Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog” as Want to Read:
Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog

4.16 of 5 stars 4.16  ·  rating details  ·  12,245 ratings  ·  1,409 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)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Merle's Door, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

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)
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth SteinMarley and Me by John GroganA Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce CameronWhere the Red Fern Grows by Wilson RawlsThe Call of the Wild by Jack London
Great "Dog" Books
8th out of 636 books — 1,254 voters
Until Tuesday by Luis Carlos MontalvánA Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce CameronMarley and Me by John GroganThe Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth SteinThe Call of the Wild by Jack London
Top Dog Reads
7th out of 314 books — 439 voters


More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Stephanie
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
...more
Chrissie
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
...more
Christen
May 14, 2008 Christen rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
...more
Kathleen
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
...more
Jan Rice
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
...more
Gary
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
Claire Poissonniez
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
...more
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
Donna
Jan 06, 2008 Donna rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
Marrble
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.
Lynn
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cayr
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bobby
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
Trevor
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
...more
Vern
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
Elaine
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.
Laura
Loved this book!!
James
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
...more
Heather
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
...more
Diane
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
I ♥ Bookie Nookie (bookienookiereviews.blogspot.com)
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
...more
Susan
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.
Le Fair
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
Angie
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.
Jenny
Jan 09, 2008 Jenny rated it 5 of 5 stars
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.
Tami
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 . . .
Ava
Dec 26, 2007 Ava rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Dog/Animal Enthusiasts
I really enjoyed reading this book as it has both a fun story about the life of Merle and his interactions with his owner, as well as a lot of interesting scientific facts to back up many of the author's somewhat controversial opinions about the relationship between human and dog. I especially liked his utmost respect for his dog and recognizing the need for a dog to have some freedom in his/her life.
Nikkira
Fantastic book. I really liked the combination of academics with biography. His relationship with Merle is truly unique. Not many situations allow for such freedom on the dogs part without fear of cars or other threats. Makes me appreciate the co-operation I have with my Nikki. She has independence so long as she is safe, which is my responsibility. I recommend this book to any dog lover.
Emily Flury
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
Patricia
I listened to this one on audio--another blend of narrative and research. Kerasote's relationship to his dog and his deep research into the domestic dog is quite interesting. I was in agreement with his premise about the need for dogs to basically run free in order to develop to their full potential. I can't say I fully understood all the components of his study that support the premise, but my own dog owner experience led me to believe this was so. I sometimes yearn to again be a dog owner, but ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
A touching story for anyone espcially with a dog of their own. 13 64 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 19 Apr 20, 2013 07:36PM  
Doggie Book Club: Reader Review 1 8 Jan 19, 2013 04:29AM  
  • A Dog Year: Twelve Months, Four Dogs, and Me
  • Amazing Gracie: A Dog's Tale
  • Last Dog on the Hill: The Extraordinary Life of Lou
  • The Dogs Who Found Me: What I've Learned from Pets Who Were Left Behind
  • For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend
  • Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search-and-Rescue Dog
  • A Small Furry Prayer: Dog Rescue and the Meaning of Life
  • Best Friends: The True Story of the World's Most Beloved Animal Sanctuary
  • Bones Would Rain from the Sky: Deepening Our Relationships with Dogs
  • Saving Gracie: How One Dog Escaped the Shadowy World of American Puppy Mills
  • Dog Years
  • From Baghdad, With Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava (Lava #1)
  • Pack of Two: The Intricate Bond Between People and Dogs
  • Good Dog. Stay.
  • Woman's Best Friend: Women Writers on the Dogs in Their Lives
  • Puppy Chow is Better Than Prozac: The True Story of a Man and the Dog Who Saved His Life
  • Saving Cinnamon: The Amazing True Story of a Missing Military Puppy and the Desperate Mission to Bring Her Home
  • What the Dog Did: Tales from a Formerly Reluctant Dog Owner
217419
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...
Pukka: The Pup After Merle Pukka's Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs Out There Bloodties: Nature, Culture and the Hunt (Kodansha globe series) Navigations: One Man Explores The Americas And Discovers Himself

Share This Book

“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.” 9 likes
“And so what do dogs want? They want what they want when they want it. Just like us.” 0 likes
More quotes…