Gentlemen 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 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 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 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.
George Graham Vest - c. 1855