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Buck's a dog—and we're not being insulting. He's an actual canine.
Even though he has a personality and emotions, we need to still remember that he isn't human.
He also seems to be living the good life. He lives on a ranch in California, enjoys sunny weather, and he's loved by his master.
So of course, something has to go wrong. In this case, the "something wrong" is that this guy Manuel, who works on the ranch, steals Buck and sells him off. Eventually, he ends up with this guy who wears a red sweater.
(There may be something symbolically up with the red sweater. Keep an eye out for more red things.)
Buck takes a beating from red sweater guy.
Then two French Canadian guys, Perrault and François, buy Buck.
There is much talk of Buck’s "worth." He’s super-strong, and he seems like an alpha dog.
So Buck ends up on a boat traveling north. We see how sheltered he has been because he gets a bit freaked out by snow. He’s from California, remember? Snow's a new thing for him.