Call of the Wild Chapter 3 - The Dominant Primordial Beast
Buck continues to become closer to his primal, canine roots, as "The dominant primordial beast was strong in Buck, and under the fierce condition of trail life it grew and grew. Yet it was a secret growth. His newborn cunning gave him poise and control...and in the bitter hatred between him and Spitz he betrayed no impatience, shunned all offensive acts" Chapter 3, pg. 32. Ever since the death of Curly, Buck has hated Spitz because he laughed when she was being mauled to death by the other sled dogs, offering no assistance at all. Buck is also jealous that Spitz leads the sled dog team, because he wants to be the sled dog leader himself. Tensions between the two dogs continue to increase as Perrault and Francois lead the sled dog team along the Chilkoot Trail towards Dawson City in Canada's Yukon Territory.
Spitz even goes out of his way to bully Buck, snarling at him in passing. On one occasion, Buck had dug a nice bed for himself underneath the shelter of an overhanging rock, and then went off to find some dinner. When he returns to this cozy spot after eating, Spitz is sleeping in his bed. Buck flies into an angry rage, surprising Spitz because Buck had never directly attacked him in such a way before. Francois hears all of the commotion and rushes to the spot to watch the fight, encouraging Buck to fight back because he knows how much of a bully that Spitz is. The two dogs prepare to launch into a vicious fight when they are suddenly disrupted by another struggle: dozens of wild, starving husky dogs invade their camp at that moment, and sounds of Perrault smashing his club against these monstrous dogs draws their attention, as he attempts to save their food supplies from being eaten. Perrault continues to club these dogs' backs, but the onslaught only continues because there are nearly one hundred dogs, and only one club for Perrault.
Hearing the commotion, the other sled dogs emerge from their snow beds or from eating their own suppers, and they are suddenly attacked by the gang of huskies. Buck is badly bitten by three huskies even as he fights back violently to save his life, as are Dave, Billee, Joe, old Sol-leks, Pike, and Dub. Joe bites aggressively, crushing one husky's leg bone with his mouth, while Buck tastes warm blood fill his throat after he severs the jugular vein of one husky, surprisingly enjoying the sweet taste as it drips into his teeth and he swallows deeply, spurring him onwards to fight even more viciously. The taste of blood energizes him, further awakening those primal impulses to kill that had been silent for so long. Meanwhile, Spitz uses this moment as an opportunity to continue his attack against Buck, trying to bite Buck's own throat in spite of the danger facing the sled dog team. Buck shakes Spitz away, and again Spitz tries to charge at him to knock him down, easy prey for the starving husky dogs to eat. Buck deflects this attack and continues to run away from the fighting towards safety in the nearby forest.
The aftermath of this incident is somewhat grim. All of the sled dogs are badly injured, some with cuts on their bodies, others with an eye missing such as Joe, or a shredded ear such as Billee. The newest sled dog, Dolly, has a ripped up throat as well. When they return to camp the next day, the sled dogs learn that half of their food supply has been eaten by the invaders, much to the upset of Francois and Perrault. The dogs have even eaten a pair of Perrault's shoes, starving as they were. The worst is over, and the sled dogs must prepare for another four hundred miles before they arrive at Dawson City. Francois worries that some of the sled dogs might have rabies because they have been bitten by these invading dogs, but Perrault doubts that is a possibility and decides to continue the journey that very day. The trail becomes very dangerous, moving along the Thirty Mile River where the snow is slippery, making it difficult to make any progress. Perrault leads the way, testing the path to make sure that it is safe.
In some parts, they actually have to walk on the frozen river, where the Buck falls down into the water with the sled at one point, becoming very cold after being pulled out. He survives this incident, however, and proceeds along with the rest of the team. Later, the sled team is trapped on the river with broken ice in front of them and behind them. The only solution is for Perrault to climb a cliff above, cast down a rope, and hoist each dog one by one across the broken ice to safety on the other side. This dangerous operation succeeds without any problems, and the long journey continues. After passing through this dangerous area near the river, Perrault leads them to a series of lakes in the following days, pushing the dogs to their very limits because they are tired, cold, and there is not enough food now either. Francois makes four tiny moccasin shoes for Buck as well, since his feet were not adjusted to this cold weather, and Francois also massages Buck's feet every night until they become more calloused and resistant to these harsh conditions.
