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John Thornton was camping alone because while navigating the North the previous December, he had frozen his feet. His companions, realizing that he was unable to go on with them, "had made him comfortable and left him to get well, going on themselves up the river to get out a raft of saw-logs for Dawson". By the time Buck came into his life, Thornton was much improved, limping only slightly, and with further time for recuperation in the spring, he and Buck gradually regained their strength and were ready to travel again when the partners returned.
John Thornton was the ideal master because he of his kind and generous nature. While "other men saw to the welfare of their dogs from a sense of duty and business expediency, he saw to the welfare of his as if they were his own children, because he could not help it". Thornton sincerely cared about his dogs, and spending time with them "was as much his delight as theirs". He took interest in his dogs in a way that transcended just what they could do for him; he got to know them as individuals and treated them with dignity and respect (Chapter 6).
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