Man’s best friend

We’ve all heard that a dog is “man’s best friend.” Curious about how the term came about? Well, in 1870 a case involving the purposeful shooting death of a hunting dog was taken all the way from a civil court to the Supreme Court of Missouri. In his closing argument (which won the case in the civil court), George Graham Vest, the plaintiff’s attorney, eloquently spoke about our bonds with our dogs.

William Safire, the late (and great) writing/word maven, claimed it was “one of the best of the millennium” ( The following is the speech, also called the “Eulogy on the Dog,” that brought about the term “man’s best friend.”

“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 good name — may become traitors in 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 proves ungrateful or treacherous — is his dog.

“Gentlemen of the jury, 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 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 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” (

At CAPS we also love our feline friends, and to help care for them and our pooch pals, we’ll be selling our goodies at Walgreen’s on Nov. 16. That’ right — Walgreen’s, not Walmart. We were so busy in the past couple of months, organizing a garage sale and gearing up for our Murder Mystery Dinner, that we didn’t line up a November Saturday at Walmart. So, when we finally got around to it, all days were spoken for by other groups.

We’ll be on the south side of the building, so please stop by and see us from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Our most dedicated four-legged volunteer, Ki the Kissing Pooch, will be waiting in the Kissin’ Booth to greet his old friends, and he really wants to meet some new ones. (Ki is absolutely one of the sweetest dogs you could ever meet.)

As a final note, be sure to visit our Facebook page (Churchill Animal Protection Society) and check out the journal entries from our guests (though some days they suffer from writer’s block, which I totally understand). You’re sure to be delighted. While you’re online, jump over to our website ( and check out who is available for adoption. You just may find your next best friend.

This week’s article was contributed by Betty Duncan, a member of the CAPS board of directors.


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