Book Review: Pukka, The Pup After Merle

Pukka Cover

I’ll confess right now that I find a lot of novels about dogs a bit tedious. The “dog enters a person’s life and teaches him/her about life, love, and how to laugh” formula has got to be one of most shopworn stories around. So when I picked up my review copy of Pukka: the Pup After Merle by Ted Kerasote, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It sat in the “to be read” pile for a much longer time than it should have, and that was a huge mistake. I should have started it the minute it arrived.

Pukka is a sequel (of sorts) to the very popular Merle’s Door (which I started immediately after finishing Pukka.) Of course this book was billed as being different. But every book is billed that way, right? Well, at the risk of sounding cliche, this book is different.

Pukka is the story of a puppy in his own words, with one or more photographs on every page. The photos play a big part in the storytelling. For some people (mostly men?) this sounds like a big turn-off. If you spend enough time online you see plenty of that “pet speak” that is sometimes hilarious, but often downright irritating. Who would want to read a book full of it? But fear not, Pukka speaks in full sentences with properly spelled words. His viewpoint is that of a puppy, but a puppy with a good editor, spell check, and no speech impediments.

The book covers Pukka being found by Ted in Minnesota, driven home to Wyoming, (and named along the way) and then follows his first year or so living with Ted. (Spoiler Alert: everyone lives happily ever after.) The pictures vary between funny, breathtaking, and breathtakingly funny. Most of the story is set in Kelly, Wyoming, where Mr. Kerasote and Pukka live. This is beautiful country, and the pictures of Pukka running, jumping, swimming, and playing, with his human and canine friends are fantastic. It makes me want to move there, and if you can make me think about moving to place that doesn’t have Starbucks, broadband, and 3G coverage, you’ve done something pretty darned impressive.

From a training perspective the book is excellent. It’s apparent from the very beginning that Ted really knows his stuff when it comes to training and socializing a new puppy. Reading a book about someone who already knows what to do, as opposed to another formula: “learning as we go and making hilarious mistakes” is another refreshing change of pace. There are a few photos of some training, and the story covers a few interesting events, such as a brief period when Pukka is afraid of water, and another where an older dog takes an intense disliking to Pukka. Ted handles the situations very skillfully and it was nice to be able to sit back and watch a pro at work.

The story is great too. It’s obvious Ted loved Merle, Pukka’s predecessor, and that he loves Pukka too. This book is a lot of fun to read and it looks like it was equally fun to write and put together.