Sunday, August 12, 2007

Pg. 69: Ted Kerasote's "Merle's Door"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Ted Kerasote's Merle's Door: Lessons From A Freethinking Dog.

About the book, from the author's website:
Merle and Ted found each other in the Utah desert. Merle was about ten months old, surviving on his own, and looking for a human to hang his heart on. Ted was forty-one, liked to write about animals, and had been searching for a pup whom he could shape into a companion. The training went both ways. Ted showed Merle how to live around wildlife, and Merle reshaped Ted's ideas about the complexity of a dog's mind, showing him how a dog's intelligence could be expanded by allowing it to make more of its own decisions.

Acting as Merle's translator, and using Merle's life and lessons as a door into the world of dogs, Ted takes us on the journey they shared. He explores why the dog-human bond is so intense and how people and dogs communicate so readily with each other. He also uses the latest wolf research — showing that wolves treat maturing pups as partners rather than as subordinates—to explain how sharing leadership with your dog, rather than being its alpha, can help to create a healthier, more self-reliant, and better-socialized companion.

Funny, fascinating, and tender, Merle's Door is a moving love story that reveals how the partnership between dogs and humans can become far more than we have imagined.
Among the praise for Merle's Door:
“It is no exaggeration to say that Merle’s Door could be the best book ever written about dogs.”
Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Hidden Life of Dogs

“Merle's Door is a truly wonderful book — iconoclastic, mind-blowing, and gorgeously written.”
Delia Ephron,author of Hanging Up and Frannie in Pieces

“Kerasote has created a whole new work of art. Merle’s Door is the best, the most utterly compelling translation of dog to human I have ever seen. A terrific book, a superb book, I can’t think of a single other book that conveys the love of a human for a dog so well.”
Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, author of Dogs Never Lie About Love

"Merle showed up at the San Juan River at the same time Kerasote and his river-rafting friends arrived. Merle looked at Kerasote as if to say, "you need a dog, and I'm it." He accompanied the group down the river and then went home to Wyoming with Kerasote. A dog who was eager to please and almost trained himself, Merle learned the ways of bison, ground squirrels, and coyotes. Merle then taught Kerasote the fullness of the hunt, leading Kerasote to his favorite prey. But, after Kerasote installed a dog door, the main thing Merle taught him is that a dog develops to his full potential, becoming the dog he was meant to be, when allowed to make his own decisions. Merle developed a life of his own, patrolling the small settlement where they lived with his dog companions, and yet was always very aware of Kerasote and his schedule. In telling Merle's story, Kerasote also explores the science behind canine behavior and evolution, weaving in research on the human-canine bond and musing on the way dogs see the world. Merle is a true character, yet Merle is also Everydog. An absolute treasure of a book."
Booklist (starred review)

"The trend in best-selling memoirs about dogs sparked by John Grogan's Marley & Me bodes well for this engaging new work by National Outdoor Book Award-winning author Kerasote, who introduces readers to a stray Labrador retriever mix to whom he became attached while on a camping trip in Utah. Their paths cross on the banks of the San Juan River, and for dog and man, life is forever altered. Merle is a free spirit with an enormous zest for life, good survival skills, and the dangerous habit of killing calves — he needs training! But Merle's lessons, Kerasote writes, aren't as much about training as about partnership. Drawing on an extensive and exceptional list of references and including informative background on how animals learn and perceive their world, Kerasote gives readers much to consider that will enrich their own relationships with their pets. His book is highly recommended, but it does come with a tissue alert. And, because people seem to love well-written dog stories as much as they love their dogs, libraries may also want to stock up on similar titles, such as Jon Katz's A Good Dog."
Library Journal (starred review)

"[A] flat-out wonderful memoir about a stray dog, part Lab and part hound, who attached himself to a kayaker at a campground on the San Juan River in Utah; went home with him to Kelly, Wyoming; and eventually, by virtue of the social and political skills he displayed on his daily rounds of a town in which dogs are permitted to run free, became known as the Mayor of Kelly."
Anne Fadiman

“A thoughtful look at animal intelligence and the human-dog connection.”
Kirkus Reviews
Read an excerpt from Merle's Door, and learn more about the book at Ted Kerasote's website.

Kerasote's writing has appeared in dozens of periodicals and anthologies, including Audubon, National Geographic Traveler, Outside, Salon, and the New York Times. He is also the author and editor of six books, one of which, Out There: In the Wild in a Wired Age, won the National Outdoor Book Award.

The Page 69 Test: Merle's Door.

--Marshal Zeringue