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Summer Reading: Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog ~Ted Kerasote

Warning I have not finished this book. I have read to the last chapter and the author has saved the last chapter for the death of his dog. This is a book about a dog and the dog dies.

I actually try not to read stories about dogs, because the dog always dies. I always weep and weep after I read these stories, even when they are not such good stories.

I do have a rule of thumb though. Whenever someone says you must read this book and I hear that about the same book 3 times, I pull up the rule at hand and read the book. Three people commented on this book. Two who commented had gone to see the movie Marley and Me and felt that Merle’s Door was a better read than Marley.

The third person who asked me to read the book is one of my neighbors who was out walking his 2 Labrador retrievers and first asked me where my two dogs were – so I knew he had seen me around!

This is a very well written and researched book by a professional writer. Kerasote is on a river rafting trip in the desert and this big golden dog just bounds out of the tree line and adopts him. Writer meets dog and it is a story with lots of scientific research into the development of the culture, rules of smell and growth of a loving bond. The author calls out so many details of life and living and how we all learn to get along, this book is a study of living life wrapped inside the tale of a man and his best friend.

I have highlighted so many pages in this book and pressed sticky notes in the margins that it looks like a text and not a novel. Here is an example of one of my favorite lessons:

I had reached a point in my relationship with my dog from which there was no going back. I had come to admit that he had a life of his own. At least I couldn’t go back easily, and if I tried, I’d have to resort to the ‘just’ phrase, the phrase every privileged class has used when trying to protect its interests while disregarding those of whom it considers its inferiors: He’s just a slave; she’s just a woman; it’s just a dog. But after witnessing firsthand the breadth of Merle’s personality, I’d then have to deal with what the psychologists call ‘cognitive dissonance.’ More bluntly, I’d have a hard time looking at myself in the mirror.

Mr. Kerasote has written a number of other books about the wilds of America and his adventures in studying and exploring. He has a fine style of prose, great knowledge and does a tremendous amount of research. I think I would like to read another one of his books in the future to explore his keen understanding of our world. Hopefully his book will not end with a chapter about his dog dying.

How are you with reading animal stories? Does an author ever intrigue you to read some of their other work? If you only read blogs will you read some of the blogger’s books that are coming out?

Related posts:
Summer Reading: Breakfast with Buddha ~Roland Merullo


Due Date for Writing Contest THE DIVORCE coming up June 1, 2009. Check it out.


16 Responses to “Summer Reading: Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog ~Ted Kerasote”

  1. Betsy Wuebker Says:

    Hi Patricia – I do love stories about animals. Travels with Charley remains a favorite. And Merle, what a great name for a dog! I ready Marley & Me and just wept, also. And I loved The Incredible Journey. But I just love all dogs, big and small. I watch the Dog Shows on TV, and the Dog Whisperer, Dog Town, Animal Planet, etc.

    Yes, I’ll always try an author’s other works if I’ve loved something. Cormac McCarthy comes to mind. I did read the book Charles Frazier wrote after Cold Mountain and wondered if he was a one-trick pony. Thanks for the recommendation.

    Betsy Wuebkers last blog post..I LOVE YOU MORE THAN EVER

  2. Dot Says:

    I’m going to skip reading your review until I’ve read the book. I loved Marley and Me, the book. I haven’t seen the movie yet. I do always cry when dogs die, and now that my two have died, I cry more. However, it’s a fact of life that our furry friends have short lives. I wish they didn’t. What struck me with Marley and Me, besides how much fun the dog was, was that most of the reasons Marley was a “bad” dog were the owner’s fault, as we dog owners know. I also loved it that the guy’s toddler children pronounced the dog’s name as Woddy.

    Dots last blog post..The Joys of Alcohol and Other Fallacies

  3. patricia Says:

    Betsy,
    I think you would love this book – I also think new parents would love this book – all the information about how we develop a sense of self or language or habit and friendships – also how old dogs learn new tricks!

    Dot,
    I will put this book in the mail on Tuesday – the next day the post office is open!

