job to handle the financial end of her husband's massively successful writing career.

Koontz first burst into the literary world with 1970's Beastchild, a science fiction novel that appealed to genre fans with its descriptions of aliens and otherworldly wars but also mined deeper themes of friendship and the breakdown of communication. Although it is not usually ranked among his classics, Beastchild provided the first inkling of Koontz's talent for populating even the most fantastical tale with fully human characters. Even at his goriest or most terrifying, he always allows room for redemption.

This complexity is what makes Koontz's work so popular with readers. He has a true gift for tempering horror with humanity, grotesqueries with lyricism. He also has a knack for genre-hopping, inventing Hitchcockian romantic mysteries, crime dramas, supernatural thrillers, science fiction, and psychological suspense with equal deftness and imagination. Perhaps The Times (London) puts it best: "Dean Koontz is not just a master of our darkest dreams, but also a literary juggler."

Good To Know

Shortly after graduating from college, Koontz took a job with the Appalachian Poverty Program where he would tutor and counsel underprivileged kids. However, after finding out that the last person who held his job had been beaten up and hospitalized by some of these kids, Koontz was more motivated than ever to get his writing career going.

When Koontz was a senior in college, he won the Atlantic Monthly fiction competition.

Koontz and Kevin Anderson's novel Frankenstein: The Prodigal Son was slotted to become a television series produced by Martin Scorsese. However, when the pilot failed to sell, the USA Network aired it as a TV movie in 2004. By that time Koontz had removed his name from the project.

Some fun and fascinating outtakes from our interview with Koontz:

"My wife, Gerda, and I took seven years of private ballroom dancing lessons, twice a week, ninety minutes each time. After we had gotten good at everything from swing to the foxtrot, we not only stopped taking lessons, but also stopped going dancing. Learning had been great fun; but for both of us, going out for an evening of dancing proved far less exhilarating than the learning. We both have a low boredom threshold. Now we dance at a wedding or other celebration perhaps once a year, and we're creaky."

"On my desk is a photograph given to me by my mother after Gerda and I were engaged to be married. It shows 23 children at a birthday party. It is neither my party nor Gerda's. I am three years old, going on four. Gerda is three. In that crowd of kids, we are sitting directly across a table from each other. I'm grinning, as if I already know she's my destiny, and Gerda has a serious expression, as if she's worried that I might be her destiny. We never met again until I was a senior in high school and she was a junior. We've been trying to make up for that lost time ever since.

"Gerda and I worked so much for the first two decades of our marriage that we never took a real vacation until our twentieth wedding anniversary. Then we went on a cruise, booking a first-class suite, sparing no expense. For more than half the cruise, the ship was caught in a hurricane. The open decks were closed because waves would have washed passengers overboard. About 90% of the passengers spent day after day in their cabins, projectile vomiting. We discovered that neither of us gets seasick. We had the showrooms, the casino, and the buffets virtually to ourselves. Because the crew had no one to serve, our service was exemplary. The ship dared not try to put into the scheduled ports; it was safer on the open sea. The big windows of the main bar presented a spectacular view of massive waves and lightning strikes that stabbed the sea by the score. Very romantic. We had a grand time.

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    1. Also Known As:
      David Axton, Brian Coffey, K.R. Dwyer, Deanna Dwyer, John Hill, Leigh Nichols, Anthony North, Richard Paige, Owen West, Aaron Wolfe
    2. Hometown:
      Newport Beach, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 9, 1945
    2. Place of Birth:
      Everett, Pennsylvania
    1. Education:
      B.S. (major in English), Shippensburg University, 1966
    2. Website:

Reading Group Guide

1. When Dean and Gerda first adopted Trixie, they were told in no uncertain terms, “If this dog does something wrong, the fault will be yours, not hers.” A number of telling anecdotes in the book then demonstrate this quite clearly. Do you think humans are typically to blame for their pets’ misbehavior? Can you cite instances in your own experience that reflect on this idea? Is this a common understanding of canine behavior, or do other sources view the issue differently?

2. In A Big Little Life, Dean writes, “As anyone who has ever opened his heart and mind to a dog knows, these creatures have emotions very like our own.” What episodes in the book were most illustrative of this? Which did you find the most memorable? Has this been your own experience? How does a pet change the dynamics of a family?

3. Dean relates several episodes that illuminate Trixie's verbal aptitude and explore deeper questions of communication between humans and dogs. What are your thoughts on how dogs recognize words and other ways in which we communicate with them? What did you make of Trixie and the tennis balls? How else do dogs make themselves understood to us and how central is this mutual understanding to our relationship with them?

4. As Dean shows us through the story of X, Trixie was an exemplary judge of human character. Do you think most dogs are good judges of character? Why or why not? Trixie's evaluation of other dogs seemed similarly astute. How do these anecdotes compare with your own experiences?

