the call of the wild




The Call of the Wild
John Griffith London, the illegitimate son of Professor of Astrology father and an emotionally distant mother, was born January 12, 1876, in San Francisco, California. Jack spent much of his childhood working odd jobs to help support his family. After living abroad on a seal-hunting ship and traping across much of the United States, Jack briefly attended the University of California at Berkeley. When news of the gold rush in the Yukon reached him, he packed his bags and left California with thousands of other prospectors to test his luck in the frozen north. After spending the winter and the spring of 1898 in the Yukon, London had not found an ounce of gold and was suffering from scurvy, a disease brought about by lack of good foods. Realizing he was beaten, London returned to California without gold, but with a wealth of experiences and impressions from the Klondike that would soon be portraid in the stories and novels for which he became famous. The most successful of these Klondike tales is The Call of the Wild, a novel that propelled London to the forefront of American fiction. Buck\'s struggles in The Call of the Wild mirror London\'s own difficulties in finding a compromise between his drastically contrasting belief systems.
The gold rush created a need for a reliable, weatherproof transportation system in the Klondike, a need that could be met by only one available resource: dogs. As a result, dogs became a nesesaty with winter transportation between 1897 and 1900, and proved useful in the summer too. Dogs hauled equipment, delivered mail, and labored in the mines themselves. During the summers, the dogs were used as pack animals; during the winters they pulled sleds. By 1899 there were approximately four thousand dogs in the mining town of Dawson. Most of the animals were privately owned, but transportation companies owned some as well. During the summer months gold was brought into Dawson from the mines by dog trains consisting of fifteen to twenty dogs, each carrying a thirty-pound pack. A fifteen-dog train could haul $122,400 worth of gold. During the summer, the dog trains operated twenty-four hours a day, six days a week. During the winter, dog punchers, as the drivers of the dog teams were called, worked eight hours a day, averaging twenty miles with a load of twelve hundred pounds.
Various breeds of dog were used for freighting in the Yukon. The most sought-after were the native breeds the husky, the malamute, and the Siwash, or Indian dog. Though they were often bad-tempered, giving rise to vicious dog fights, these native dogs were well suited to the task and to the environment, being strong in the back and legs as well as having thick outer and inner coats of hair, and paws that were well furred between the pads and toes. Native dogs also showed an incredible talent for scavenging, a skill that was crucial for survival in the frozen Yukon. During the gold rush, however, the importing of non-native dogs for sale became a brisk business. In fact, the number of outside dogs far exceeded the number of native breeds in use at this time. These outside dogs did not have the strength and adaptability of the native dogs, but some, like the St. Bernard and the mastiff, were unsurpassed at short-distance hauling.
On the trail, dogs were fed dried salmon, each dog receiving two pounds of fish each day. They were fed once a day, and always at night. This was done to encourage them to make better time on the trail, as dogs tended to become lazy after feeding.
Under optimum conditions, a team of five native dogs could pull a sled with a 1,000-pound load a distance of fifteen to twenty-five miles in a single day. Generally, the sled was loaded at the ratio of 160 pounds to each dog. With their heavy fur, over-sweating was a constant problem when dogs pulled heavy loads. To remedy this condition, the driver stopped frequently and let the dogs cool off by rolling in the snow. Another problem the dogs faced was injury from ice crystals forming between the pads of their feet. When a driver saw a dog limping, he would