I’m on Dean Koontz’s mailing list because he’s my favorite author. A few times a year, I receive a newsletter from him that mentions his upcoming releases, like The Darkest Evening of the Year, which came out today.
As is often his custom, he includes photos of Trixie, his beloved Golden Retriever that he adopted years ago. Trixie was to have been a service dog, but had a joint problem that required surgery; once a dog has joint surgery, it is no longer eligible to be a service dog, so Trixie was “retired” from the service, and that’s how Dean and his wife, Gerda, were able to adopt her.
The cover of this latest newsletter had a collection of eight photos of Trixie in various poses. There was one with a big smile — the kind only an ever-happy Golden Retriever can give, Trixie in a Santa hat, Trixie wearing Easter bunny ears, and Trixie wearing Sunglasses and doing her best at looking glamorous.
At the top of the page in bold letters, it read, simply, “Trixie Koontz.” The first time I looked at it, my eyes immediately went to the photos of this beautiful dog. It took me a moment to notice the second line:
5 October 1995–30 June 2007
When it comes to animals, particularly those of the canine persuasion, I’m a sap. The biggest sap in the world, in fact. I suppose that not many people would admit that. So to say the least, that line didn’t exactly raise my spirits.
It turns out that Trixie had developed an aggressive form of cancer, and facing a painful death as the illness progressed, the Koontzes decided to put her down. At his website, he describes how Trixie loved to have her head held in his hands while he rubbed her cheeks; Dean and Gerda were holding her when she passed. And that’s when they learned firsthand how devastating the loss of a dog can be:
“That Saturday was the hardest day of our lives. The pain is more intense than any we have known before. The house seems empty without her, and we feel lost.”
Koontz had made Trixie one of his most popular marketers. She would write messages to her master’s readers that would be crafted in a style that a dog might use, if a dog could actually write:
“Is big week for me because I am dog. Every week is big when you’re a dog. Every week is full of joy, kibble, plush toys, tennis balls, cookies, tummy rubs, wriggling in grass, and more, when you are dog. Dad doesn’t get kibble or plush toys (don’t know why, except maybe he hasn’t been good boy, good), and he is too embarrassed to wriggle on back in grass, so only fun he gets is having new book in stores.”
He has written a new message from Trixie in which she talks about waiting for her human parents at Rainbow Bridge. (If you’ve never heard of it, follow that link at your own risk; I can never get through it without tearing up.)
One of my uncles had owned dogs for years. But they were outside dogs. And while he fed them and took care of them, they didn’t spend much time indoors, and there wasn’t a great deal of one-on-one contact. That changed years ago when he got a poodle mix that he named Petey. Petey was an inside dog who followed my uncle everywhere. My uncle suddenly realized that there’s something special about dogs. Unfortunately, Petey was hit by a car and killed. When the accident happened, my uncle grabbed him and sat in his living room cradling the dog in a daze. His son called my parents and asked them to come over quickly, thinking that my uncle might actually die from the shock of the loss.
If you can’t imagine experiencing a loss like this, I genuinely feel sorry for you, because it must mean that you have never allowed yourself to get close to a dog. Man’s relationship with these wonderful creatures dates all the way back to the caveman days according to early cave drawings. Though cavemen never had dictionaries, encyclopedias or the internet, they were at least smart enough to recognize that these four-legged mammals were indeed friends. And all these centuries later, there”s still nothing quite like a good dog.
Comedian George Carlin once said that every cute little puppy should come with a sign that reads, “Warning: This will end badly.”
And yet those of us who love dogs keep walking into that situation, because we’d rather have those precious years with our pets than live without them. Dogs like Trixie ask for so little, and give so much.
That’s what makes them so special.