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Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  17,976 ratings  ·  1,750 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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Average rating 4.20  · 
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 ·  17,976 ratings  ·  1,750 reviews

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Stephanie *Extremely Stable Genius*
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
Feb 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, fauna, kirkus
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 like
Dec 25, 2007 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 t
Jun 27, 2008 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
Maria ( ZITA ) Silva
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a great read, for post, present and future dog owners, this book maid me happy and 😢, but one to soon not forget, love it till the end, and cried like a baby at the end
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
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
Jan Rice
Aug 25, 2013 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/>
Oct 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, animals
What a great dog. I had a border collie that was smart and fun like Merle, but that was over 13 years ago. I cried for 3 years until I got another dog. I will cry again.

I love how the author, after telling stories about Merle for a while, changes direction and then gives scientific information on dogs. I recall his believing that dogs think and reason things out. Yes, and while some scientists don’t believe this, well, they have never had a smart dog. He shows some good examples, or
Feb 17, 2013 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
Claire Poissonniez
Jul 18, 2007 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
Mar 09, 2009 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
Dec 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 09, 2007 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 pu
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
Jan 06, 2008 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
Feb 07, 2009 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 . . .
Mar 12, 2009 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.
Feb 09, 2009 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
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
Mar 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Emily Flury
Oct 07, 2009 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
Jan 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book has been number three on my to-read list for many years, but I simply never came across a physical copy of it. Following my vow to read some of my oldest wishes, I downloaded it on Kindle. I'm so glad I did!

This book had me ugly crying by the end, desperate sobs that hurt almost as much as what I was reading. I adore my animals, and although I don't/can't let them live the life Merle had, I am going to be devastated when they are gone. Ted's journey, and the final days with
A beautiful and informative tribute to Kerasote's dog Merle, this memoir is not just about his dog Merle, but about the different theories and facts that pertain to how dogs came to be what they are now, and how Merle was not your ordinary dog with your ordinary master or life. Just as Kerasote is a fairly free spirit, Merle adopted him with his own set of rules. He didn't particularly want to be "owned" by anyone, or have to really follow rules that were, well, stupid. Sometimes that got Merle ...more
Jan 14, 2008 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.
Apr 06, 2009 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 biogra
Rebecca McNutt
Dec 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Merle's Door is an excellent book for anyone who loves dogs or the outdoors. Merle is the true character who runs the story, even though he's a canine, and the friendship with his owner and him is wonderfully-written.
Jan 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I seldom read dog books, and I'm not sure how this one fell into my hands, but I LOVED it! For one thing, the photo of Merle on the cover looks EXACTLY like our dog Berry OBM (Of Blessed Memory), who was a noble dog if ever there was one.

Merle, too was a noble dog; the residents of Kelly, the very small town near Jackson Hole, WY, where he lived, dubbed him "The Mayor of Kelly" for his 3x daily rounds and many personal calls on his constituents friends.

And the reason that we, the rea
Jan 12, 2009 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
Jul 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Has anyone ever written a story about a dog that was not a tear jerker? I know of none.

I ended up liking this book a lot, although there were lots of times throughout that I thought I could not go on. I loved the relationship between Merle and Ted, and in fact Merle and everyone else he knew. I loved the adventures they had and the seeming intelligence of the dog. What I just couldn't grasp was the endless philosophizing on dog behavior which translated to me as a justification for the way Ted
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A touching story for anyone espcially with a dog of their own. 13 69 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.
“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.” 14 likes
“How many abused souls—dogs and humans alike—have remained in an unloving place because staying was far less terrifying than leaving?” 4 likes
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