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Originally titled "Diable - A Dog" (French for Devil), the title was changed for publication in 1904 to "Batard" (French for Bastard). The opening paragraph gives us a hint where the story is heading by introducing the players, a dog ("Batard was a devil") and his owner ("Black Leclere was also a devil").
Leclere was a hunter/trapper/adventurer in the Northwest at the time of the Alaskan gold rush. He kept Batard with the intent of either breaking his spirit or kill him trying. Batard could have run away at any time, but stayed through thick and thin because he was equally dedicated to killing Leclere.