[Reading] ➺ Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog Author Ted Kerasote – Thomashillier.co.uk



10 thoughts on “Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog

  1. says:

    I read this book a few years back, before I attempted writing reviews ones beyond a few lines anyway It has been on my favorite s shelf ever since then and Merle has drifted into my thoughts now and again, so I thought I would try to add a fewwords.One day Merle, a young yellow lab mix, shows up at a camp where Ted and friends were camping, Ted and Merle hit it off Ted decides to bring Merle back home with him but soon finds out that Merle would not be content to be locked indoors all I read this book a few years back, before I attempted writing reviews ones beyond a few lines anyway It has been on my favorite s shelf ever since then and Merle has drifted into my thoughts now and again, so I thought I would try to add a fewwords.One day Merle, a young yellow lab mix, shows up at a camp where Ted and friends were camping, Ted and Merle hit it off Ted decides to bring Merle back home with him but soon finds out that Merle would not be content to be locked indoors all day while his new best friend was working Things did not go well Merle was used to being his own dog, going where ever he pleased and going on whatever he pleased One day Merle decides to eat a whole bag of dog food, which isn t cute at all since eating that much food could cause a big dog to bloat stomach twists and prevents the food from moving along which will kill a dog pretty darn fast But up came the dog food and all was well, this time.Ted realizes he has to do something, so he puts a dog door in for Merle to come and go at will, hence the name of the book Fortunately for the both of them they live in a time and place that is just right for this arrangement, the town is remote and all the other dogs roam free No leash law in place This sets up the perfect situation to watch dogs bethemselves then is possible in this day and age In other words, Merle had it good, and so did Ted.This book is full of the cute stories you get from dog books My favorite was how Merle, a dog who likes to eat, would have a routine of going to certain houses in a particular order everyday to obtain treats my dog would do this in a heartbeat given the chance Ted noticed one day how chunky his dog was getting and new that it was unhealthy for him, so he put a note on Merle s collar that read please don t feed my dog It worked for everyone except one lady who could not resist, but he is so cute she told Ted She would not stop, so Ted had to scare the crap out of poor Merle every time he got near the treat ladies house to keep him away.Sad parts are defiantly in this book, as you find in most dog books, but what sets this book apart, and makes it great, is how the author mixes in science and helpful information into the book In it there is a section, a checklist to go over when you need to make the decision to euthanize, or not to euthanize Yes grim But a fact of life if you are to have pets in your life, and it is very good I worked in an animal hospital at the time I read this book and I made copies of the checklist to give to clients during this time It is helpful because no one can think clearly at the moment you are faced with this decision, so having a guide is very helpful.Merle, you re a great dog What a life you had


  2. says:

    MARVELOUS I give this book 5 stars without a second thought You cry, you chuckle, you laugh out loud, you read again sections of other dog books mentioned in the text that one has previously read, you search Wikipedia concerning subjects that the text brings to your attention and about which you realize you really have to knowThis book has everything for anyone that truly loves their dog.OK I have to say one thing and I would really like to discuss this with others I don t like ho MARVELOUS I give this book 5 stars without a second thought You cry, you chuckle, you laugh out loud, you read again sections of other dog books mentioned in the text that one has previously read, you search Wikipedia concerning subjects that the text brings to your attention and about which you realize you really have to knowThis book has everything for anyone that truly loves their dog.OK I have to say one thing and I would really like to discuss this with others I don t like how the book ends, in that I really don t agree with how the author deals with the final stage of a dog s life Quite simply I think he dog suffered too much at the end of his life The the author should have euthanized the dog On the other hand, I was not there I did not see Merle Ted thinks Merle remained happy OK, if he was really sure then I agree with his actions BUT this was a thinking dog He was intelligent and he had emotions One must also consider the dog s emotions How did Merle react emotionally to having to go through what he went through The degradation of soiling one s self I do believe that Merle could understand that he could no longer do what he enjoyed doing best in life, that he would have to accept doing a bit less for the sake of being with Ted who he loved Just maybe the suffering went on too long Again, I wasn t there so maybe I am completely off mark Ted was a marvelous dog owner and I in no way criticize him.I have an old dog A curly coated retriever of 12.5 years He too has arthritis He takes the same medications and he loves his massages I do not do acupuncture My dog has not been able to have the independence that Merle has had, but he is damn, damn smart, and my husband and I love him so very, very much He can no longer do everything with me anyHe doesn t like being left at home so I change my life, as much as I possibly can to accommodate his needs And who want to play God I certainly don t I don t want to end his life I will continue to help him as long as I can He will stay with us as long as I believe he can enjoy life


  3. says:

