Book Review and Interesting Information: MERLE’S DOOR and PUKKA’S PROMISE

October 2, 2014



Sometime over the summer, I downloaded an audio book from my local library–which taps into the whole Maine downloaded books system–called MERLE’S DOOR by Ted Kerasote.

(I listen to audio books while I quilt these days in lieu of listening to Podcasts about the state of the world since I’ve decided there isn’t much I can do about any of the grim news that assaults us daily.  This “news break” has been such a gift!)

I knew nothing about either this book or Ted Kerasote–just thought I’d see what this book about a dog was like.

MERLE’S DOOR is a charming book about a man and a stray dog who adopt each other and become fast friends:  brothers, really.

Kerasote lives near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and is a devout outdoorsman and naturalist.  Merle was more than happy to accompany him on hikes, bike rides, camping, skiing, and so forth.  And Kersote allowed Merle to have his own independent life, coming and going through his own door, as much as was possible, which was a lot in a small rural community in Wyoming.

When Merle died at about 13, Kerasote was devastated to lose this friendship.

Kerasote knew he would try to replicate the friendship he had with Merle, and he eventually does so with Pukka (pronounced like hockey puck).

But, first, he does a lot of research, including interviews with university research vets, on how to best extend a dog’s life in today’s times, and PUKKA’S PROMISE contains this cutting age information.



Kerasote starts with how to best pick a dog in this era of massive and rampant inbreeding–which is resulting in malformed dogs with all kinds of genetic structural issues that will shorten your dog’s life and cost you a boatload of both emotional angst and money.

Here are some quick highlights:

Should you spay or neuter?

No, spaying and neutering removes the dog’s body’s ability to produce the sex hormones which are crucial to good health.  The adrenal glands simply cannot make up the needed sex hormones.  Dog cancer is one result.  Other diseases are as well.  Tubal ligations, vasectomies, and hysterectomies all serve the same purpose, are much quicker, and, obviously, are cheaper.  Best of all is to leave the dogs intact.  Dogs today don’t run wild through neighborhoods, and females only come into heat twice a year, which can be effectively managed.  It is interesting to note that in Europe, dog owners do NOT automatically spay/neuter their dogs and things have not gone to hell in a handbasket with regard to unwanted puppies.

There are alternative arguments, and Kerasote covers them.  So, the reader walks away with a foundation for any future decision making regarding a new puppy.

What about vaccines?

Ted counted up all the vaccines given to Merle over his 13 years, and it came to about 70.  So, he sets about determining which ones might actually be useful and settles on 4 that are spread out over time:   rabies, parvo, distemper, and adenovirus-2.  He also uses titers to check for vaccine effectiveness rather than mindlessly revaccinating.  As with humans, vaccines can be dangerous for dogs.

What about heartworm meds?

For the past three years, I have nearly killed my aging dogs with heartworm meds.  It took me two years to connect Reynolds’ dire reaction to the heartworm med I gave her in the spring when mosquitoes were just coming out.  We are talking paralysis, foaming mouth, no eating for days with very little drinking of water, for days my having to carry her outside so she could try to pee.  We are talking one sick dog who took a long, long time–most of the summer–to heal.  TWICE, much to my shame.  Then this spring, it happened to Penny, who has a cast-iron stomach.

Kerasote notes that the heartworm parasite in mosquitoes has to have an outdoor temperature above 57 degrees to proceed with its life cycle and it still has to bite your dog to infect him/her.  If the temps drop, even for a few hours, the cycle cannot continue. If you live in parts of the United States that are consistently hot, heartworms are a problem, but they might also be dealt with by giving your dog two yearly treatments–September and December–rather than monthly treatments–since it takes several months for heartworms to develop in a dog.  Bear in mind that the American Heartworm Society that makes treatment recommendations has eight out of ten sponsors that are Big Pharma!

What about ticks and fleas?

You take a huge risk with the available treatments that include pesticides–for you and for your dog.  There are safer ways to cope, and Kerasote lists them.

What to feed:

After a lot of research, including visits or attempted visits to dry dogfood makers, Kersote decides that there is no dry dogfood that is healthy.  Kibble is grain based, and dogs don’t eat grain.  He opts for a type of raw food/cooked food diet for Pukka.  He fed Merle a combo of dry dogfood and raw bones, and noted in retrospect that Merle did have diet-related issues.

There is also a fascinating section on “shelters,” which can actually be massive kill zones.

Sooooo.  I, obviously, highly recommend this book.





Author: louisaenright

I am passionate about whole, nutrient-dense foods, developing local markets, and strengthening communities.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: