Ode to man’s best friend

The one phrase that everyone keep saying veryThe very often – irrespective of whether he is a dog lover oroften or not – is that a dog is a man’s best friend. Even sceptics can’t help but acknowledge the truthEven truth of this saying. And what’s surprising is that everof ever since man has known since time immemorial, there is no companion like a dog for a man…

 

We all have grown up hearing stories of dog’s love, loyalty and courage. The humancanine bond is so strong that even though they don’t vow ‘Till death do us apart…,’ every dog gives his human friend the unconditional love and care till he breathes his last. It is believed that the saying ‘A dog is man’s best friend’ actually has its origin in a very interesting court battle that was fought vis-à-vis a dog. It so happened that a plaintiff by the name of Charles Burden lost his dog named “Old Drum” when the animal was shot dead by his neighbour Leonidas Hornsby. Old Drum had accidentally wandered onto the Hornsby’s property. Even though Hornsby had often hunted with the dog and acknowledged him to be one of the best hunters he had ever since, he shot him down. The bereaved Burden sued Hornsby for damages and the trial become one of the most talked about cases in history. After the jury awarded $25, the neighbour successfully appealed the ruling. The dog’s owner however succeeded in his motion for a new trial and the case shifted to Missouri. That was when Burden hired George Graham Vest to fight his case. Little did anyone know that this man would give a speech which would endear him to all dog-lovers in the world for all times to come. It was a speech that put dogs on a pedestal like never before and gave them their due value in human society.

Unfortunately, only the first portion of his speech has been preserved, which says: “Gentlemen of the jury, the best friend a man has in the world may turn against him and become his worst 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 he has, he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it the 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 honour when success is with us may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its clouds upon our heads. The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous…is his dog.”

He went on to say, “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 fortunes 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 be the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even to death.”

And after George Graham Vest sat down, it took the jury not more than two minutes to deliberate on the case. They immediately awarded the dog’s owner more than what he asked for, because like everyone who heard the speech, they knew that the plaintiff had not just lost his dog, he had indeed lost his greatest and most loyal friend. So overwhelmed were the residents of Warrensburg by the whole truth of Vest’s speech that they went ahead and erected a statue of “Old Drum” on the Johnson County Courthouse Square in his

memory and to commemorate his selfless service. The statue stands there even today, and reminds all and sundry what a dog means to humans.

This is just one instance, there are hundreds more instances where humans have immortalised their pets. In India itself, in Tarapada village in Orissa, there’s a tomb built in remembrance of a dog named Bhalu. The canine had faithfully guarded the homes of nearly 500 villagers in the coastal district of Kendrapada. In

honour of his memory and to express their gratitude for his selfless and loyal care, the villagers placed a marble plaque on the tomb. Not only that, there are also certain specific details of Bhalu’s short life mentioned on the plaque, which everyone remembered with great fondness.

Dog owners have now accepted canines as important family members and are ready to do anything to be together. Suja Rajagopal, while migrating along with their family from US to Chennai, brought their pets along (Nubia, a mixed Siberian Husky and Conan, a German Shepherd). Even though the whole process was expensive but for them that’s a small price for their priceless buddies. People have become more responsible towards their pets and the society is changing for the better. Pets are now allowed in churches and some organizations (like Google) allow their employees to bring their pets along. For us humans, the only thing as permanent as nature itself, is the unconditional love that dogs shower on us, seeking nothing in return. And I know I speak for all those dog lovers out there when I say, that if there is one thing that God made without any defect – in body, form and soul – were the four-legged darlings. May God bless our canines, amen!

– by Amrita Sharma