When I first received this book, I immediately imagined that it was another memoir like John Grogan's Marley and Me, a touching and sad tale about a man's relationship with his dog. Well, Merle's Door is certainly that, but also much more. Not only do we learn about the life of an extraordinary dog (and his extraordinary human), but we get to learn something about the history of dogs and humans, as well as dog behavior, which is often molded by humans.
Several years ago, Ted Kerasote was out with friends at the San Juan River when a young, big, golden dog came out of the night and joined up with their group. Semi-domesticated and semi-wild, the dog chose to stay with Kerasote, who had been looking for a puppy. So began a close and loving relationship between a man and his dog, a friendship that spanned over thirteen years.
Kerasote and Merle had a symbiotic relationship in which they shared equally with each other. At times Merle was the teacher and Kerasote was the student. At other times, it was the opposite. Through his relationship with Merle, Kerasote learned how intelligent dogs can be, and how they have the ability to think freely. But these qualities are often suppressed in dogs by their well-meaning humans.
Interspersed with this wonderfully-written story are findings from animal behavior experts, primarily about dogs and wolves and their evolution from wild creatures to domestic animals. Kerasote cites these various studies and compares them with what he is learning from Merle. What he discovers is eye-opening, especially for dog lovers and owners. Kerasote allows Merle to have control of many situations, often with surprising results.
I got to know Merle and fell in love with him like he was my own friend. How can you resist a dog that dances, sings, and goes around town several times a day to greet everyone? (Merle was allowed to run free, as were most of the other dogs in the town where he lived.) This is a heartwarming and beautiful story, but with its sad moments,too. Don't read without a box of tissues handy, but do read it.