Survival is such a large theme in this book. Skeetah is willing to risk his life to retrieve cow wormer for China and her puppies, knowing that the health of the puppies will ensure the survival of his family. After running from a guard dog, Skeetah emerges with four “angry” wounds that Esch has to help treat. Esch calls them “His own fight scars”.
Esch takes care of Skeetah after he is attacked by the watchdog the way that Skeetah always takes care of China after a dog fight. She wipes his wounds with a towel that has been washed, bleached and dipped in hydrogen peroxide. Despite Esch applying the bandage to wounds that are pretty painful, Skeetah does not winch. This parallels the way that China acts after Skeetah treats her wounds. Esch notes that, “[China] smiles lazily like a woman in a new Fourth of July outfit being complimented” after her wounds are treated.
I wonder if Skeetah imagines what it is like to be China. China has to endure very brutal fights, fights that are essential battles for survival. Then she must come back to be with her family of puppies, hope to heal quickly and wait (or rather prepare) for the next fight for survival. Skeetah could easily find himself in a moral dilemma. Risking the life of China means that his family may be able to survive for a little longer. But, saving China (by not risking her life in dog fights) could mean the end of his family. Whether Skeetah really thinks about the reality of life for his puppy is not always clear. After reading the section about China ripping the watchdog apart, the reader can sense that Skeetah enjoys watching dog fights. Maybe he enjoys watching China survive or maybe he enjoys watching someone/something die that threatened the survival of himself and his family.