The tiny shoes keep Buck warm as well, and "This was a great relief, and Buck caused even the weazened face of Perrault to twist itself into a grin one morning, when Francois forgot the moccasins and Buck lay on his back, his four feet waving appealingly in the air, and refused to budge without them. Later his feet grew hard to the trail, and the worn-out footgear was thrown away" Chapter 3, pg. 40. Francois likes Buck a lot and really goes above and beyond to help Buck out, more than he does for any of the other sled dogs. He thinks that Buck is more intelligent than the other dogs as well, and he was applauding Buck when he first confronted Spitz in a fight a short while before, rather than trying to protect the older and more experienced Spitz. Soon after this time, another problem afflicts the dog team: Dolly, whose throat had been badly torn open by the invading huskies, goes mad from rabies. She begins howling uncontrollably one day and attacks Buck without warning, chasing him around until Francois smashes an ax down upon her head, putting an end to her life. Once again, Francois rescues Buck from danger.
After fleeing away from Dolly however, Buck rests near the sled, exhausted from such a workout, and Spitz again provokes Buck to fight, snarling and biting him without warning Yet again Francois intervenes, wounding the misbehaving Spitz with many lashings from his whip, because Buck did nothing to deserve that kind of attack. Perrault comments that Spitz is a "devil" and will one day kill Buck, but Francois defends Buck eagerly, insisting that he is "two devils" predicting that Buck will one day defeat Spitz in battle for good. In the following days, Spitz becomes increasingly jealous of Buck because he isn't afraid of him like the other dogs, and he feels threatened by Buck's presence. As the leader of the pack, Spitz feels that all of the other dogs must obey and fear him. Yet Buck remains defiant and is so bold as to actually fight back when Spitz attacks him. The tension continues to grow between these two dogs, and even though Francois intervened at their last fight, he was only delaying the inevitable final showdown that would occur between the two dogs.
Buck wanted to fight Spitz to the death very badly, and he tried with all of his energy to restrain himself and be patient, biding his time. This is again the primal territorial urge surging within him, "Buck wanted [to fight]...because it was his nature, because he had been gripped tight by that nameless, incomprehensible pride of the trail and trace -- that pride which holds dogs in the toil to the last gasp, which lures them to die joyfully in the harness, and breaks their hearts if they are cut out of the harness" Chapter 3, pg. 42. These dogs are driven by a pride to succeed and not give up in spite of all obstacles. This energy has seized Buck and keeps him alive, even though he was not used to being a sled dog at all. Now he measures up in strength and skill to any of these other dogs that has been pulling sleds for their entire life. Buck learns to adapt to his changing environment, and it is this ability that insures his survival even in the worst situation.
Indeed, the same drive to never give up or be beaten infects the other dogs as well, for "This was the pride that bore up Spitz and made him thrash the sled-dogs who blundered and shirked in the traces or hid away at the harness-up time in the morning. Likewise it was this pride that made him fear Buck as possible lead dog. And this was Buck's pride, too. He openly threatened the other's leadership" Chapter 3, pg. 42-43. Spitz is filled with pride, and it is this pride that causes him to overstep his boundaries at certain times, because he is so full of himself. Spitz is overconfident, and because he is the leader of the pack he automatically thinks that gives him the authority to bully all of the other dogs. Buck refuses to accept this, however, and he wants to have Spitz's job. In order to accomplish this goal, however, he must first somehow get rid of Spitz. This final showdown does come nearer and nearer with each passing day. Buck did not directly engage Spitz, but instead he was sneaky about it, never making a move until Francois' back was turned, so that he would not violate this man's trust. The other dogs become more bold and begin to lose respect for Spitz, questioning his authority. Buck enjoys watching these moments, knowing how much it must bother Spitz to be losing his control over the sled dogs.
The other dogs argue and fight with each other more, and they do not function as a tight team under Spitz's leadership as they once did. Francois knows that Buck and Spitz are destined to have a fight to the death, and he tries to watch them both carefully to prevent this from happening, although he is often distracted by the other dogs and their own bickering. They finally arrive at Dawson City, alive and well. Buck sees that the men and dogs in Dawson City are all working, pulling cargo in the streets. He also meets some other Southland dogs like himself, dogs who come from the South, but most of the dogs are native huskies, and each night they gather together at every intervals and howl at the moon. Observing this, "It was an old song, old as the breed itself [and it was] vested with the woe of unnumbered generations, this plaint by which Buck was so strangely stirred. When he moaned and sobbed, it was with the pain of living that was of old the pain of his wild fathers...And that he should be stirred by it marked the completeness with which he harked back through the ages of fire and roof to the raw beginnings of life in the howling ages" Chapter 3, pg. 45. Howling with these native huskies is a very spiritual experience for Buck, and he feels closer to his primal roots and to his wolf ancestors. The life he had once lived at Judge Miller's place in the Santa Clara Valley of California is so foreign to the life that he lives now and to the dog that he has become after overcoming so many obstacles.
