TRIBUTE TO A DOG
"Senator Vest, of Missour, was attending a court in a country town, and while
waiting for the trial of a case in which he was interested, he was urged by the
attorneys in a dog case to help them. He was paid a fee of $250 by the plaintiff.
Voluminous evidence was introduced to show that the defendant had shot the
dog in malice, while the other evidence went to show that the dog had attacked
the defendant. Vest took no part in the trial and was not diposed to speak. The
attorneys, however, urged him to make a speech, else their client would not think
he had earned his fee. Being thus urged, he arose, scanned the face of each
juryman for a moment, and said:
'Gentleman of the Jury: 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 the 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 it's cloud
upon our heads. The one absolutely unselish 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 poverty, in
health and 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
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 the riches
take wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is constant in his love as the sun in it's
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 he accompany him, to guard
against danger, to fight against his enemies, and when the last scene of all comes,
and death takes the master in it's 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.'
"Senator Vest sat down. He had spoken in a low voice, without any gesture. He
made no reference to the evidence of the merits of the case. When he finished,
judge and jury were wiping their eyes. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the
plaintiff for $500. He had sued for $200. This case was heard in 1870.