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George Graham Vest on Dogs

August 1, 2010
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George Graham Vest

In September 1870, George G. Vest delivered a deeply touching summation before the jury in a trial involving the killing of a dog named “Old Drum.” This is what he said:

The best friend that 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 may sacrifice his reputation in a moment of ill-considered action.

The people who are prone to fall on their knees and 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 a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is the 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 when 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 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 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 and 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, death takes the master in its embrace and his body is laid in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends desert him and pursue their way, there by his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws and his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true, even unto death.

Of course, George Vest won the case. In 1879 he ran for the U.S. Senate and was elected and served in the Senate for 24 years. The citizens in Warrensburg, MO, decided to build a statue to Old Drum, and that statue stands today in the courtyard at Warrensburg.

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