My wife and I are big fans of Dean Koontz, in part because of his writing skill and years of producing captivating stories. But underlying all this is Mr. Koontz love of dogs. In almost every tale he tells, there is a dog at the heart of the story. In stories such as Seize the Night, Orson is a dog hybrid who has some human intelligence and often comes to the rescue of Christopher Snow and his pals. But for us the real dog hero of his books is revealed in his book A Big Little Life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog Named Trixie. In this book Koontz moves from fiction to non-fiction and exposes a bit of his personality and his love of a golden retriever named Trixie. If you have not read this one, we can highly recommend it and the story will reveal a great deal about Koontz love of dogs and his character.
We have taken our own journey with dogs, and we can say we have never had a bad one nor one we did not love. We have had Labrador Retrievers, Miniature Schnauzers, German Shepherds, Collies, and an unknown mixed breed or two. Over time they all became members of the family. Our favorites up until now have always been German Shepherds because of their intelligence, protective nature, and loyalty. When our most recent Shepherd, Jack, died unexpectedly, we were left with a big hole in our hearts. After a few days we knew we had to get another dog because the house was just too quiet and too sad.
While we would love to have found another Jack, we felt like it was time to rescue a dog instead. As we have grown older, we realized that a dog with a little calmer demeaner was probably more suitable. The internet is perfectly suited to a dog search, and it did not take long to find not one but two Chocolate Labs in dire need of a new home. As with all dogs the pictures pulled at our heart strings, and we bit quickly. It was obvious that they were in bad physical shape and in need of care, but we were up for the challenge. After several conversations with the rescue group, and a significant screening, we were thought worthy of taking on these two. We honestly think adopting a child might have been easier.
So off we went to Arab, Alabama to pick up Bella and Rylee. Bella was the older of the two, perhaps twelve, and Rylee was about five or six. But we were sure the shelter had misidentified them because they appeared to be Yellow Labs, not Chocolate Labs. As their caregiver told us “Even old dogs deserve a good home and to be loved.” But yellow or chocolate they were ours. The trip home was uneventful as both we and they were trying to adjust to each other. We are sure they thought that they were just being shuffled off to another foster home. The rescue group also thought they might be a mother/daughter pair, but there was no way to prove it. For sure they had bonded and were accustomed to living together and taking care of each other.
Bella and Rylee became living proof that a lot of love coupled with good food, nutrition, lots of play time, treats, vets, and the right medications can work miracles. By July they slowly started turning chocolate again, that is all but their tails. Tails just take longer, and it was September before they were completely chocolate again. In October at the suggestion of our Vet we started backing off the food and treats a bit. Bella had doubled her weight from thirty-five to seventy pounds, and Rylee had decided that eighty pounds was a good number. Because of Bella’s age she had some of our same maladies and needed a little more time to do just about everything.
About this time, we noticed a strange thing between Bella and Rylee. Rylee was Bella’s nurse and caregiver, we just had not picked up on it earlier. When Bella needed something, or needed to go out, it was Rylee that came and got our attention. Even if Bella was in a deep sleep, Rylee seemed to know her schedule and when certain things needed to happen Rylee was insistent that they be done. Her persistence saved the day on many trips outside for potty breaks.
All through the Christmas holidays they met and learned to love our family, and settled into a life that was quite different than they had known until then. We all had a great holiday and it looked like we were becoming a family. But in early February we noticed that Bella was having more and more trouble getting up and standing for more than a few minutes. Working with our Vet we improved her walking to make it less painful, but not her transition from lying down to standing. There just seemed to be no magic that could improve that aspect of her life.
And then in early April she reached a stage of life where she could no longer stand or walk for more than a few minutes at a time. She also transitioned to sleeping non-stop between brief trips outside. It was at this point that we realized that despite all our efforts she was still in some pain, and it was time to help her make her final journey. For her last snack Bella had something she had always wanted, a chocolate brownie and Hershey’s Kisses. We had Bella for a brief ten months, but she made a lasting impression on us with her cheerfulness, calm and never-complaining demeanor. We know we gave her the best ten months possible; she just came to us too late in life to do more. As we all know you can fix a lot of things, but you cannot reverse the hands of time.
Out there somewhere there is either a heaven for dogs, or hopefully they go to heaven with us. We believe it is the latter. They are uniquely and genetically created for companionship with humans. Bella was one of the best that has passed through our lives. Hopefully, she is in a place where the sun always shines, the grass is always green, there are lots of treats, she can run without pain, and roll in the grass as much as she wants.
Rylee lives on, hopefully for many more years, and it is hard to see her without remembering Bella. Rylee spends a little time each day resting by the front door and perhaps she is waiting on Bella, or just remembering good times with her. Without Bella, Rylee suddenly transitioned to that stage where she thinks our bed is hers, so she is home and now rules the roost. Fortunately, she is a sound sleeper and does not snore. If you have a chance to rescue one of these gentle souls do so, it will enrich your life and theirs. If it is an older dog that needs help and care easing through their later years, it is even better.