Part 1, Chapters 1-2 Summary
Schultz, a former lumberman, gave up his trade when the chain broke on his truck and a man was killed by the falling timber right where he had been standing. Finding a property for sale deep in the Wisconsin woods, Schultz builds a home, but abandons it after five years. John Sawtelle is traveling through and sees a dog he likes. He arranges to trade puppies with the owner and discovers the property as he investigates the area. With his wife, John begins a kennel in which he breeds and trains dogs. John has two sons, one who stays on the farm (Gar) and one who leaves. Gar marries Trudy, who takes over the dog-training aspect of the business.
Gar and Trudy deeply love each other. The one tragedy that the young couple experiences is their difficulty in having a child. After two miscarriages, Trudy carries a baby almost to full term, but the baby arrives prematurely, stillborn. Gar builds a rough coffin, and they bury their baby near the house. As Gar is covering up the grave, he sees that Trudy is unconscious and takes her to the hospital. She recovers and returns home.
Gar paints a wooden cross for their baby’s grave. As he is taking it to the site, he sees a bundle of leaves in the stream, and from the leaves he hears a faint cry. He recovers the bundle to discover a puppy about three weeks old. Gar surmises that it might be a wolf cub. He takes it home to Trudy, who patiently tries to get it to eat, unsuccessfully. The pup dies, and Gar buries it near the grave of their baby. Trudy eventually brings a baby to full term and names him Edgar after his father. Soon, Gar and Trudy notice something wrong when the baby tries to cry, so they call the doctor.
Almondine, Gar and Trudy’s house dog, is aware that something is going to happen. She feels restless, separated from her kennel mates. She feels that she has nothing significant to do. When Edgar is born, Trudy warns Almondine not to lick the baby, but Almondine stays close. As Trudy sleeps, Almondine hears a small sound. She realizes that the baby is trying to cry but has no voice. Edgar is born mute. Almondine awakens Trudy, who feeds the baby. Almondine is satisfied; she now has a job to do.