The Bookworm: A glimpse into two different, hidden worlds

Photo with no caption

“A Big Little Life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog” by Dean Koontz

Have you ever seen The Perfect Dog?

Of course you have. It might be a Lab or a Lhasa; maybe miniature but mighty, or huge and huggable. The Perfect Dog understands conversation, has a wicked sense of humor, never does anything wrong, can flawlessly perform several different tricks on command and might even have a streak of heroism in its furry body.

The Perfect Dog is highly intelligent. And — no matter what anybody else claims — The Perfect Dog is your dog.

Or, if there’s room for debate, Dean Koontz says it was his pooch. In the new book, “A Big Little Life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog,” you’ll read about her.

When you learn about Koontz’ life as a youngster, it’s no wonder where his sense of the edgy came from: Koontz was the child of a skirt-chasing, alcoholic gambler and a gentle woman who tried to hold the family together. There was barely enough money to afford four walls then, let alone a four-footed mouth to feed.

Which is to say that Dean Koontz never had a dog as a child.

Koontz and his wife Gerda both loved dogs and worked tirelessly on behalf of Canine Companions for Independence (cci.org), but they thought fitting a dog into their lives would be difficult. They always said they’d have a dog someday – when the timing was right and life slowed down.

Over dinner one night, they realized that life was never going to slow down. They then asked to adopt a “released” CCI dog, and Trixie, retired due to a fixable injury, came to “Koontzland.”

She was 60-some pounds of golden fur and doggy smiles. Her face had a wide range of expressions and she had the ability not only to convey what she was thinking, but to know what others were thinking, too. Flawlessly trained to assist someone who was wheelchair-bound, she never forgot her training and could be trusted completely in most any situation. She was welcomed into restaurants, offices, stores, and homes… and firmly into the Koontz’ hearts.

Koontz was not expecting the “force for positive change” that he got with Trixie. He didn’t expect to fall in love so hard. And he didn’t expect to lose her so soon.

Readers of Koontz’ books expect to feel a little jumpy when reading his novels, but that won’t happen here. Instead, sit awhile with “A Big Little Life” and you’ll only jump up for tissues.

In this, his first nonfiction book, Koontz gives fans a peek at his personal life: his hardscrabble childhood, past jobs and his dream of writing, courting his wife and becoming a multimillion-selling author. In-between his life story is the tale of a dog that was widely loved, a good judge of character and downright goofy, and a dog-lover who became unexpectedly smitten with a pup with personality-plus.

Don’t expect the usual Dean Koontz fare in this book. Do expect an unusually great story. For dog lovers of all ages, “A Big Little Life” is just perfect.

“How to Live Dangerously: The Hazards of Helmets, the Benefits of Bacteria, and the Risks of Living Too Safe” by Warwick Cairns

You want yourself and your family to live a long, healthy life. To be sure that happens, you always use antibacterial soap, detergent and tissues, and you wipe down the kitchen and bathroom often. You get your shots, drive carefully, insist on a helmet when bike riding and you’re aware of the surfaces you touch in public.

Ironically, all that might just make things worse. In the new book, “How to Live Dangerously” by Warwick Cairns, you’ll learn why a little devil-may-care attitude may be better for you and your kids.

Do you believe that the world is a more dangerous place than it was, say, 40 years ago? More than three-quarters of us do, but Warwick Cairns says that’s a false perception. While we teach kids about “stranger danger,” the truth is that a fraction of abductions are committed by people unknown to the family. Just five victims died of Mad Cow disease and nobody died of Bird Flu, Cairns says. Still, when we learn about these diseases of the week, we worry because, well, that’s what we do.

And we do it because we can’t help it. Our brains are hard-wired to worry and to see danger where there is none. Statistically, you have a greater chance of being killed by your bed than by hang-gliding. Gardening is riskier than scuba diving. You’d have to take an airplane flight a day, every day, for 26,000 years to “be sure of crashing.” Even “organic” foods contain traces of pesticides. Amazingly, if you ride a bike to work without a helmet, you’re statistically safer than if you drove your car there. Studies also show that kids allowed to play outdoors unsupervised are more sociable and confident, and that children who are allowed to get dirty suffer from fewer allergies later in life.

So, what’s the point of all this? Cairns says we worry too much about our health and we miss out on life. Prudence is good, but there is such a thing as going overboard. As it turns out, a little danger, some dirt and a few germs are good for us, as well as a whole lot more fun.

Remember the kind of freedom you had as a kid? You played outside, rode your bike, walked around the neighborhood and nobody gave it a thought. You kind of miss that, don’t you? Cairns says you can step back and savor that way of life again, and you can do it without losing sleep. Using humor and real statistics, Cairns doesn’t advocate carelessness so much as he advocates being more carefree. Yes, he says, there are definite precautions we all need to take, but the truth is that, in our zeal to be absolutely safe, we miss out on some truly enjoyable (and only slightly risky) activities.

While ultra-careful readers could argue that, “All it takes is one time,” this book is a call for relaxation and living life. Pick up “How to Live Dangerously” and enjoy it.

But wash your hands first.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features