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Merle's Door

by Ted Kerasote

This review was written by Chris Shaughness, a Pet Certified Behavior Counselor in Chester County, PA who is committed to prevention of problems by providing pet owners with education and training, resolution of problem behaviors and insuring safety of both children and pets in households.

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Marley and Me was a runaway best seller but a lesser known book called Merle's Door is every bit as good, with some interesting reflections on the true nature of dogs. The book was written by Ted Kerasote, a writer for National Geographic and the New York Times. While living in rural Wyoming, he encounters a stray pup and is quickly adopted by him. Kerasote names the dog Merle, who proceeds to make friends with his neighbors – human and canine. Merle is allowed to roam free, using a dog door to come and go as he pleases, hence the name of the book. It is Kerasote's contention that dogs are meant to roam free, and the restrictions we impose on dogs with leashes have caused many of their behavior problems. Of course, that may be true, but not so practical for any of us who don’t live in a rural setting! Kerasote mentions that some dogs in his area were attacked by other animals, hit by cars or shot by hunters. Interestingly, he never acknowledges any concern that this could happen to Merle. And thank goodness, it doesn't! Instead, Merle lives to a ripe old age as we follow his adventures and Kerasote’s deep connection to this dog. Kerasote illustrates the benefits of the use of conventional veterinary medicine with holistic methods such as chiropractic, massage and herbal remedies as Merle battles the health challenges faced by most dogs.

The book left me wishing I lived in a world that I could allow my dogs the freedom to experience life off leash. I know Gizzy and Archie would love to chase the red fox who lurks at the edge of our community or lope though a field after the deer. But their safety is more important, so they stay on their leashes.

If you decide to read Merle's Door, make sure you have lots of hankies handy for the last quarter of the book. Like most stories about animals, it will rip your heart out…but it will confirm your love for dogs.

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