The sled team stays with Francois and Perrault for seven days in Dawson City before it is time to hit the road again. Replenished with supplies, they turn back towards Dyea, Alaska again as Perrault has certain messages to deliver along this route for the Canadian government. They take a different trail now, which was easier to follow than the Chilkoot Trail because it is well-traveled, and the snow was already packed down. The Canadian police have also hidden food along the road for them, just in case they run out. Feeling refreshed, the sled team begins this new journey although disunity continues to spread, because the dogs no longer respect Spitz's authority to be the lead sled dog. Pike is so bold as to steal half of a fish from Spitz at dinner one night, and Buck protects Pike from being attacked by Spitz, and on another occasion Dub and Joe starts a fight with Spitz, although Spitz ends up being whipped for fighting because Francois apparently assumes that he had been the one to start it. Only passive but obedient Dave and Sol-leks refuse to participate in these activities, since they merely perform powerfully when pulling the sled. At all other moments, they are antisocial and keep away from the other dogs.
Francois tries to maintain discipline amongst the sled dogs by whipping them, but the discipline continues to break down more and more. He also knows that Buck is to blame for all this commotion, but he is never able to catch Buck red-handed while encouraging this silent rebellion against Spitz's leadership. One day, Dub initiates a chase to capture a snowshoe rabbit, followed by all of the other sled dogs; a nearby crew of fifty Canadian police sled dogs also joins them, and the pursuit goes on with Buck taking on as the leader for this pack of dogs. Buck is filled with excitement, and "All that stirring of old instincts which at stated periods drives men out from the sounding cities to forest and plain to kill things by chemically propelled leaden bullets, the blood lust, the joy to kill -- all this was Buck's, only it was infinitely more intimate. He was ranging at the head of the pack, running the wild thing down, the living meat, to kill with how own teeth and wash his muzzle to the eyes in warm blood" Chapter 3, pg. 48. As he had when fighting the invading pack of huskies, Buck craves the taste of blood again, energized by the chase and the thought of killing a creature and crunching its bones between his teeth. He is becoming increasingly wolf-like and less like the happy, naive dog that had once carried children on his back in California's Santa Clara Valley.
While so looking forward to tasting this prey in his mouth, Spitz abruptly runs ahead from behind Buck, dashing upon the rabbit and sinking his own teeth into its neck before Buck's eyes. Spitz hopes to provoke Buck again by stealing this object that Buck had craved so very much. Spitz proves that he is still the leader of the pack, because it is he that wins this prize even though it is through sneakiness and deception, since Buck had no idea that he was going to run ahead of him. The rabbit dies there and then, releasing one horrifying scream before its body goes limp. Buck flies into a silent rage, seething with anger at this glory that Spitz has stolen from him, hurling his body against the older husky. The two dogs roll around in the snow, biting fiercely and mercilessly, and the other sled dogs form a circle around this fight after the dead rabbit's remains have been devoured. At long last the time has arrived for the final showdown between Buck and Spitz, and the other dogs watch expectantly to see what the outcome will be. Spitz fights patiently and strategically, as does Buck, waiting for a moment of weakness before making a move. Buck tries to bite Spitz's throat several times, but he is deflected each time; as a result Buck begins to fake moves, pretending he is going for the neck and then diving at the last minute for Spitz's shoulder or legs.
Spitz is winning, however, and Buck's body becomes gnashed and slashed by Spitz's defensive moves. Buck nearly loses his balance at one point, and the circle of dogs prepares to move in and finish him off, as had happened long ago to poor Curly. However, Buck stays strong and maintains his balance. Buck attacks suddenly with a renewed energy, faking now that he will attack Spitz's shoulder and the diving to bite his legs, successfully, breaking Spitz's leg and leaving him handicapped. Buck continues the onslaught and "Despite the pain and helplessness, Spitz struggled madly to keep up. He saw the silent circle, with gleaming eyes, lolling tongues, and silvery breaths drifting upward, closing in upon him as he had seen similar circles close in upon beaten antagonists in the past. Only this time he was the one who was beaten" Chapter 3, pg. 52. With a maimed leg, there is no way for Spitz to win this battle now, and he knows that Buck has defeated him. Spitz continues to fight back desperately and violently, but to no avail; Buck rushes in against him, ramming his body with his shoulder, knocking poor Spitz down to the ground. Buck rushes out of the circle of dogs as they rush in to eat the fallen Spitz hungrily, rejoicing in this victory he has found at long last after so many months of patient waiting. His old enemy is defeated at long last.