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Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog

4.17  ·  Rating Details  ·  14,787 Ratings  ·  1,549 Reviews
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 outs ...more
Hardcover, 398 pages
Published July 2nd 2007 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2007)
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Vern I think just about every book I have ever read about a true life relationship between a dog and its human ends with sadness. But that is just how life…moreI think just about every book I have ever read about a true life relationship between a dog and its human ends with sadness. But that is just how life works. Dogs don't live as long as humans. But this book is so joyous from the beginning until the last chapter, it is well worth a few tears in the end. (less)
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Community Reviews

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Apr 23, 2012 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
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 few more words.

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
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 know more. This 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 lik
May 14, 2008 Christen rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Animal Lovers
Recommended to Christen by: Colleen E.
***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
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
Jan 19, 2012 Gary rated it it was amazing
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 much more expressive 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 ...more
Jan Rice
Dec 01, 2013 Jan Rice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: animals-pets
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
Dec 30, 2008 Lynn rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Claire Poissonniez
Jul 18, 2007 Claire Poissonniez rated it it was amazing
I'm not quite halfway through this book, but it is positively gripping and right up my alley. Its outdoor setting is reminiscent of good Jim Kjelgaard novels (Big Red, Haunt Fox, etc.) and, on top of that, this author has done his research. Throughout the novel, Kerasote has cited scientific and archaeological research on dog origins and psychology. Having done my honors thesis on this topic, I can vouch that his citations are both accurate and fascinating.

Of course, it might be the kind of boo
Manduca Sexta
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 ...more
Feb 17, 2013 Bobby rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jan 06, 2008 Donna rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: dog lovers, and people sho enjoy the outdoors
Recommended to Donna by: Reggie
This is a humurous, heartfelt book about a wonderful dog named Merle. Although there were sections which became too technical regarding the evolution of the dog, it is easy to scan over those pages and get back to the beautifully written story. If you love dogs, you need to read this book. It covers Merle's entire life with Ted, and yes, it includes his last day. Get the tissues out! If you don't cry, you were absent the day they passed out hearts. If you don't have a dog, you will want to go ge ...more
Apr 15, 2009 Marrble rated it it was amazing
If you loved Marley & Me you will LOVE Merle's Door. The story follows the life and adventures of the "freethinking" Merle from the time he adopted his human, Ted, until his death 14 years later. Splendidly written this story made me cry. Anyone who loves dogs and the outdoors will enjoy this book. I now look at my own dogs in a different way.
I ♥ Bookie Nookie (
Ok, i love good books about animals and have read quite a few. I was so disappointed with this book I couldn't even finish it :-( --that is rare. The author had some cute back stories about his life with Merle, but all the scientific ramblings about the why behind the what just lost me. Sometimes he would just go on and on about neurons and synaptic cleft and neurotransmitters..blah, blah, blah, blah...

I expected a heartwarming story about a lost dog found and the great adventures he and his new
Amazing tale of a thirteen year relationship between a man and a dog, filled with amusing and hilarious anecdotes mixed with interesting scientific references to animal behaviour.
Loved it
Dec 30, 2008 Cayr rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 11, 2009 Trevor rated it really liked it
I'm a dog person- so you've got to take that into account- but I really enjoyed this book. Like Ted, I take my dog just about everywhere I go, and I'm constantly sorting out how to let him live life to the fullest. Not an easy task since he lives in a small apartment with his grad. student food guy.

Some of the dog psychology sections were more skimworthy than others, but Kerasote's research adds a lot to his story. If you're interested in learning about how to give your dog a more unfettered ex
Apr 09, 2008 Susan rated it liked it
I felt like I shouldn't have wasted my time on this book. It is the antithesis of "Marley and Me", the story of a much loved but terrible dog. This dog is too good to be true. The narrator/owner supplies the dog's side of the conversation (something I do all the time) but without any sense of irony. He believes it's true!

