Eulogy on the Dog
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Eulogy on the Dog (1870) by George Graham Vest
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"Eulogy on the Dog", was a speech made by Vest as plaintiff's council in a civil lawsuit. It was later recorded into the Congressional Record (October 16, 1914), vol. 51, Appendix, pp. 1235–36.
The case concerned a foxhound named Drum, "known far and near as one of the fastest and least uncertain of hunting dogs". He was shot and his owner sued for damages, $150 being the maximum allowed. After various transfers and appeals of the case, trial was held in the State Circuit Court at Warrensburg, Missouri.
According to the recollection of Thomas T. Crittenden, counsel for the defendant and later governor of Missouri, Vest made no reference to the evidence but confined himself to a tribute to canine affection and fidelity. "He seemed to recall from history all the instances where dogs had displayed intelligence and fidelity to man. He quoted more lines of history and poetry about them than I had supposed had been written … It was as perfect a piece of oratory as ever was heard from pulpit or bar. Court, jury, lawyers, and audience were entranced. I looked at the jury and saw all were in tears". Reported in Gustav Kobbe, A Tribute to the Dog, pp. 9–18 (1911).
John F. Phillips, former law partner of Vest and a member of the House of Representatives, whose comments appear in the Congressional Record with the eulogy on the dog, the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff for $500, far more than the sum sued for. The excess was remitted. Vest was elected to the Senate eight years later and served from 1879 to 1904.
Gentlemen of the jury, the best friend a man has in this 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 absolute, 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 can be near his master's side. He will kiss the hand that had no food to offer, he will lick the wounds and sores that come in 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 against danger, to fight against his enemies. And when the last scene of all comes, and death takes the 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 his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even to death.