Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bookshelf: Ted Kerasote


Over the summer on one of my Borders Binges I picked up "Merle's Door" by Ted Kerasote. I didn't read it until September for the simple reason that it had a dog on the cover and therefore I knew there would be a lot of crying involved. I had to be in the right mood to read this book, I knew. If you think I cry easily, well you have no idea how bad it gets when an animal is involved. "Marley & Me" and "Dewey" both had to be finished at home so I wouldn't embarrass myself on the T (both fantastic reads).
When I began "Merle's Door" I was pleasantly surprised that this wasn't simply a sappy man-meets-dog sort of story. In fact, while the relationship between man and beast is quite remarkable, it's the history of canines woven throughout the narrative that really fascinated me. Kerasote doesn't just tell his story, he tells you why dogs do the things they do, as proven from the history of wolf to domesticated dog.
"Merle's Door" has two of my favorite elements: Wyoming and a relationship with a wild animal (are you seeing a pattern?). While out on a camping trip with a friend, Kerasote comes across a young wild dog. The dog is aptly hesitant to become friends and yet something keeps him from running away. Over the course of the trip they gain each other's trust and the dog (Merle) comes home with Ted.
What I found so interesting about this story is the relationship between the dog and the man. Coming from the burbs of Massachusetts where we often have wildlife trek through our yard (deer, bears, coyotes, fishers - which for those of you that aren't familiar they can take down a young deer) we rarely ever let our dog out off-leash unless one of us was planning on being outside with him. Merle, on the other hand, was allowed to roam when and where he liked without supervision. And in Wyoming no less. That's a bit more wild than Massachusetts.
While Merle was allowed to make his own decisions, completely free-willed in deciding to head into town on his own or go visit a canine friend nextdoor, my beloved Bearded Collie Macintosh is a neurotic mess. Having been raised completely domesticated and never allowed to decide when he eats or where he wants to go, when my mother leaves the house he has a nervous breakdown. I'm talking frantic barking, pacing, complete distress. While a free-roaming dog is a foreign idea to me, I was slightly jealous of the relationship Kerasote had with Merle. There's something much more organic about the relationship between a dog and man when the dog is choosing to be there.
I came away from this book wishing yet again that I A.) live in Wyoming and B.)befriend a wild animal. While neither of these situations looks to be changing anytime soon (pigeon is the only wild beast I'm likely to encounter in Boston) it makes me think about our relationships with four-legged folk. And when the day comes that I am able to adopt a dog I will really think about what kind of relationship I hope to have. Macintosh and I have a love-hate relationship. I love how cute he is but I hate (can't stress that enough) his neuroticism. Except that we made him that way.
"Merle's Door" is a fascinating read and if you enjoyed "Marley & Me" (book, not movie) then I think you'll really appreciate this story. Also, make sure to check out because there are photos not in the book. Sometimes we're lucky enough to share our lives with a four-legged friend. Nothing can quite compare to that relationship.

My own furry beast.


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