Review of Pukka: The Pup After Merle by Ted Kerasote

If you are lucky enough to write a book that captures the heart of the dog world in the way Merle’s Door did, how on earth do you follow it? Well author Ted Kerasote has very wisely left the talking up to his current dog, and the result is Pukka: The Pup After Merle.

The main feature of the book is the beautiful illustrations, but there is enough text to keep Merle fans happy, and more than adequately bring us up to date. The first photo is a lovely shot of Ted and Merle, followed by a poignant shot of Ted alone in a vast snowy – but significantly barren - landscape. That was where Ted was when the story left off – he had loved and lost Merle after many happy years spent living and learning together; he was alone.

Ted enjoyed reliving his time with his beloved dog writing Merle’s Door and then going on tour promoting the book and meeting his readership. But eventually the time came when he was ready to find another canine companion, and that’s where Pukka comes in. Pukka is a gorgeous large yellow Labrador who is actually very reminiscent of his predecessor.

Pukka tells his story from being a tiny puppy, through his first six months. The photos are beautiful and I frequently interrupted my reading of the book to share a picture with my husband and daughter. It’s that kind of book, it’s delightful.  It must have been a mammoth task choosing which photographs to include; in the first six months of his life, over 17,000 photos were taken of Pukka. Only around 200 could be selected for the book, but Ted chose very well indeed.

Not only does Pukka’s book tell his story, it delicately intertwines Ted’s continued journey of moving on, and also includes great tips on how to bring up a puppy. I hope many readers will pick up ideas on puppy - and dog- raising. Pukka has certainly been socialised well, and he lives a life most dogs would envy.

Pukka gets to meet an impressive array of wildlife, lots of people and of course the other dogs who live in his neighbourhood – sometimes with unexpected results. He goes canoeing and mountain climbing, and of course has his own take on all of this. Happily, Merle is lovingly remembered and referred to - he may be gone, but he is not forgotten. One of my favourite shots in the book is an interior of Ted’s house with Pukka learning to wait outside the kitchen area while Ted cooks. Merle watches over them both from his portrait on the wall. 

Another joy of the book that all dog lovers will relish are the pictures of Ted and Pukka cuddling. There can be no doubt that Ted and Pukka have embarked on a love story just as much as Ted and Merle did.

Pukka means genuine or first class in Hindi, and that’s just how I rate his book – first class. Being the pup that came after Merle, Pukka had some big paws to fill – so far he is managing that beautifully, and I think he will be just as much loved as Merle was.

Review by Julie Hill