Synopses & Reviews
“In his nonfiction debut, Dean Koontz presents a humorous, poignant portrait of his remarkable dog [Trixie].” —Kirkus
Dean Koontz thought he had everything he needed. A successful novelist with more than twenty #1 New York Times bestsellers to his credit, Dean had forged a career out of industry and imagination. He had been married to his high school sweetheart, Gerda, since the age of twenty, and together they made a happy life for themselves in their Southern California home. It was the picture of peace and contentment. Then along came Trixie.
Dean had always wanted a dog--had even written several books in which dogs were featured. But not until Trixie was he truly open to the change that such a beautiful creature could bring about in him. Trixie had intelligence, a lack of vanity, and an uncanny knack for living in the present. And because she was joyful and direct as all dogs are, she put her heart into everything--from chasing tennis balls to playing practical jokes to protecting those she loved.
A service dog with Canine Companions for Independence, Trixie retired at three to become an assistance dog of another kind. She taught Dean to trust his instincts, persuaded him to cut down to a fifty-hour work week, and, perhaps most important, renewed in him a sense of wonder that will remain with him for the rest of his life.
Trixie weighed only sixty-something pounds, Dean occassionally called her Short Stuff, and she lived less than twelve years. 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.
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
About 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.
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?