Dave, who was an experienced wheeler, nipped Buck’s hind quarters whenever he was in error.
Dave, like Spitz, serves as a strong member of Francois’ dog team. Dave, however, seems more humane than Spitz. Dave gently nudges Buck when Buck errs in an effort to help Buck improve his skills. Dave operates as an important teacher and teammate to Buck. He doesn’t wish to assert any mastery over Buck; he merely wants to help him survive in the wild.
Dave was fair and very wise. He never nipped Buck without cause, and he never failed to nip him when he stood in need of it.
While Spitz is immoral and hell-bent on dominance, Dave is moral and wise. Dave cares about Buck as a fellow teammate and goes out of his way to help him learn. Both dogs teach important lessons to Buck, and both, ironically, help equip Buck with the essential skills Buck needs to survive in the wild.
But it was Dave who suffered most of all. Something had gone wrong with him. He became more morose and irritable, and when camp was pitched at once made his nest, where his driver fed him.
Here, the narrator reveals how, after a good run, the dogs are burdened with an especially heavy load of mail and Dave buckles under the pressure. Dave suddenly becomes ill, and Francois and Perrault can’t figure out why. London writes that they “could locate no broken bones.” Readers may infer that Dave isn’t physically broken, but he is exhausted mentally and physically.
Dave refused to run quietly on the trail behind the sled, where the going was easy, but continued to flounder alongside in the soft snow, where the going was most difficult, till exhausted.
The narrator reveals that when Dave becomes broken down and too exhausted to go on, he nevertheless refuses to give up his position and move to the back where the running feels easier. Dave stubbornly holds onto his position even though doing so ultimately kills him. Dave’s grit and determination make him a noble character and a symbol of mastery in his own right.
His strength left him, and the last his mates saw of him he lay gasping in the snow and yearning toward them. But they could hear him mournfully howling till they passed out of sight behind a belt of river timber.
The narrator recounts Dave’s final moments. Dave’s refusal to give up even though he has become gravely depleted mentally and physically demonstrates a brave show of pride. Readers later learn that after Dave collapses, the men take him out to a patch of woods and shoot him to death. Dave’s heroic death symbolizes how the dogs’ lives play out common themes of tragedy found throughout literature.