In Steinbeck's novella "Of Mice and Men," the men who live in the ranch house have a social order. The mule driver, Slim, for instance, is the most respected, while Carlson, the black stabler, is totally ostracized and made to sleep in the barn with the horses. Old Candy, the swamper, is allowed to clean up around the ranch house since he is old and has suffered the loss of a hand.
The episode about his dog is very poignant because Candy cannot bear to part from his old pet, who no longer has teeth and "stinks" as Carlson, a "thick-bodied" worker, says. Carlson wants to shoot the dog and put him out of his misery for the old animal suffers from rheumatism. As the skinner Slim studies the dog "with his calm eyes," he seems "to shake himself free for speech":
Carl's right, Candy. That dog ain't no good to himself. I wisht somebody'd shoot me if I got old an' a cripple.
Helplessly, Candy looks from face to face, and then he tries to find excuses,
Maybe it'd hurt him....I don't mind takin' care of him.
Desperately, Candy fights for his dog's life; like his dog, Candy realizes that he, too, will be gotten rid of when he outlives his usefulness. He looks "a long time at Slim to try to find some reversal." But, Slim whose opinions are laws gives no reversal; he just tells Candy that he can have one of his puppies. Poor Candy knows he has no choice: "Awright--take 'im." He lies back on the bed staring at the ceiling, waiting for the shot. When it is heard, Candy turns to the wall in anguish.
This incident suggests Candy's worry about losing his own usefulness as well as foreshadowing the shooting of Lennnie at the end when George must protect his old friend from physical and psychological pain if he is caught by "putting him down" and suffering his loss.