    As I was nearing the end of this book the other day in the lunch room at work, I had to stop reading because it was about to bring me to tears This book is similar to Marley and Me in that they re both memoirs of the writer and his experience with his dog But the difference in this book is that Ted Kerasote is a muchexpressive and descriptive writer And unlike Marley s story which is the urban adventure of a mischievous dog and his family, Merle s story is that of the deep friendship As I was nearing the end of this book the other day in the lunch room at work, I had to stop reading because it was about to bring me to tears This book is similar to Marley and Me in that they re both memoirs of the writer and his experience with his dog But the difference in this book is that Ted Kerasote is a muchexpressive and descriptive writer And unlike Marley s story which is the urban adventure of a mischievous dog and his family, Merle s story is that of the deep friendship that develops between Merle and Ted after he finds a 10 month old Merle during a rafting trip on the San Juan River Kerasote and Merle spend the next 14 years in rural Kelly, Wyoming They spend their days hiking, skiing, elk hunting, fishing and doing just about everything else the outdoorsmen paradise has to offer And mixed in with Merle s story is credible scientific and veterinary evidence from the past 150 years of study and research into canine behavior from Pavlov, Darwin, Skinner the inventor of clicker training , Temple Grandin, and many others This book is a must read for anyone who loves dogs and the outdoors This is one of the most touching and heartwarming stories I ve ever read It literally makes me want to take my dog and move to the mountains and spend all my time hiking, biking, and just being outdoors I can t recommend this book enough


  4. says:

    After meeting the author 5 12 08 the other night and hearing him read passages from the book, I ve decided I want to read the book again What a neat dog I LOVED this book I still can t figure out who the luckiest character in the book is the dog or the owner Ted was so lucky to find such a wonderful dog and Merle was lucky to have such a neat owner who lived in such a neat place, that allowed him to be a free dog I hate always crying at the end of dog books, but I have to say that t After meeting the author 5 12 08 the other night and hearing him read passages from the book, I ve decided I want to read the book again What a neat dog I LOVED this book I still can t figure out who the luckiest character in the book is the dog or the owner Ted was so lucky to find such a wonderful dog and Merle was lucky to have such a neat owner who lived in such a neat place, that allowed him to be a free dog I hate always crying at the end of dog books, but I have to say that this was the best ending out of all the dog books I have read A MUST for dog lovers


  5. says:

    What a great read, for post, present and future dog owners, this book maid me happy and , but one to soon not forget, love it till the end, and cried like a baby at the end


  6. says:

    Okay, I was suckered in by the cute dog picture on the cover But I found myself really caring about the players in this extraordinary human dog relationship Granted, Merle had such a great life and so much freedom because he lived in a dog friendly town on the edge of Grand Tetons NP And he got to do great dog stuff like hunt elk and ski snow covered slopes Most dogs don t have those opportunities The book dragged when author Kerasote waxed on about scientific research into why dogs act the Okay, I was suckered in by the cute dog picture on the cover But I found myself really caring about the players in this extraordinary human dog relationship Granted, Merle had such a great life and so much freedom because he lived in a dog friendly town on the edge of Grand Tetons NP And he got to do great dog stuff like hunt elk and ski snow covered slopes Most dogs don t have those opportunities The book dragged when author Kerasote waxed on about scientific research into why dogs act the way they do I skipped over those parts The best stuff is about the mutual dependence on and love between Ted and Merle


  7. says:

    I didn t like the tone of this book There s a smugness about the author s supposed ability to communicate with dogs The author generally anthropomorphizes his dog and assigns entire conversations to the dog In my mind, this deeply detracts from the credibility of the science he reports because there is a great deal of crummy research by people who want to believe in various mystical animal attributes I am not confident that he is rigorous enough to distinguish the wishful results from the re I didn t like the tone of this book There s a smugness about the author s supposed ability to communicate with dogs The author generally anthropomorphizes his dog and assigns entire conversations to the dog In my mind, this deeply detracts from the credibility of the science he reports because there is a great deal of crummy research by people who want to believe in various mystical animal attributes I am not confident that he is rigorous enough to distinguish the wishful results from the rest I didn t finish the book


  8. says:

    I am a bit surprised by some of the negative reviews of this book, especially the chap that suggested that you skip this book If you skip it you will have missed a gem It is not a dog training book or a treatise on animal behavior as someone suggested It is the telling of a thirteen year relationship between a man and a dog and the life that they shared together The author intersperses the narrative with research that support his observations over the years He makes no attempt to state I am a bit surprised by some of the negative reviews of this book, especially the chap that suggested that you skip this book If you skip it you will have missed a gem It is not a dog training book or a treatise on animal behavior as someone suggested It is the telling of a thirteen year relationship between a man and a dog and the life that they shared together The author intersperses the narrative with research that support his observations over the years He makes no attempt to state that his research and conclusions are absolute or scientific findings just the results of asking questions and having a curious mind You will laugh, you will cry and you will be left with a special feeling of being allowed to vicariously share the life of Ted and Merle Anyone who has loved and lost a great, special dog will understand and cherish the book


