The phrase “man’s best friend” is a well worn but accurate description of the depth of our relationship with dogs. It is that relationship which is celebrated during National Dog Week. This year, the 74th National Dog Week runs Sept. 22 through Sept. 28.
“Man’s Best Friend” is this year’s theme. The idea that the dog is “man’s best friend” is believed to have originated during a closing argument given by Sen. George Graham Vest, of Missouri. Vest, a lawyer, was representing a man whose dog was deliberately shot and killed by a neighbor. The grief stricken dog owner was suing the neighbor for damages.
In his closing argument, Vest gave what has become the famous “Tribute to the American Dog.” The speech to the jury was so powerful that it not only won the case, it has been inscribed in a monument in Warrensburg, Missouri. William Safire included it in his compendium of the world’s great speeches.
The best friend a man has in the world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter that 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. 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 an encounter 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 in 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.
All I can say is AMEN!