Is it not often you read a book that makes you laugh and cry as well as educating you, that touches your heart and your head, that even leads you to re-evaluate your relationship with your dog; Merle's Door is such a book. The subtitle, Lessons from a Freethinking Dog, alerts you to the fact that this is not your average dog book. In Merle and Ted Kersaote's relationship the usual conventions of "master" and "dog" are challenged. Merle is no ordinary dog, he has a mind of his own, and in Ted he finds the perfect partner for him.
When forty one year old Ted Kerasote met an almost one year old Merle, who was living wild in the Utah desert, he had no idea how life changing an acquaintance he had made. Living together evolves into a harmonious accord after the installing of a dog door to allow Merle his freedom. This could be the door referred to in the title; but it could be taken on a deeper level. Merle opens to door into the canine world for Ted, and Ted in turn shares those revelations with the reader.
Interwoven with Merle and Ted's story is an incredible amount of interesting and relevant research. Ted Kerasote was determined in telling Merle's story to examine why the human-canine relationship developed as it did. In reading it, I found myself thinking through my attitude to my own dog, and to dog ownership in general. The wolf research sited is fascinating. Much of what we take as true wolf behaviour comes from studies on captive wolves, which is likened to observing human behaviour displayed by people living in refugee camps.
Whatever else Merle's Door is, it is a love story. The love story of Merle and Ted, a dog and his man. A man who was heartbroken at the loss of his best friend, and who wrote this moving, informative, glorious biography. In writing the book, he says, he got to relive his time with Merle, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading and reliving it with them. You can hear Ted Kerasote talk about his book Merle's Door in Episode 64 of DogCast Radio.
Review by Julie Hill