  9. says:

    What a great dog I had a border collie that was smart and fun like Merle, but that was over 13 years ago I cried for 3 years until I got another dog I will cry again.I love how the author, after telling stories about Merle for a while, changes direction and then gives scientific information on dogs I recall his believing that dogs think and reason things out Yes, and while some scientists don t believe this, well, they have never had a smart dog He shows some good examples, or the fact tha What a great dog I had a border collie that was smart and fun like Merle, but that was over 13 years ago I cried for 3 years until I got another dog I will cry again.I love how the author, after telling stories about Merle for a while, changes direction and then gives scientific information on dogs I recall his believing that dogs think and reason things out Yes, and while some scientists don t believe this, well, they have never had a smart dog He shows some good examples, or the fact that they also learn from watching others I know this to be true as well My first border collie, Megan, just looked at me when I threw her the Frisbee a few times Each time I had to go get the Frisbee Then I told my husband to stand across from me, and we threw the Frisbee back and forth to each other, and I saw a light bulb going off in my dog s head Then I threw it to her, and she ran to catch it After that she loved catching Frisbees What is so hard about that for dumb scientists to understand I saw a lot of light bulbs going off in her head Like the time she came to the screen door to want in, and I didn t want to get up, but the side door was open, so I said, Go around, and she looked at me as if saying, What And then I motioned with my hand to go around, and the light bulb went off She ran around to the side door and came into the house The dog we have now learned that as well Mocha is a very smart border collie.Merle was found in the desert alone He attached himself to the author and his friends that were on a canoe trip Sometimes the best dogs are those that people have left behind After the canoe trip, with Merle jumping out of the canoe to chase cattle, and my wondering if she would ever find her new owner again, the author took her to Kelly, WY to live Merle ran free, just as dogs should, unless they are vicious All my dogs when I was growing up ran free I only recall one bad incident when my dog ran up to a man and jumped up on him, getting his clothing dirty Oh, well He survived Well, I remember another One of my dogs was found dead on the highway that went through town But the thing with allowing your dog to run free now a days is dogcatchers Well, we had them where I grew up, and I recall hearing on the news that someone had let all the dogs out one night I learned that it was my friends Paulette and Ellen who had done the good deed Paulette said at first they began following them, but then the dogs finally took off in different directions Well, one day the dog catcher came into Kelly, WY and began collecting dogs, but Merle thought that he was pretty smart The owners of the dogs would just drive into Jackson and pick them up and let them out again The dogcatcher gave up for some reason, maybe the person who had complained about the dogs running wild gave up complaining I like the day that the author had his new cabin completed, and the floors had just been varnished He came home and Merle had gone through the dog door, walked around the cabin and then stood on the porch looking at his owner when he came home His owner had the floors redone, all except where Merle had stood on the balcony.Well, I could go on and on about this book I loved it that much But then, I promised myself that I would not read the last chapter about Merle s dying I did not keep that promise, and so last night I read what felt like 50 pages of the last horrible years of Merle s life and then his demise I cried my heart out Damn Why do authors do this Can t they end a book by saying that the dog lived to a ripe old age and leave it at that I mean it was blow by blow, and my mind went back to Megan s death and my being glad that it was only a day I was at my mom s funeral when she had a big seizure, and my husband had to have her put to sleep Then I worried about the dog we have now because she is getting old, and this will be another blow, but then nodogs for us


  10. says:

