One of the most popular children’s television programs of the 1990s was Wishbone, which aired on PBS between 1995 and 1997. The show featured an adorable dog from Texas named Wishbone who would frequently daydream and and imagine himself as the main character in various popular literary classics such as “Romeo and Juliet” and “Treasure Island”. Although he is a canine, in these dream sequences he is portrayed as a human with the ability to speak and dress in clothing relevant to the genre of the book. In 1998, one year after the television show went off the air, Wishbone starred in a made for TV movie called “Wishbone’s Dog Days Of The West.” The show won many awards and accolades during its run, including a Peabody award and Daytime Emmy. Re-runs of the program appeared on PBS Kids and PBS Kids Go between 2007 and 2013. So, what kind of dog is Wishbone?
Wishbone was a Jack Russell Terrier.
Originally bred for fox hunting, Jack Russell terriers are happy, affable, high energy dogs with an outgoing and gregarious nature. And although they are small in stature and typically only weigh between 13 and 17 pounds, they are athletic, agile dogs who can jump up to four or five feet. They are known for being clever, fiercely independent and sometimes stubborn. Plenty of exercise and mental stimulation is a must for this breed. With training, love and consistency, Jack Russell Terriers make great pets as they are very family oriented and generally happy-go-lucky dogs.
The inspiration behind the creation of Wishbone came from Executive Producer Rick Duffield’s own pet Jack Russell Terrier. He noticed his dog’s expressions and curiosity and playfully gave his pet a voice and imagined what he would be saying or doing in everyday situations. Later he looked at his bookshelf and started thinking about the concept of a little dog with a big imagination and pictured his pet as literary characters. And with that, the idea for the show was born. In the early 1990s, a search began for a dog to star in the upcoming series. The dog who portrayed Wishbone on the television series and subsequent film was named Soccer. Producers met 100 dogs before ultimately choosing Soccer due to his thoughtful and expressive face and appearance. While Soccer portrayed Wishbone’s character, four other Jack Russell Terriers served as extras for publicity photos and some of the stunts.
Jack Russell terriers are known for being exceptionally bright and inquisitive. Their friendly nature, sociability and inherent confidence make them ideal not only as house pets, but as performers. Wishbone’s character embodied all of those qualities, which helped viewers see him as not “just a dog”, but as a multifaceted actor who was able to portray humans in an unexpected, charming and endearing fashion. He was beloved by children, parents, teachers and librarians because he was able to bring classic books and stories to life in a new, vibrant and refreshing way that enticed young readers to enjoy literature and to become avid readers.