Monday, December 02, 2019

97. The Wild Dog of Edmonton by David Grew

I found this at the Value Village southeast of downtown (can't remember the neighbourhood name, rapidly gentrifying) which was packed with people buy Halloween costumes.  It was $7.99 which struck me as a bit pricey.  I also noted that if you are looking for contemporary thrillers, fantasy and sci-fi it had a pretty impressive collection of mainstream stuff.  I should add these to my hunting maps.

The Wild Dog of Edmonton was a great little book. It was written in 1948 for a young adult audience.  There are two protagonists, Dwight the orphan who lives with the hard-working and hard-feeling Brunnels.  They haven't officially adopted him and he is basically there as a farmhand.  Mr. Brunnel is the kind of resentful asshole they are still breeding in rural and suburban Canada, angry in this case because the government is forcing him to send Dwight to School.  Dwight, while tending the barn witnesses the birth of a litter of pups and falls in the love with the first one. He names him Whitepaw and he becomes our second protagonist.  Old Farmer Fuckface Brunnel realizing that the boy loves the dog, does everything he can to force him to get rid of it.  The boy's nice teacher (who also realizes his potential) lets the dog stay with her at least until the end of the school year.  Whitepaws becomes a favourite among the students.

However, when the school year ends, Brunnel, despite the pleas of the nice teacher, reiterates his threat that he will shoot the dog, so Dwight and Whitepaws run away, heading to Edmonton where he hopes to find work.

Thus begins a two-part adventure, first with the two making their way in the winter on a perilous journey and second once in Edmonton, when they get separated and then Whitepaw learns to fend for himself.  Both parts are cool but the book really shone for me when Whitepaws was on his own.  He was a loving, trusting dog, being brought up with nice Dwight, the kindly teacher and all the kids.  Here on the mean streets of Edmonton he learns to sneak, steal and fight.  It's pretty cool stuff.  It moves along at a nice tight pace with nice descriptions of wintery Canada and this strange world from a dog's perspective.

It struck me as reading this that the post-apocalyptic genre and the animal perspective adventure genre share a lot in common.  They both have potential heroes exploring strange lands with whom they have little or no connection or history.  Meaning can only be guessed at, puzzled together by the bits of information they glean from the ruins or Man's world.  Survival is a share theme as well.  Something to ruminate on.

This was a great find.  The fundamental conflict is between the selfish individualism of the farmer, who uses his struggle for resources and labour as an excuse for an ideology of negativity and control versus the liberal spirit of the teacher who recognizes that with education and community everybody can be uplifted.  This conflict is still with us today in Canada.

No comments: