Monday, April 22, 2013

The Bull Terrier

There's a snow white dog with a coal black eye.
Whose temper's as true as his courage is high.
He's the last in a scrimmage – and the last one that stops,
For when he does fight he fights till he drops.
He knows nothing of meanness and nothing of fear,
For a gentleman's heart has the White Cavalier.

He stands like a boxer, firm, active and keen,
With his punishing jaw, long, powerful and clean.
He's up on his toes, all ready to go
Like the flash of a gun to meet playmate or foe.
He's strong as a bulldog, as fast as a deer,
There's no dog with the dash of the White Cavalier.

His coat and his character both are snow white;
His look is determined; his manner is bright;
He stands at attention, all muscle and bone.
A knight fully armed for holding his own.
As mild as a maiden, as proud as a peer.
A prince among dogs is the White Cavalier.

The Sun, September 22, 1912

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A General History of Quadrapeds - The Bull-Dog

   Is the fiercest of all the Dog  kind, and is probably the most courageous creature in the world. It is low in stature, but very strong and muscular.  Its nose is short; and the under jaw projects beyond the upper, which gives it a fierce and unpleasing aspect.  Its courage in attacking the Bull is well known: its fury in seizing, and it invincible obstinacy in maintaining its hold, are truly astonishing.  It always aims at the front; and generally fastens upon the lip, the tongue, the eye, or some part of the face; where it hangs, in spite of every effort of the Bull to disengage himself.
   The uncommon ardour of these Dogs in fighting will be best illustrated by the following fact, related by an eye-witness; which at the same time corroborates, in some degree, that wonderful account of the Dogs of Epirus, given by Elian, and quoted by Dr Goldsmith in the history of the Dog; – Some years ago, at a bullbaiting in the North of England, when that barbarous custom was very common, a young man, confident of the courage of his Dog, laid some trifling wager, that he would, at separate times, cut off all the four feet of his Dog; and that, after every amputation, it would attack the Bull. The cruel experiment was tried, and the Dog continued to seize the Bull as eagerly as if he had been perfectly whole.
   Of late years this inhuman custom of baiting the Bull has been almost entirely laid aside in the North of England; and consequently there are now few of this kind of Dogs to be seen.
   As the Bull-Dog always makes his attack without barking, it is very dangerous to approach him alone, without greatest precaution.

A General History of Quadrapeds - The Bull-Dog, Thomas Bewick, 1807

Thursday, April 4, 2013

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. 


In addition to showing how the Little House books were crafted, this first part of the book also draws an in-depth portrait of Wilder's childhood and adolescence. The childhood that Hill's research reveals provides good insight into the Ingalls family, particularly to those who are not familiar with "Pioneer Girl." As Hill herself notes, perhaps the most disconcerting piece of information is the fact that Jack the bulldog did not die peacefully shortly before the family set out for Silver Lake. Instead, he was actually given away by Pa during a horse trade (10). Tidbits like this make for interesting reading while also offering some perspective into what elements Wilder felt appropriate for a child audience and necessary to a good story. Hill brings in correspondence between Wilder and daughter Rose Wilder Lane that discusses different editorial choices and shows that Wilder had a clear vision of how her story should be told and what it should ultimately convey.

The fact that Wilder made choices at all when telling her life story is one of the major issues that scholars have with her work. Are the books fiction or autobiography?