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Spoiler Alert: Don’t Dread The Ending in Koontz’s Dog Biography

Why didn’t anybody tell me that Dean Koontz  after my dog is such a big animal advocate? My sister Karen gave me his book A Big, Little Life after my dog Jolly died. I dreaded reading it, knowing that all dog stories have sad endings. What I didn’t expect was that it was both a delightful biography of an exceptional dog, Trixie Koontz, and an aggressive argument for the case that animals are mysterious, wondrous creatures worthy of respect and compassion.

Yes, this novel is just more anecdotal evidence that dogs have complex minds and spirits and not just motivated to eat and survive like some kind of algae. I’m tired of hearing about how animal lovers anthropomorphize from people who would have us believe dogs are closer to corn stalks than to humans. They overlook the vast sums of evidence to the contrary and as Koontz succinctly derides them, are “invariably dogless.”

Koontz once included a description of a guide dog from Canine Companions for Independence in book Midnight. The group reached out to him and he and his wife started visiting and supporting the place. Finally they adopted Trixie, who had to cut her guiding career short because of a bad knee. Any guide dog is exceptional–the human equivalent of a PhD–but Koontz delighted in Trixie’s spiritual as well as intellectual strength. While sick in the hospital, Trixie visited the cages of other animals in distress. Like many dogs, she was a discerning judge of character, both human and canine. She mourned the passing of friends and, Koontz argues, knew she was about to die and accepted her death with grace.

Once into the book I enjoyed hearing about Trixie and knew I didn’t have to fear the ending and the grief it would re-open. The Koontz’s even suffered through the nightmare of an emergency splenectomy, the same scary procedure my Jolly had. Like the Koontz family, my husband and I thought it was our most excruciating time with Jolly–far worse than his eventual death. Although losing Trixie was a thumping blow to the Koontz family, the book wasn’t about the horror of that loss–much to my relief. Instead it was about all the spiritual gifts Trixie gave him. I think that’s the legacy Trixie and Jolly would surely prefer. 
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