    FYI to all:
    http://www.MerlesDoor.com is the website just developed very interesting spot too…

  4. Jannie Funster Says:

    “Because Of Winn Dixie” is a great book in which the dogs lives. Not only lives — but brings everyone to love and light.

    I lovee fiction about squirrels. There are never enough about those cheekly little cuties. Maybe I’ll write one, with a very happy ending.

    Will you write more about this after you finish that last chapter?

    Jannie Funsters last blog post..“Sugar Lady” Video

  5. Patricia Says:

    Jannie,
    I finished the last chapter and I cried and cried for man and dog. I just knew I could not write more than – this was a well written and very good book – especially if you care about dogs.

    Now, I am going to sit back and look forward to your squirrel tales!

  6. Positively Present Says:

    This sounds great, except for the dog dying part but I think I can try to do what you do and ignore my rule about not reading books about dogs and check this one out. Thanks for the review!

    Positively Presents last blog post..looking to the past to find the present

  7. Patricia Says:

    Positively Present,
    I think there are so many things to learn about in the book. The dog does die of old age not anything else. A very good writer and this one is just about relationships via the relationship being between man and dog.

  8. J.D. Meier Says:

    I remember the first time I saw Old Yeller. Nobody warned me what happens and I couldn’t believe it.

    J.D. Meiers last blog post..Don’t Always Go for the Long Shot

  9. Kay Says:

    Your comments on book about dogs was followed within 15 seconds that I placed a hold for the book thru the online system of my local public library!
    Year-round reading about animal/human relationships is found in BARK magazine…I hope you-all are near libraries where you can read BARK.

  10. Patricia Says:

    Kay,
    Thank you for the referral to a good reference. Hope you enjoy the book as much as I did!

  11. Patricia Says:

    J.D.,
    Sorry I missed your comment going backwards on my list this morning!…That will show me!

    My oldest child saw Bambi at about age 4 at a birthday party – she was a mess of nightmares for years after that. I would not let my kids see Old Yeller, because that one was hard to experience for me.

    This book has less tragic, more natural outcome for the dog, it was still sad, but the writer is so skilled at his craft it was the right ending and learning experience for the reader.

  12. Mama Zen Says:

    I have a hard time with animal stories. As you said, the animal always dies at the end.

    Mama Zens last blog post..Review: Nothing But Trouble

  13. Jannie Funster Says:

    Sorry you cried and cried, but that is part of life and those of us who cry and cry are able to fully appreciate the fine, sweet things in life even moreso, as evidenced continually by your unique personage of love and wonderment.

    Yes, I love dogs. So much I can cry on the spot thinking of dear departed Chancie, or little Peach, his daughter, now 11 but still spry and happy – a thiz-tsu ( I cannnot ever spell thiz-tsu – MAJOR mental block over that, sorry.) Let’s just call Peach a… small fluffy bundle of love.

    Her picture is here… http://www.janniefunster.com/?p=1321

    Squirrels… the one who comes right up to me by the leafy green bench, the one with almost no tail fluff left, battle scarred, let’s call him.. hmn… Rochester? Spunky? Lenny? Goliath? Rasputin? Well, that squirrel has some tales to tell, believe you me!

    xoxoxoxo

    Jannie Funsters last blog post..“Sugar Lady” Video

  14. patricia Says:

    Mama Zen,
    This book was not hard until the last two chapters, but I found the rest of the story amazingly interesting about animal behavior and people’s behavior.

    Jannie,
    Always a delight…even when I am crying!
    We have a dive bombing hummingbird today…wow are we in his way
    1

  15. Liara Covert Says:

    Patricia, my mom bought this book as a gift for my sister who has a new golden doodle puppy. Suddenly, dog comics, dog everything is cropping up as if invited in by dog energy and vibes.

    Liara Coverts last blog post..5 Ways to strengthen self-worth

  16. patricia Says:

    Liara,
    I understand golden doodles are quite the puppy and so cute. I thought this book was very ZEN and very wise about how dogs and people learn and look at life. A very good read.

    What is the puppy’s name?