“His deep brown eyes looked at me with luminous appreciation and said, ‘You need a dog, and I’m it.'”
-from Ted Kerasote’s Merle’s Door (Harcourt, 2007)
I’ve never really been a pet person; it’s not that I don’t like animals but rather that I can’t imagine taking care of one with my life so much on the go. These days, I wonder if I’m even doing a good job taking care of myself. But Ted Kerasote’s Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog gave me those nesting urges; it made me entertain the possibility of a long-term relationship—even if it were with a dog.
Merle’s Door is the story of author Kerasote’s man-to-dog friendship with a stray pup he picked up while rafting in Utah. It’s also the story of how human and dog cultures have grown together; it’s the story of how they clash. Kerasote’s dog Merle isn’t the only freethinker in this story—it’s Kerasote, himself, who responds to Merle’s needs for adventure and domesticity by installing a dog door in his Kelly, Wyoming cabin. Merle is free to come and go as he pleases through the door, and the result is that man and dog learn to relate to each other on more equal terms. Kerasote draws upon fascinating research about animal behavior, and he shifts between humorous, thoughtful, and tender moments in the book. Kerasote keeps the story rolling smoothly around every turn, and he gives substance to the places that he and Merle explore together. In this book, the natural world has a taste and a texture, a sound and a smell.
I would not have thought that I could become so engrossed in this subject matter, but Merle’s Door was a book that I didn’t want to put down. The story of Kerasote’s relationship with his dog was so beautifully told that it had me considering what my life would look like with a dog in it. If that dog were Merle, I might like to consider the other things that would have to come along with it, too…a cool cabin in the woods…more geographic stability…evening ski sessions with an eager companion. Not bad ideas, those.