Walter Farley's first dog story is formula fiction that fizzles out at the end. It's the eternal triangle; boy who loves woods and wild animals, dog who kills deer, father who excuses dog. In the big bruising climax, boy and dog battle poachers, joined at the crucial moment by father, bare-handed (he learned judo in the Marines, it seems). The symbolic resolution comes on Christmas morning when boy gives father sleeping bag and father gives boy puppy of his own. This is a curious conclusion, because the boy was completely happy alone in the woods; he had come to accept the dog but regarded him as a dubious companion. The author seems to be saying that Man's Best Friend must be Everybody's Pal. For the reader, a rubber bone.