5. At a special gathering at CCI, Trixie immediately sensed the presence of one of her littermates--from a substantial distance and after years of separation--and wouldn’t rest until she was reunited with her. Do you think animal siblings can always sense that they’re related? What other anecdotes in the book and in your experience shed light on dogs and memory?

6. Among many gifts, Trixie inspired Dean, and super-charged his creativity. What was the most important lesson Dean learned from Trixie, in your view? Have you been inspired by a dog or another animal? Has your life been altered substantially through this companionship? How?

7. The grief that people feel after the death of a companion animal is often discounted, yet these relationships can be among the most important of our lives. How do you think society views this bond in general? Dean observes that when we bond with our pets, we do so knowing that we will inevitably have them in our lives for only a relatively short period of time. Have you ever had to part from a beloved pet? Do you feel the happiness they bring compensates for the inevitable loss? How did Dean's recounting the loss of Trixie affect you?

8. What qualities does A Big Little Life have in common with other pet memoirs you have read? How is it different? How do Dean's ideas about dogs compare to those of other writers? With your own?  

9. What anecdotes in the book did you find most intriguing? Funniest? Most touching? Which of Trixie's qualities do you think was most special? Most unique? Has reading the book changed your thinking about dogs in any way? 

10. What deeper themes in life are embodied by the story of Trixie and the Koontzes? 

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 230 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(146)

4 Star

(33)

3 Star

(25)

2 Star

(15)

1 Star

(11)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 231 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2009

    Angel Unaware (with apologies to Dale Evans)

    After reading Dean Koontz for many, many years, I became aware of a difference in his books. There was a spirituality there that had not existed before. After reading A Big Little Life (in one sitting), I think that the change in his writing and Trixie were somehow related. This incredibly heartwarming account is well worth the read.

    19 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 24, 2011

    Highly Recommended - This is a great book for anyone who loves dogs.

    A great book for dog lovers. What a great summer read. Thank you, Dean Koontz.

    12 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 12, 2010

    Heartfelt memoir of a favorite pet

    When I first bought "A Big Little Life" I told myself this would be my own little treasure, not to be reviewed, just to be enjoyed. Now, months after reading it some of the items have moved me so much that I still think about them and decided they need to be shared.
    Bestselling author Dean Koontz and his wife Gerda had a very happy life that revolved around the business of Dean's books. They were content with what they had, yet they longed for something more. Dean and Gerda actively supported Canine Companions for Independence, and loved visiting the service dogs that were trained through that organization. They were repeatedly asked to adopt dogs that had been retired from service, but kept declining due to their time-consuming commitments with Dean's writing career.
    Finally, they decided the time was right, and they were placed with Trixie, a three-year-old golden retriever who taught them to cut back on their workload and enjoy life fully.
    One of the tales that stands out is how Trixie would come to Dean's writing desk each day at 5:00 and stand between him and his computer. He was used to working until 7:00 or later, so to quit work at 5:00 was unheard of. Somehow Trixie knew that 5:00 should be quitting time, and she was going to make Dean get away from work and have some fun no matter if he got mad about it or not. She did this for weeks before Dean caught on to her and went ahead and took her bait to play with her instead of working for a few more hours.
    Another story I loved was one day Gerda was taking Trixie on their daily walks through the nearby tennis courts, Trixie looked for tennis balls to carry in her mouth to no avail. Disappointed as she was, Gerda and Trixie started descending the steps past the tennis courts when Trixie stopped short and refused to go any further. After much coaxing, Gerda could not get her to move and kept asking Trixie what was wrong. Trixie proceeded to pump her neck and open her mouth and actually speak what sounded like the word "ball." Gerda was so surprised, that she dropped the leash, and Trixie ran up a few steps, nosed under a bush and came out with a tennis ball in her mouth.
    When Gerda got home she told Dean the story, and he disbelieved. Months later, with this story long gone from Dean's memory, he was walking Trixie past the tennis courts and a very similar thing happened. Trixie the dog could speak, and what she could say was "ball."
    Trixie also was an author. Of course, Dean co-wrote Trixie's books, and they came with a zest and humor that was present in Trixie's daily life. I own a couple of Trixie's books (as well as many of Dean's); they are full of color pictures of Trixie and showcase her happiest moments and some of the random things that go through her head, as translated by Dean.
    Trixie tragically passed away in 2007, and this is Dean's homage to the dog who changed his life. It's not a crazy story about a crazy dog; it's just a plain and simple story about how a companion animal can teach so much to a human if the human is open to learning.

    12 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 25, 2011

    Loved this book!

    I wish all dog parents treated their dogs with the deep love, affection and care that Koontz and his wife gave her!

    11 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 7, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Very touching and at time amusing...

    Anyone who has ever lost a beloved dog knows exactly what Dean is talking about. I could see our own Gustav in how beloved Trixie was and how much she meant to Dean and his wife. He brings out exactly how dogs seem to be able to communicate wisdom to their owners. He goes through the triumphs, the humorous situations, the courage in the face of dangerous situations and in the illness brought on by the advancing age of the Trixie. You will laugh. You will cry. You will see your own situation in this wonderful book. It was my first time reading a Koontz and I don't think it will be my last.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The Perfect Gift for Dog Lovers, or anyone.

