BOOK REVIEW: ‘Pukka: The Pup After Merle’ Yellow Lab Tells Story of How He Won Ted Kerasote’s Heart After Merle’s Passing

Reviewed By David M. Kinchen

Note: this review ran Oct. 28, 2010. I’m currently reading Kerasote’s new book, “Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs” and will post my review as soon as I finish reading it.

No furry friend can ever really replace one that passes away, but Pukka, a yellow lab, is doing his best to fill the gap in Ted Kerasote’s life that emerged after the death of Merle, the subject of Kerasote’s national bestseller “Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog.”

Pukka tells his story in a first-dog narrative, “Pukka: The Pup After Merle” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 208 pages, $18.95) illustrated by 200 pages of color photos by Ted or “handed off” to another photographer so that Ted and Pukka could be in the same image.

Since the publication of “Merle’s Door”, Ted Kerasote has received thousands of e-mails asking two questions: “Have you gotten another dog?” and “Are you writing a new book?” “Pukka: The Pup After Merle” answers both, in the most heartwarming way.

“Pukka: The Pup After Merle” tells the story of how Ted found Pukka in Minnesota, recounting the early days of their bonding as they explore their home in Kelly, Wyoming, near Jackson Hole and the marvelous Grand Tetons, and the wider world.

Walks become hikes and hikes become climbs, their adventures culminating in a rugged wilderness journey that teaches both Pukka and Ted something new about the dog-human partnership. Pukka went along with Ted on his raft, a catamaran-like contraption that gave them stability when they ran the rapids. Pukka even learned to like swimming, a necessity for a retriever. But his favorite activity remains roving the wide open spaces with Ted.

“Pukka” is a love story as well as Ted’s take on raising a puppy. It does in a picture-book format — and what wonderful digital photos they are — what “Merle” did with words: show how dogs thrive when treated as peers while illustrating the many ways that any dog opens the door to our hearts.

About the Author

Ted Kerasote is the author of many books, including the national bestseller Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog and Out There, which won the National Outdoor Book Award. His essays and photographs have appeared in Audubon, Geo, Outside, Science, the New York Times, and more than sixty other periodicals. This is Pukka’s first book. Their website is

Publisher’s website:


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