Hemning Sternberg (moonshadow) wrote,
Hemning Sternberg

Merle's Door by Ted Kerasote

Title: Merle's Door
Author: Ted Kerasote
Genre: Pet biography, animals, nonfiction, memoir
Pages: 398 (including footnotes and an index)
Copyright Date: 2007
Cover: A golden dog gives you a soulful expression, with mountains in the background. He has a red bandana around his neck.
First line: "This is the story of one dog, my dog, Merle."
Best part: The author's genuine love for his dog is very apparent.
Worst part: This is a toss-up for me, between the fact that Kerasote does not consistently live his beliefs about animals, and the over-the-top way that he describes them.
Grade: C+
Recommended for: Any and all canine lovers. This will be THE book to talk about at the dog park this year.
Related Reads: The Secret Life of Dogs by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, Don't Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor.

While Kerasote was white-water rafting with friends, he was adopted by a golden dog of uncertain breed. This book chronicles his life with his dog, and also shares much of his philosophy and research about dogs. The title of the book comes from the dogdoor that he installed in his home to allow Merle, the dog, complete freedom of movement.
Kerasote's philosophy is definitely controversial. He says that the devotion that confined dogs have for their owners might be like Stockholm Syndrome. He also says that anything less than total freedom of movement (including a dog door that goes to a fenced yard, not the whole world) is "just a bigger crate," which I don't agree with.
One problem I had with the book is that he is not consistent with his philosophy. Though he argues that his dog should be an equal partner and be able to have his own life, if his dog does something dangerous, he has no problem using force to get his way. For example, he does not train the dog that he has to stay with him when he says "stay," but he uses a choke collar to get the dog to stop chasing cattle. I think as an animal I would find this inconsistency terrifying - like having a parent that is easy-going most of the time and then suddenly turns violent and controlling for no obvious reason. Yeah, the reason is obvious to us as people, but not to a dog... still, the provacative nature of the ideas themselves are part of what makes this such an interesting book.

C+. Some really good stuff, and some problems too.
Tags: books 2009, nonfiction
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