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This page is the original source of this review, though you may also find it on Amazon or other sites.

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Book Review of: Merle's Door

Lessons from a Freethinking Dog

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Review of Merle's Door, by Ted Kerasote (Hardcover, 2007)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)

Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.

"Wow. What a book." These are the words that I breathed out when I reached the end of Merle's Door.

Ted Kerasote is to writers what Mozart is to composers. His writing is that good. If he were to write about how the grass grew in his yard over summer, I have no doubt it would be a page-turner.

But that's not the story he wrote. This story is so much more. This unforgettable story begins when a big golden dog emerges from the dark to introduce himself to a small group of people camping in the desert. One of those people was Ted Kerasote, and the dog went home with him. As the story unfolds, we are taken on an amazing journey that goes well beyond "a boy and his dog."

Good relationships are built on mutual respect, and this relationship was better than most. This book is the story of that relationship. These two were the best of friends, and this account of their life together shows how each grew and learned from the other. Love, patience, and understanding are evident throughout the book.

At times, this book is humorous, and at other times it's instructive. But always, it's interesting. One of the lessons Merle taught Ted was that great things can happen if humans will change their behavior instead of always trying to change the behavior of their dogs. The prevailing wisdom is that dogs must be trained and molded a certain way, and treated as though they have no independent powers of judgment. Merle proved this isn't so wise.

The problem is that people don't let their dogs grow up. They make the dog into a perpetual child, and then are surprised when anxiety surfaces in the form of behavior problems. But how would you feel if you always had someone telling you what to do, and not letting you make any decisions on your own? This treatment, while often well-intended, disables a person. It disables dogs as well.

Ted suggests loving in a different way, one that provides more personal freedom and is less about controlling the dog. He says, "His (Merle's) lessons weren't about training, but about partnership. They were never about method; they were about attitude."

The partnership between these two took them on a far different path from one they would have taken if, for example, Ted had decided to make a bird dog out of Merle. Rather than make Merle into something to fit a desire of his own, Ted allowed Merle to be himself. And in so doing, Ted would eventually find his own deep needs met in ways that he could not have predicted. This made for a story worth telling and one definitely worth reading.

In addition to providing us with a wonderful story masterfully written, this book presents an impressive amount of science and technical information on a range of subjects. The list of sources runs 15 pages (in small print, at that). Yet, none of this seems out of place. Whether it's a quote from a biologist, an explanation of cognitive maps, or a summary of experiments with dolphins and mirrors, it's all good and it all fits. The wolf research is especially interesting. For anyone wishing to look up those facts after finishing the story, the extensive index will prove helpful.

This book has 18 chapters spanning 364 pages. Not a single one was wasted.

 

This page is the original source of this review, though you may also find it on Amazon or other sites.

Book Reviews Home   Free Audio Books

 


 

About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

The reviews I do will, contrary to emerging trends, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or not substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably another 6,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree undergrad and an MBA. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read to begin with.

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