James befriends a new student, Gideon, on Gideon's first day of school. It soon becomes clear that Gideon is a stutterer, and after school he overhears some of the children--including James--immitating his speech. Humiliated, he runs home, then runs away. James is rightly horrified by his own behavior, and feels guilty. James then travels out of town with Charles on a delivery trip. While camping in the woods, they are approached by a growling, feral dog (who is built more like a wolf). Charles gets out his gun, and any parent in their right mind would have shot this animal on the spot, but no, he caves to James' begging and before you can say "rabies" James is actually petting the "dog". The dog is then allowed to travel with them (!) even thought it's constantly growling and lunging at everyone but James. When Charles and James spend the night in a room over a saloon, the dog just hangs out on the bar floor (apparently, all the patrons were too drunk to be menaced by his presence), and when 2 men try to break into the Ingalls' room, the dog attacks with such ferocity that one man falls over the railing and crashes into the bar below.
The dog chases the other man outside, the dog reenters, sits on the floor of the bar, and absolutely no one seems fazed. The next day, while stopped by the side of the road, Charles and James hear the dog growling, and turn to find a huge bear about twenty feet away. The dog fights the bear and is injured. Charles fires a "warning shot" into the air, and the bear goes into the bushes. Apparently sure he won't attack, though about two seconds have elapsed since the warning shot was fired, Charles rushes to pick up the dog and place him in the wagon. End impausible scenario #1.
Meanwhile, back in Walnut Grove, Caroline finds Gideon hiding in the woods, and convinces him to go home. James and Charles return, and the rest of the family rushes outside to greet them. When Carrie runs around to the back of the wagon, the dog lunges and growls at her, getting within about six inches of her face. Charles pipes in with a casual, "be careful, Carrie", without moving from his spot. At this point James takes the dog out of the wagon, and Charles tells him to take the dog out to the woods and come back without him. He sure does--he gives him to Gideon!!!
Of course, this comes about because the dog is still with James when he goes to Gideon's house to apologize. Gideon admires the dog (and the dog seems to like him,too), and James offers him up with nary a warning about the dog's unpredictable behavior. End implausible scenario #2.
This episode has some tender scenes and fine acting, and young Peter Billingsley is absolutely adorable, appearing here about a year before portraying Ralphie Parker in the legendary "A Christmas Story". However, this plotline is full of so many unbelievable circumstances that I can't give it any better than an "average" rating. Watch the "dog" in this one. No parent would let a child anywhere near it (especially considering the risk of rabies, nevermind its outright ferocity). Apparently, Pa learned nothing from his experiences in "The Raccoon" or "The Wolves".