There are many wonderful books and stories about dogs. You, undoubtedly, have your favorites. But of all those we’ve read and thought about sharing with you, the following speech given by George Graham Vest in 1870 was, we decided, the best gift we could give to our readers. Please feel free to send this beautiful tribute to everyone you know who might enjoy it.
But . . . a word of caution. Those who have read this remarkable tribute, generally find themselves wiping away a tear or two — as did the members of the jury who first heard this speech.
The following is a statement made by George Graham Vest (1830-1904), who served as a U.S. Senator from Missouri from 1879 to 1903. He was one of the leading orators of his time. Yet, he would probably be all but forgotten now, except for this speech. He gave this statement earlier in his life, during an insignificant court case while he was still a lawyer in rural Missouri.
Vest gave this speech in court when he represented a farmer who was suing another for the death of his dog. The case was shaky, at best, but in the end, Vest ignored the testimony and gave this response as his summation to the jury. He won the case.
George G. Vest
EULOGY OF THE DOG
September 23, 1870
Gentlemen of the Jury: The best friend a man has in the world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter whom he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name, may become traitors to their faith. The money that a man has he may lose. It flies away from him perhaps when he needs it most. A man’s reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us, may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads. The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog.
Gentlemen of the jury, a man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince.
When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings, and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens. If fortune drives the master forth, an outcast into the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him, to guard him against danger, to fight against his enemies. And when the last scene of all comes, and death takes his master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by the graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true, even in death.
Happy Holidays to One and All!
“Eulogy” reprinted from: U.S. Congress, Senate, Congressional Record, 101st Cong., 2d sess., pp. S4823-24 (daily edition).
For more info about Vest: http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/generic/Speeches_Vest_Dog.htm