Jack, the Brindle Bulldog

Jack is one of the first characters we meet in Laura's "Little House" books, and rightly so, for he was Laura's first friend. Although he is a dog, he is one of the most beloved characters in Laura's books. We first encounter Jack on page three of Little House in the Big Woods, lying guard by the door to protect the family from wolves.

In the stories, Jack followed the family from the Big Woods into Indian Territory. He nearly drowned in a swollen creek, causing the family several days of sadness before he found his way back to them.

Jack took his role as protector very seriously, which sometimes was more of a hindrance than a help, particularly in Indian Territory. Pa had to keep Jack tied up to prevent him from biting the Indians who sometimes visited the Ingalls home and causing trouble for the settlers. He proved his worth, however, when he saved the family's lives.

When the family contracted fever 'n' ague (malaria) on the Kansas prairie, they were all too sick to go for help. It is likely they would have died before anyone realized their predicament. However, Jack saved their lives by running to meet Dr. Tann as he rode down the trail past the house, begging him to come in.

While the stories told about Jack in Little House on the Prairie are true, in real life, Jack's adventures with the Ingalls family ended as they returned to the Big Woods. Jack liked to spend his time with the ponies, Pet and Patty, and when Pa traded them for horses, Jack wanted to stay with them, so Pa let him go.

After returning to the Big Woods, the family got another dog, this time a black and white spotted puppy which they named Wolf. Wolf was probably left behind when the family left the Big Woods the second time, for the family did not have a dog when they lived on Plum Creek. There was no need for a dog there, because it was settled country. Because the children loved Jack so, Laura continued to include him in her stories in On the Banks of Plum Creek.

When she began writing By the Shores of Silver Lake, however, Laura decided that Jack must no longer continue to be part of the story. She used this opportunity to help make the transition from the child Laura of the previous books to the young lady Laura she has now become.

Laura Ingalls Wilder, Frontier Girl

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Rebecca Brammer & Phil Greetham
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