    This memoir of a very special dog is a wonderful read. Intuitive, intelligent, and inspired, Trixie was a wonder to her parents, Dean and Gerda Koontz, as well as her readers, and proves that dogs are more than just pets; some more than others obviously.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 11, 2011

    Excellent Book!

    As a dog owner/lover and Dean Koontz fan I anticipated this book with keen interest. And Dean delivers! It is a wonderful memoir of their life with Trixie - her impacts on him and his wife - and the life Trixie enjoyed. But equally as enjoyable, and thought provoking, is Dean Koontz's life philosophy and a well integrated synopsis of his own life. I appreciate him sharing this personal side. My new knowledge brings even a greater depth to his novels. And I am ready for the next one...

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 5, 2011

    Trixie

    I read the sample. I realy like it and want to buy it. It has life messages in it

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2012

    Slow and boring

    This was an extremely boring read

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2012

    TO THE WARRIORS RPERS

    STOP USING BOOK REVIEWS AS CHAT SITES
    IF YOU WANT TO CHAT CREATE A WEBSITE OR GET A FACEBOOK MYSPACE OR TWITTER
    Sorry to rate before reading but rpers are getting out of hand and could be reported if they continue so plz stop id hate to report you

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2011

    This book will be your favorite

    Having lost a golden almost 3 years ago, this book brought comfort. If you have ever loved any dog (or they have loved you) you must read. This book was written with humor (I laughed out loud many times), love, and the feelings that only a dog lover can experience.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    How we love our pets.

    I wish I had the skill to put into words stories about my sweet pup. This is a wonderful read. I am sure any pet owner (dog or not) will enjoy this sweet remembrance of a loving pet and remarkable dog.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 15, 2009

    a big little book!

    A very charming book about a very special dog. A must for dog lovers. This book will make you laugh, it will make you cry and it will make you think. It also highlights bits of Dean Koontz' life and proves that one does not have to be a victim of circumstance. The enduring love between Dean and Gerda and Trixie will delight all dog lovers. Anyone who has had to say goodbye to a beloved pet will also appreciate Mr. Koontz account of their loss which he treats with tenderness. There were some parts that moved a little slow but all in all, it was a great read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 9, 2009

    Thanks, Mr. Koontz, for sharing your memories.

    I have always been a fan of the author Trixie Koontz, Dog. The way she looks at life and teaches others how to live a good life is a great gift.
    Thank you, Mr. Koontz, for letting us share in Trixie's gifts.

    "A Big Little Life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog" is an emotional book - and the emotion is LOVE. Mr. Koontz's talent, humor, and unique way of looking at life has always intrigued me. I think he is a wonderful writer and he brings all he has to this book. If you are a Trixie lover, or dog lover, or just an animal lover in general, even if you don't like animals that much, treat yourself to this book. You won't be sorry. (Warning: If you are not a dog or animal lover, this book could change your life.)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Trixie

    I am very glad that I bought this book.
    We Have a golden retriever also, and I could relate to the experiences of the auther and his wife with their dog, Trixie.
    It is philosophical and inspiring, as well as touching to the end.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2009

    A Great Read!

    For lovers of dogs and especially Golden Retrievers. Trixie was a very special dog.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 28, 2009

    So Sweet!

    A must for any dog lover. I loved every page! Koontz showcases his (lesser-seen) sense of humor marvelously. I have shared this book with many friends and co-workers, and every one of them has thanked me for doing so. A sweet, loving tribute to a wonderful companion, you will laugh and cry and be touched by the relationship between Koontz and Trixie. Wonderful!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 26, 2009

    If you have ever loved and lost a beloved pet

    It took a bit to get into this as I was in deep sorrow over the loss of my best friend of 16 years but this book comforted me in a way no one else could.
    A great read for someone who has never had a pet and is thinking on getting one to show how the relationship progresses and how very blessed you will be.
    We forget that animals don't live as long as we do so we must appreciate their love every minute of every day and this books exemplafies that.
    Wonderful read, not a tear jerker like you would think. Bravo Mr Koontz!God Speed good dog.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 26, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    "A Big Little Life", by Dean Koontz

    Being a long-time dog lover and owner (we are on our 11th dog in our married life so far), I cannot even imagine a person NOT wanting a dog around. We are partial to yellow labs, so loving and gentle. Plus great for hunting. They are such emotional lifters with unbounded love in every single bone. Good therapy. It's surprising how it took so long for the Koontz family to find that out! But bless them for taking such good care of a puppy that needed care. And establishing a foundation to fund care is TERRIFIC. This is a warm story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2009

    A Joyous Little Book

    I found this story enchanting and entertaining. I loved the humor with which Dean Koontz wrote.
    This is a book I will buy by the dozen to give to both dog-lovers, and those who have not experienced the joy of knowing and loving a dog.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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