Lessons from a Freethinking Dog
by Ted Kerasote
The author of this book lives in a cabin in the Wyoming mountains, in small, secluded community. He spends his free time hunting, hiking, skiing and subsists mainly on game he shoots himself. During a river trip, Kerasote found Merle, a dog who had been surviving alone in the wild for some time. Upon adopting him, the author decided to give the dog free range to come and go as he liked. Merle's Door describes the depth of their ensuing relationship, evidence of Merle's thought process and decision-making, and expounds on canine history and behavior. These sometimes lengthy quotes from other sources interrupt the story at times, and I'm not sure if I'll find them as engaging next time I read it. But they were interesting. And familiar to me. Most of the books quoted I've read or have on my TBR. I'm also familiar with the area described, having lived several years in nearby Idaho. I grew up in a family that loves the outdoors, and for many years my father filled up our freezer with venison and elk meat from hunting trips (though not exclusively like this author did). So I found a lot to recognize and enjoy in these pages.
Although the conclusions drawn from observing Merle's behavior as an independent dog were insightful, even fascinating, I don't think it's easy to follow these "lessons". Living in busy cities or suburbs, most pet owners would never find letting their dogs roam freely a safe option. Even in the area where Merle wandered, other dogs were often involved in dog fights, caught by the dog catcher, hit by cars or shot at for harassing livestock. Because he learned to survive on his own at an early age, Merle was able to avoid these hazards (or just lucky). He happened to be a very intelligent dog, above average for his kind. His story is nothing less than extraordinary.
Rating: 4/5 ........ 398 pages, 2007