At the conclusion of the novel when George shoots Lennie to spare him an agonizing death at Curley’s hands, the reader is reminded that a variation of this tragedy occurs earlier in the narrative when Carlson shoots Candy’s old dog to end its misery. Carlson’s shooting the dog humanely in the back of the head foreshadows the manner of Lennie’s death, and like Candy, who consents to putting his dog down, George experiences heartbreaking anguish in doing what must be done. In the context of the novel, Candy’s bond with the old dog is as meaningful as George and Lennie’s friendship, as both relationships forestall loneliness and give purpose to the men’s lives. Candy’s despair as he lies in his bunk and turns his face to the wall after his dog is shot foreshadows George’s feelings of profound loss as he sits on the riverbank next to Lennie’s body.
The parallels between Candy’s and George’s behavior as they eventually accept what they must do emphasize that the scene in the bunkhouse foreshadows the concluding scene at the river. Candy resists agreeing to shoot his dog, delaying the inevitable as long as possible. “Maybe tomorra. Let’s wait till tomorra,” he tells Carlson. Sitting next to Lennie by the river, George also delays the inevitable. Hearing the search party closing in, he says good-bye to Lennie in his own way until time runs out. With the search party too close to ignore, George shoots Lennie humanely in the back of the head with the Luger Carlson used to shoot Candy’s dog.