BOOKS: Pukka: The Pup After Merle

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2010:
(Actual press date November 3.)

Pukka: The pup after Merle
by Ted Kerasote
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
(215 Park Ave. S., New York, NY 10003), 2010.
197 pages, hardcover. $18.95

Outdoor writer Ted Kerasote, until 2007,
was best known for his 1994 volume Bloodties, a
culture-based defense of hunting if the victims
are eaten. But Kerasote rejected trophy
hunting, which made him not much more popular
within the hunting industry than among animal

Kerasote’s 2007 bestseller Merle’s Door:
Lessons from a Free-thinking Dog got him out of
the doghouse, at least with mainstream book
buyers. But maybe not for long, suggest most
commentators about the sequel, Pukka: The pup
after Merle. Having not read Merle’s Door, I
opened Pukka with no particular expectations,
but completed it with similar disappointment.
Pukka is narrated in the dog’s voice. A
yellow lab puppy, Pukka is cute, but all
puppies are cute. I hoped for something
spectacular to happen, for something to grab me
to set this book aside from all other dog
stories, but nothing ever did. Pukka: The Pup
after Merle is just a typical story of a man and
his dog. They don’t do anything unusual. My
friends’ dogs hike, canoe, and camp just like
Pukka–except that my friends don’t hunt with
their dogs or let their dogs chase animals,
including endangered sage grouse.
A frisky, friendly dog who seems to love
people and other pets, Pukka lives the life I
wish all dogs could live. His person adores him.
He enjoys regular meals, lots of toys, and
comfy dog beds. He will never have the wretched
life of a chained dog.
Colorful photos of the West capture the
reader as man and beast swim, hike and tour the
rugged Wyoming mountains and bustling downtown
The book’s cover says that any dog can
open our hearts. Pukka opens lots of hearts,
but shelter dogs can do the same. One photo of
Pukka’s breeder shows outdoor puppies in a cage,
with several empty cages nearby that hint of a
large breeding operation.
Kerasote is now promoting a forthcoming
book called Why Dogs Die Young and What We Can Do
About It. A hint about the content appears at
his web site, where he recommends, “If you’re
looking for a new dog and are getting one from a
breeder take a close look at the dog’s family
tree, finding out how long its ancestors lived
and what they died ofŠDepending on your
situation, you may wish to delay the spaying or
neutering of your dog until it is 14 months old
or not sterilize it at all.”
Not mentionedon the web site, is that
the leading cause of death for dogs in the U.S.
is still euthanasia at an animal shelter, at an
average age of about 14 months. –Debra
J. White

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