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The Cremation of Sam McGee

The Cremation of Sam McGee

by Robert Service

The Dogs

Symbol Analysis

We’re not exactly sure how to feel about the sled dogs in this poem. Usually dogs are warm and funny and friendly – you know, "man’s best friend" and all that. In most of the places they get mentioned here, though, they seem sort of distant and personality-less. (We bet Jack London, who wrote The Call of the Wild, would take issue with this…). The dogs aren't all that comforting, in other words, especially in a poem where we might be looking for a little comfort.

  • Line 18: Here’s the first time the dogs come up, and it’s probably not that big of a deal. Still, we like the sort of happy, quiet image of well-fed dogs and warm blankets. It doesn’t last long, but it’s sort of sweet.
  • Lines 35-6: This is a much colder image, of the "huskies" (a breed of sled dog) howling to the snow. That description makes us shiver a little, and we think that the sound of those howls tells you all you need to know about the lonesome Arctic night.
  • Line 38: The dogs suffer right along with the humans here. They get hungry and exhausted ("spent") just like our speaker. You can imagine what slow, lousy work it would have been to whip tired dogs through the endless snow.
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