    His deep brown eyes looked at me with luminous appreciation and said, You need a dog, and I m it Unsettled by his uncanny read of me I had been looking for a dog for over a year I gave him a cordial pat and replied, Good dog His tail beat steadily, and he didn t move, his eyes still saying, You need a dog After a night together,he was still curled in his nest, looking directly at me Hey, I said.Up went one brow, down went the other I am yours, his eyes said.So begins this memoir o His deep brown eyes looked at me with luminous appreciation and said, You need a dog, and I m it Unsettled by his uncanny read of me I had been looking for a dog for over a year I gave him a cordial pat and replied, Good dog His tail beat steadily, and he didn t move, his eyes still saying, You need a dog After a night together,he was still curled in his nest, looking directly at me Hey, I said.Up went one brow, down went the other I am yours, his eyes said.So begins this memoir of a man and his dog, found during a river trip to Utah, adopted as a youngster and taken back with the author to become a Wyoming dog living the life of Riley with his owner on the border of a national park.As the opening quote shows, the author s empathy is acute when it comes to imagining what Merle is saying For example, when the author comes home to find Merle has gotten into a forty pound bag of dog food and eatenthan a quarter of it He now looked as if he were going to die He didn t look in the least regretful, though In fact, he wore a blissful smile Merle I leaned close to his ear, putting a hand gently on his belly It was as tight as a drum.He groaned painfully and opened his eyes They were glassy Faintly, he flopped his tail back and forth Let me die in peace It is not his time, though, and after dragging himself outside to throw up, he heads out, maybe to tell one of his dog friends he s now fulfilled his life s dream to eat as much as he wanted.Whew He didn t suffer the fate at least, in books of horses who stuff themselves This book is full of laughs.It s not empty calories, though The author works in discussions of dog biology and DNA and the whys and wherefores of domestication very nicely For example, his rendition of how Merle overcame his fear of guns from an early trauma to become an elk hunting partner par excellence, followed by W hat always impressed me about his behavior, especially when he d lope back through the forest to fetch me, was his absolute sense that we were a team that it was only through me and the rifle that he d fulfill one of his greatest desires to eat an animal as big as an elk.Observing Merle s suite of hunting skills led the author to hypothesize he says conclude that it was the newly domesticated wolves who were the initiators of the dog human hunting partnership They were the ones who scented and heard game first They led the way toward it They reaped the immediate benefits as the animals were field dressed Subsequently, it was the humans who realized, just as I did, that these were pretty handy friends to have around.I used to feel bad about dogs and other domesticated animals because, I thought, we had bred them into slaves and there was no way out Certainly not through the means urged by a well meaning celebrity activist who thought we shouldn t eat the cows we have now but just open the doors and let them out on the meadow to live free and fend for themselves I once came across that in some article But seriously it s both a relief and a lightbulb over the head moment to learn the process of domestication is mutual Not to mention, we ve domesticated ourselves, too, in the process I read about that in Haidt s The Righteous Mind Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, too Sometimes the author got into some little agendas that put me off for a while For example, his rendition of having his mitochondrial DNA tested After he traced his mother s mother s mother s, etc., ancestry back to similar locales in Europe, he used the results to justify his attraction to the mountainous terrain and wildlife of home Well, biology isn t destiny, and what about all the many tributaries pouring into his line If he has a sibling, would that sibling love the same lifestyle We have veered out of science into his making sense of his personal story Later in the book p 137 he talks about his dog defying his Lab blood in some respects If we can sometimes follow and sometimes defy our bloodlines, then we are just picking and choosing topics for narrative plausibility, not doing science.Anyway, after that section, the book sat and cooled while my other ongoing reads garnered my attention for a while Examples of other similar stuff unattested conclusions about dangerous dog breeds claiming that the Jewish faith sanctioned human dominion over animals implying that the writings of behavioral psychologists of the first half of the twentieth century contributed to political totalitarianism, and comparing his cat s gifts of rodent tails unfavorably with his dog s gifts of prized beef bones without considering that the gifts could signify something different In other words, just getting in over his head without recognizing it or making unwonted assumptions just putting out as factual what may not be.Well, even scholars who should know better err, and Ted Kerasote is an observer, writer and popularizer, not a scientist He redeemed himself in my eyes by writing very very honestly and utterly without narcissism about his girlfriend s break up with him That s impressive such a hard thing to do Incidentally, that was also an example of why I say this book isn t so much a biography of a dog, but a memoir of the author s life with the dog He wrote his way through any obstacles, grabbed me, and didn t let go There are lots of laughter and tears in this book If you need an interlude with a dog book, this is a good one


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Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog While On A Camping Trip, Ted Kerasote Met A Dog A Labrador Mix Who Was Living On His Own In The Wild They Became Attached To Each Other, And Kerasote Decided To Name The Dog Merle And Bring Him Home There, He Realized That Merle S Native Intelligence Would Be Diminished By Living Exclusively In The Human World He Put A Dog Door In His House So Merle Could Live Both Outside And InA Deeply Touching Portrait Of A Remarkable Dog And His Relationship With The Author, Merle S Door Explores The Issues That All Animals And Their Human Companions Face As Their Lives Intertwine, Bringing To Bear The Latest Research Into Animal Consciousness And Behavior As Well As Insights Into The Origins And Evolution Of The Human Dog Partnership Merle Showed Kerasote How Dogs Might Live If They Were Allowed To Make Of Their Own Decisions, And Kerasote Suggests How These Lessons Can Be Applied Universally