I’m a sucker for any book with a dog on the cover. And although I view non-fiction books on a par with Brussell sprouts – good for you, but not my first choice as a treat – I took a chance on Merle’s Door by Ted Kerasote a few years ago. While on a rafting trip, travel writer Ted finds a 10-month old yellow lab pup at his campsite. Ted isn’t immediately sold on the idea of adopting the stray, but Merle had other ideas and tagged along on the remainder of Ted’s rafting trip, and then home to Kelly, Wyoming. Like most dog-lovers, Ted had strong preconceived notions about raising and owning a dog, most of which were derived from bad science and misplaced societal perceptions. Merle set out to set Ted straight on a number of issues. Merle’s Door is part love story, part action/adventure, and part philosophical musing as Ted chronicles his adventures hunting elk with Merle, teaching him the various animals of Yellowstone National Park, and learning to allow him the freedom to become his own dog. Ted isn’t afraid to examine his own motivations, and his keen observations and vivid descriptions make the book a real joy to read. It changed the way I view companion animal training, and I regularly recommend it to patrons checking out books on canine obedience.
Spoiler alert: like most dog books, Merle’s Door ends shortly after Merle’s passing at the age of fourteen. So I was delighted a few weeks ago to discover two new books by Ted! After many years of mourning the loss of his beloved Merle, Ted got a new puppy. I admit, Pukka: The Pup After Merle is basically an adult picture book. That said, it’s still well worth the hour it will take you to ooooh and ahhhh over the gorgeous shots of the chubby yellow puppy playing in the wildflowers of Wyoming, and chuckle at the witty narrative as Pukka describes his first months with Ted. But it’s not sappy or patronizing. Allow yourself the guilty pleasure, and you’ll come away with a smile on your face and a warm spot on your heart. It’s the book all our dogs would write if they had unlimited access to our computers.
Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for a Longer-Lived Dog is a bit more of a time investment but equally entertaining. Ted combines diligent research, courageous self-examination and skillful writing in an attempt to answer the question every pet owner has asked, “Why must our dogs die so young?” He presents a fair and well-considered look at past and current philosophies on nutrition, exercise, vaccines, breeding programs, spay and neuter options, shelters and training, interspersed with humor and adventure as Pukka hunts elk and skis the Rockies, learns not to bark or chase large animals, and finds his place in the Kelly dog pack and Ted’s heart. Pukka’s Promise is a must read for any dog owner interested in keeping their beloved companion healthy and active for as long as possible.