It takes a lot for me to think a story about a wonderful dog is over the top. This one is. That doesn't mean I wouldn't love to have a dog like Merle. Mighty fine pup.
Emily Flury
Nov 13, 2011 Emily Flury rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
I first purchased this book back in 2009. I stopped reading it because it did not hold my interest and because a Stieg Larsson trilogy was calling my name. I decided to try it again a couple of weeks ago. While I got farther in the book this time, I was reminded why the book bored me the first time. This boredom surprises me as I am a huge dog lover and have enjoyed all of the other dog-centered literature that I have read. There are a couple of reasons specifically that I can identify as being ...more
Dec 07, 2014 Vern rated it it was amazing
A wonderful book, but I suspect that only true and dedicated lovers of dogs and dog books would fully appreciate it. The book is primarily a story of a man and his dog as they grow and learn together. But the book is also part history of the domestication of the wolf into what we now call dogs, and the evolution of the domestic dog. Part reportage of various scientific and psychological studies of dogs behavior going back well over 100 years. In many ways it is a very scholarly look at dogs. But ...more
Feb 07, 2009 Tami rated it it was ok
Yowza. I love my dog, but I also understand the reason for a leash (because I LOVE MY DOG). And there's a little too much canine closeness here, even for me. Altho I will admit, I've attempted to sniff along with my best furry friend into the wind once or twice - some of Teds adventures with Merle are a little too 'grape-nuts' for me. Maybe I need to live in the mountains with the thin air to fully understand . . .
Jan 14, 2008 Elaine rated it did not like it
I read 95 pages into this book, bored the whole way. I was waiting for it to get better, for something to happen...but it wasn't going anywhere, so I counted my losses and quit before I suffered anymore. I love dogs and enjoy learning about them, but this book just didn't do it for me.
Feb 15, 2009 Laura rated it it was amazing
Loved this book!!
Sep 21, 2011 Alicia rated it it was ok
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I love books about dogs, I was very excited to read this book and expected to fly through it and finish with a five star rating. Well, I've been reading it for over 2 months and I just can't bring myself to pick it back up and finish it; needless to say I do not love it. I think the thing that bugs me about this book is how much the author relies on anthropomorphizing Merle throughout the story (at least the half of it I've mangaged to read). I don't like Kerasote speaking for Merele and telling ...more
Apr 12, 2009 James rated it it was amazing
I am a dog person.

As mentioned in my review of Marley & Me, being a dog person and a book person, I am methodically reading every book on the topic.

Ted Kerasote’s Merle’s Door was the next dog book that managed to bark loud enough for me to pet it. There’s more to this metaphor. Much as I like the smell of books, I too enjoy the sweet, nutty aroma of my pooch.

Near the end of Merle’s Door, Kerasote quotes philosopher Raymond Gaita: “ ‘we do not write biographies of animals’ because they do no
Jan 06, 2011 Heather rated it really liked it
A couple of weeks ago my dad sent this book to me in the mail. A day or two before, he had recommended it, and I half-heartedly said I would look for it, so he saved me the trouble by shipping it to me. Quite frankly, I'm not really big on dog books, and would probably never have read it if it hadn't been staring me in the face for several weeks reminding me that Dad would want to talk about it.

I really should listen to my dad more. This was an enchanting book. Kerasote weaves in the history of
Apr 22, 2013 Diane rated it it was amazing
Probably the very best book I've read in a long time. It is not just a dog book, but a story about imperfect love, which makes it a best seller instead of just a cute dog story. It lived with me for weeks after I finished it, and I finally wrote the author, and he wrote back, twice. There are sort of scientific insets during the tale which I did not think added to the story but the rest was a really good read. On the human relationship level, people often jump into close human relationships with ...more
Feb 05, 2016 Bebe rated it it was amazing
I read this a long time ago and loved it. Hoping to read it again soon.

Le Fair
Oct 02, 2014 Le Fair rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorates
This book was life-changing. It was written extremely well with fabulous detail. It tugs at your heartstrings and makes you laugh out loud when you’re all alone. It does start off slow, and I grumbled insistently at having to read that kind of book. However, I wanted to challenge myself so I picked a book that was different than the books I typically read. Maybe it really was that bad at the beginning, but I think I could have just been prejudice. Before long I fell in love – with Merle, all of ...more
Jan 23, 2008 Angie rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! And I have to admit that I cried all the way through the last chapter. I know, I'm a pushover!

Ted Kerasote does an excellent job exploring the relationship between humans and animals, especially dogs. While sharing the story of Merle, a stray dog who becomes Ted's best friend, he also includes research on animal behavior to illustrate his points. The book is very insightful and is a must read, especially for animal lovers.
Jan 09, 2008 Jenny rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Dog lovers
I really enjoyed this book! I think the author did a great job of telling the story of dogs through his own dog. It was a unique situation and different then the life I have with my pup. I didn't agree with some of his positions, but I learned a lot about dog behavior, domestication, and their social lives! This is of course a story about one dog, so I'm sure you all know how that ends. Get the tissue ready for the last couple of chapters.
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A touching story for anyone espcially with a dog of their own. 13 67 May 24, 2014 11:34PM  
..if you love dogs, read this. 3 39 Sep 24, 2013 01:55PM  
All About Animals: Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog 15 20 Apr 20, 2013 07:36PM  
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Ted Kerasote's writing has spanned the globe and 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. He lives in Wyoming.
More about Ted Kerasote...

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“For us hunting wasn’t a sport. It was a way to be intimate with nature, that intimacy providing us with wild unprocessed food free from pesticides and hormones and with the bonus of having been produced without the addition of great quantities of fossil fuel. In addition, hunting provided us with an ever scarcer relationship in a world of cities, factory farms, and agribusiness, direct responsibility for taking the lives that sustained us. Lives that even vegans indirectly take as the growing and harvesting of organic produce kills deer, birds, snakes, rodents, and insects. We lived close to the animals we ate. We knew their habits and that knowledge deepened our thanks to them and the land that made them.” 13 likes
“How many abused souls—dogs and humans alike—have remained in an unloving place because staying was far less terrifying than leaving?” 3 likes
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