My summer reading list includes a book that made me laugh out loud: A Big Little Life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog Named Trixie by Dean Koontz. It won’t become a classic but it’s a fun, insightful book about how his Golden Retriever changed Koontz’s life and in so doing, changed him for the better.
Dogs have lots of wisdom to share. For example, dogs don’t care about a person’s wealth or social standing, age or abilities, health or illness, politics, race or religion. What’s most important is merely whether a person is trustworthy, kind, and calmly assertive in his or her interactions.
Dogs seem to accept each day as it comes. Dogs eat left-overs. Dogs stay warm by curling up with other dogs. Dogs don’t need fancy toys and endless new gadgets because they’re perfectly happy with sticks and old socks.
Dogs’ needs are just as simple and basic as ours: food, shelter, water, safety, kindness, a pack, some fun, and a purpose in life. Everything else is icing on the cake–and too much icing makes them ill.
Closing his book on Trixie, Dean Koontz shares the most important wisdom he learned from Trixie. The canines with whom I’ve shared my life would agree:
The life of a seamstress is no smaller than the life of a queen, the life of a child with Down syndrome no less filled with promise than the life of a philosopher, because the only significant measure of your life is the positive effect you have on others, either by conscious acts of will or by unconscious example. Every smallest act of kindness—even just words of hope when they are needed, the remembrance of a birthday, the compliment that engenders a smile—has the potential to change the recipient’s life.
The next time you wonder whether to let a driver into your lane or help a shopper who can’t reach the top shelf in the grocery store, the next time you’re tempted to speak harshly or be rude, the next time you place a higher value on one person than another, the next time you get too big for your britches or wonder if you’re too small for your life and actions to make a difference, remember the dogs. Your actions change a person’s life.
(The dogs pictured are my granddogs, Emma and Rufus, who live in San Francisco.)