What was Oogruk's final decision in Dogsong?Chapter 5
Oogruk's final decision is choosing the way he will die.
Russel, the young Eskimo who lives with Oogruk, prepares to go on a hunting trip, and surprisingly, Oogruk decides to go with him. As they are getting to leave, the old man stares across the ice, and says that he smells the sea. When the two hunters get to within a couple of miles of the sea, Russel tells Oogruk that he will leave him with the dogs and continue on foot, but Oogruk says,
"No. It is time to talk one more time and I must leave you. But I wanted to come out here for it because I missed the smell of the sea. I wanted to smell the sea one more time."
Oogruk then instructs Russel not to go home. Instead, the young man must "head north and...see the country...run with the dogs and become what the dogs will help (him) become." It is in this way that Russell will become a man. Oogruk tells Russel that he must leave him there "on the ice, out (there) by the edge of the sea," and when Russel balks, Oogruk insists. He tells Russel,
"An old man knows when death is coming and he should be left to his own on it."
Oogruk is so forceful in his command that Russel does as he says, letting the dogs "(surge) away," and not looking back. After awhile, however, he can stand it no longer, and he turns the team around, returning to the place where he left Oogruk. Russel finds Oogruk sitting very still on the ice, staring out to the sea. Oogruk's eyes, however, are lifeless; his spirit is gone, having "flown, out and out," past the edge of the ice and beyond. Russel tearfully places his harpoon on the old man's lap so that he will be able to hunt seals in the spirit world, and as he leaves to discover his identity and his destiny as Oogruk has instructed, he turns back to the old man and says, "I will remember you" (Chapter 5).