Part 1, Chapters 7-8 Summary

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Chapter 7

Over the years, Paulsen has owned many dogs, and each one has taught him much. He discovered something about temper in animals through Fred, a dog who became "enormously fat." In an attempt to help the canine lose weight, the author started him on an extreme diet and exercise program. When the requirements became too severe, Fred, a normally placid dog, pointedly bit his perceived tormentor once, with clear purpose. Paulsen got the message loud and clear, adjusted the regimen, and Fred regained his sunny disposition.

Paulsen learned the rudiments of sled-dog running primarily through trial and error, and consequently made many foolish blunders along the way. On one occasion, he stubbornly ignored his team leader Cookie's obvious desire to go in a certain direction, forcing her instead to proceed along his own chosen path. This ultimately resulted in an unavoidable tumble into a steep gully. Cookie, obviously frustrated with Paulsen's refusal to let her follow her instincts, allowed the fall to happen, and afterwards, the dogs went on strike as a unit, refusing to pull. Ignoring their callow master, they lay down to sleep for eighteen hours, rising to continue on with glee only after they felt that he had learned his lesson.

The dog that taught Paulsen the most was a mighty creature named Storm. Storm was one of the outdoorsman's first dogs. Paulsen estimates that they logged more than twelve thousand miles together and the two came to know each other perhaps better than family. Storm was exceptionally clever, and relished pulling pranks on fellow canines and humans alike.

Storm had a habit of carrying short sticks in his mouth while running; he would choose a new one each day and present it to Paulsen periodically, for approval. Paulsen soon realized that the dog was using the stick as a means of communication, to tell him that "everything was all right." When Storm grew old, he continued with this ritual, reassuring his master with his trademark mannerism until the very end.

Paulsen was not present when the time came for Storm to die; he returned from a run one day to find his old friend lying dead in the snow by his house in the kennel. Frequently, when a dog knows that his time is near, he will turn to face the east. Paulsen had left Storm chained to his house in such a manner that it was impossible for him to turn in that direction; indeed, there were signs in the snow that he had tried valiantly to do so, but could not. Nonetheless, in his final moments, Storm left his beloved friend a message, indicating that he did not blame him for his predicament. In Storm's mouth was a stick, a final offering to palliate his master's grief.

Chapter 8

Paulsen remembers a nightmare run, when the weather was brutal and circumstances were exceptionally dire. He became violently ill on the morning of the third day into the trek and began to experience high fever and delirium. To aid him in his distress, a short man with Eskimo features appeared and helped him pack his sled and hitch up his team. Settling Paulsen gently into the sled, the man signaled for the dogs to run.

Paulsen was so sick that he could do little more than lie in the sled, slipping in and out of consciousness while the dogs proceeded on their own. The going was rough, and the dogs had to stop many times, because of various mishaps and challenges. Repeatedly, the team got stuck in deep snowdrifts; the sled slid off the...

(This entire section contains 707 words.)

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trail and down an embankment on one occasion and, in another instance, two of the dogs became engaged in a ferocious battle. In each crisis, Paulsen was aware of the calm presence and assistance of the mysterious man, "the friend."

Paulsen managed to get home safely, and in looking back, recognizes that the Eskimo man was the product of hallucinations. He did not see the man again until he ran the Iditarod, a grueling race from Anchorage to Nome. This famous challenge covers "some eleven hundred plus miles across the Alaskan wilderness." The first time Paulsen ran it, it took seventeen days and fourteen hours to complete.


Part 1, Chapters 5-6 Summary


Part 2, Days 1-7 Summary