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Book Review: The Call of the Wild

When Sarah’s 2013 Classic Challenge included the category “Classics Involving Animals,” I admit I was somewhat disappointed. I am not an animal person. Not to say I want to see them harmed. I just don’t relate to them much.

With a sigh, I chose Jack London’s The Call of the Wild and, if you note the date of this review, you’ll see that I left it until the very, very last minute to read.
Yet, I enjoyed the book. It tells the story of Buck, a dog living the life on a California ranch. Part St. Bernard, part Scotch shepherd, Buck is a large, strong dog who is kidnapped and sold to a network providing sled dogs for the Alaskan Gold Rush. Told primarily from Buck’s point of view, he faces challenge after challenge in the icy wilderness of the North.

A while back, my husband ordered, via Netflix, the 2008 Discovery Channel reality show entitled Iditarod: Toughest Race on Earth. I was fascinated and hooked to the drama of this grueling race. Initially, I was put off by the arduous training and brutal aspects of the sled race. But, as I got more into the show, I was amazed how the dogs interacted with each other and their dedication to the work before them.

Without this introduction to these work dogs, I would never have accepted London’s “personification” of the dog characters. I would never have believed that a sled dog too injured or sick to pull would be heartsick when cut from the team. However, the dogs on the television show became despondent when they couldn’t pull.

In London’s book, a dog named Dave became too sick to run. The mushers took him out of the harness so that he could run free, hopefully resting and recovering. But Dave bit through the harness that connected his replacement to the other dogs and stood firmly in front of the pack, daring them to go on without him. I learned this is not romanticism. These dogs are that dedicated.

SPOILER ALERT: At the end, Buck feels a call he cannot resist and returns completely to the wildness of his ancestors. He is then completely fulfilled. Here London is saying that our true natures cannot be fully bred out of us. Does that relates to us humans as well? Is our history hard-wired inside us?

I’m still not an animal person, but I have an enormous respect for these sled dogs in real life and in fiction.

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