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A Conversation with Ted Kerasote
By Ted Kerasote,
Author of Pukka: The Pup After Merle


How long was it after Merle died before you felt ready to welcome a new dog into your life?
It took almost five years to get over Merle's death and feel that my heart was at last open enough to embrace a new dog.
 
What drew you to Pukka?

I searched long and hard to find a dog that had some of Merle's characteristics or, more generally, the characteristics I wanted in a dog when I met Merle: Someone who was very athletic; who could navigate deep snow; who could swim big rivers; who could camp out with me in any landscape. I also wanted a dog who, though active, could be laid-back in the house; who was affectionate; and who also had that certain reddish-golden tinge to his fur that reminds me of fall, of September light.
 
What does "Pukka" mean, and why did it seem like the right name for your new dog?
"Pukka" means first class or genuine in Hindi, and it seemed like a good name for the pup I met in Minnesota. He immediately took to traveling in the car; he knew how to use rest stops; he climbed the stairs in the motel with no problem and wasn't afraid of children, swimming pools, and traffic. Plus he was a snuggler and affectionate.
 
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: to a crate so as to house-train it; to your own waist via a tether; to a playpen so it can't get into mischief. But people have been raising puppies for about sixteen thousand years without these devices. Pukka had the run of the house and, yes, made a few mistakes about peeing and pooping. Did these turn into lifelong problems? Hardly. I picked him up midstream and said, "Outside." He soon got it and has made no mistakes since he was a wee little fellow. I solved his teething problems by spraying furniture legs with a solution called bitter apple. Dogs don't like the taste. He also had plenty of real bones to chew on. 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.

The above is an excerpt from the book Pukka: The Pup After Merle by Ted Kerasote. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2010 Ted Kerasote, author of Pukka: The Pup After Merle.