BOOK REVIEW: 'Pukka's Promise': Ted Kerasote Brings Us Up to Speed on Pukka -- And All Matters Dogs and Cats

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
BOOK REVIEW: 'Pukka's Promise': Ted Kerasote Brings Us Up  to Speed on Pukka -- And All Matters Dogs and Cats
 When I received my review copy of Ted Kerasote's "Pukka's Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, notes, index, 464 pages, $28.00) I expected it to be crammed with pictures by Kerasote and others of the dog who replaced the author's beloved Merle. Aside from the jacket photo and a contemplative photo of Pukka on the back jacket, there were no photos of Pukka -- or any other dog, for that matter. But the photo-laden book had already appeared and I reviewed it in October 2010 (link: In "Pukka: The  Pup After Merle" Kerasote went into great detail about what he wanted in a dog. Here's an excerpt from my review:
  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. 

Kerasote has been called (by Jeffrey Masson) the author who offers "the most utterly compelling translation of dog to human I have ever seen" -- an assessment that I find perfect -- and in this wide-ranging book he tackles a subject that has been puzzling every dog owner's view of his or her companion:  How can we give our dogs the happiest, healthiest lives?


When Ted Kerasote was ready for a new dog after losing his beloved Merle — who died too soon, as all our dogs do — he knew that he would want to give his puppy Pukka the longest life possible. But how to do that? So much has changed in the way we feed, vaccinate, train, and live with our dogs from even a decade ago. In the 2010 book that I and many others enjoyed, "Pukka: The Pup After Merle," we learned that, horror of horrors to many animal lovers, Kerasote didn't go to a shelter and adopt a dog, he went to a breeder in Minnesota. This action Immediately made him many enemies in the animal world, but he explains why he wanted a dog with solid bloodlines. Merle was a foundling, a stray, but Pukka was a purebread Yellow Labrador who quickly bonded with Kerasote. By the way, Pukka's name is pronounced PUCK-uh.  Kerasote says Pukka comes from the Hindu and means "genuine" or "first-rate".  


 Kerasote tackles all those subjects, questioning our conventional wisdom and emerging with vital new information that will surprise even the most knowledgeable dog lovers. Can a purebred be as healthy as a mixed-breed? How many vaccines are too many? Should we rethink spaying and neutering? This section alone will raise controversy, since spaying and neutering represents conventional wisdom in the animal welfare world. I learned much about the need for preserving hormones in both males and females and why vasectomies for males and tubal ligations for females preserves the hormone flow while eliminating unwanted pregnancies. And, very important, both vasectomies and tubals can be reversed, unlike spaying and neutering.  


  Kerasote deals with the issue of shelters, kill and no kill, a depressing topic. We adopted our cat Greta from a shelter and it's my preferred method. Is raw food really healthier than kibble, and should your dog be chewing more bones? Traveling the world and interviewing breeders, veterinarians, and leaders of the animal-welfare movement, Kerasote pulls together the latest research to help us rethink the everyday choices we make for our companions. And as he did in "Merle's Door", Kerasote interweaves fascinating science with the charming stories of raising Pukka among his dog friends in their small Wyoming village.  
About the Author

Ted Kerasote is the author of several 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, ScienceThe New York Times, and more than sixty other periodicals. He lives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

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