While Merle gave us lessons from a freethinking dog, Pukka is here to teach us all about the ups and downs of being a puppy…and there’s something very real we can all take away from that. I was recently sent a copy of Pukka, The Pup after Merle by Ted Kerasote, author of Merle’s Door. The book is big, hardcover with more than two hundred beautiful photographs. The story shares the tale of how the young yellow lab comes into Ted’s life, learns some hard lessons, overcomes fears, and basically loves life.

Q& A with Ted Kerasote:

What was it like to write the book from Pukka’s point of view?
I didn’t really write the book from Pukka’s point of view. As was the case in Merle’s Door, I watched my dog, I spoke with him, and I translated what he was telling me. It really is Pukka’s book.

How would you explain your philosophy of raising a puppy?
A lot of puppy-training manuals are all about confining the pup…Pukka had the run of the house and, yes, made a few mistakes…At the same time, pups, like children, need to learn manners—sitting, not bothering people, coming when called. But if these are made fun, and there’s some elk jerky and praise when it’s done right, the pup soon learns. My attitude is not to get too bent out of shape, and you and your puppy will be happier for it.

What have you and Pukka learned from each other?
I learned that one of the things I liked doing—running rivers—was not a great idea for a young, active pup. He wanted to be moving, to be roaming, and being confined to a raft was so borrrrrrrrrring! Pukka has learned from me that just because other dogs can do certain things—bark at the UPS man, for instance—that doesn’t mean he can. This has been a point of contention between us, he saying, “Why can’t I bark? All my friends are barking!” People who wring their hands over the company their children keep will understand this very well.

My review:
Pukka is the Hindi word for “genuine” or “first class.” Little Pukka is selected, in part, because his face resembles Merle’s. Pukka shares much of Merle’s philosophy too, such as collars are itchy, and retrieving gets boring after the first few times.

As we read Pukka, we come to discover the story of a partnership between dog and human. We see how Ted teaches Pukka the rules (no dogs in the kitchen, no begging for food) but also allows Pukka to explore and take the lead in living his own life. I felt a deep respect between the two. The words are sparse, letting the beautiful photographs tell the story. I cringed at the photo of Pukka’s poor injured eye after neighbor dog AJ took a bite. I laughed at the pictures of Pukka going down the slide. I awwwwed at the picture of Pukka under Merle’s aspen tree. Best of all were the photos of Pukka in the beautiful Wyoming wilderness that Ted loves so much. In some shots, Pukka looked afraid on the kayaks and watercraft. Then there were times when it looked as if he’d conquered his fear. Then came a gorgeous photo of Pukka from the top of craggy Jackson Peak. That was as if he’d conquered the world.

I hope you run out and get a copy of Pukka, the Pup after Merle. There’s nothing like a little puppy love to make you feel good.

Author Bio
Ted Kerasote is the author of many books, including the national best-seller 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. Ted and Pukka live in Wyoming.