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 indoors all day while his new best friend was working. Things did not go well. Merle was used to being his own dog, going where ever he pleased and “going” on whatever he pleased. One day Merle decides to eat a whole bag of dog food, which isn’t cute at all since eating that much food could cause a big dog to bloat (stomach twists and prevents the food from moving along) which will kill a dog pretty darn fast. But up came the dog food and all was well, this time.
Ted realizes he has to do something, so he puts a dog door in for Merle to come and go at will, hence the name of the book. Fortunately for the both of them they live in a time and place that is just right for this arrangement, the town is remote and all the other dogs roam free. No leash law in place. This sets up the perfect situation to watch dogs be more themselves then is possible in this day and age. In other words, Merle had it good, and so did Ted.
This book is full of the cute stories you get from dog books. My favorite was how Merle, a dog who likes to eat, would have a routine of going to certain houses in a particular order everyday to obtain treats (my dog would do this in a heartbeat given the chance). Ted noticed one day how chunky his dog was getting and new that it was unhealthy for him, so he put a note on Merle’s collar that read “please don’t feed my dog.” It worked for everyone except one lady who could not resist, “but he is so cute” she told Ted. She would not stop, so Ted had to scare the crap out of poor Merle every time he got near the treat ladies house to keep him away.
Sad parts are defiantly in this book, as you find in most dog books, but what sets this book apart, and makes it great, is how the author mixes in science and helpful information into the book. In it there is a section, a checklist to go over when you need to make the decision to euthanize, or not to euthanize. Yes grim. But a fact of life if you are to have pets in your life, and it is very good. I worked in an animal hospital at the time I read this book and I made copies of the checklist to give to clients during this time. It is helpful because no one can think clearly at the moment you are faced with this decision, so having a guide is very helpful.
Merle, you’re a great dog. What a life you had.