Eulogy On The Dog

T’is the season for all of us to be busy and priests are no exception to the lack of time and so many things to do, especially when we are alone in our parishes as the lone priest. That being said, I love being a priest and the work it calls me to. Now it is just a couple of weeks before Christmas and I’ve got this self-imposed bulletin article deadline to meet and I’m weary of my own writings.  What to write about now?  I’ve been writing bulletin articles for 14 years now and I sometimes have to scramble for topics to write about.

Over the past few years I’ve been struck by the powerful videos online of dog rescues where canines have been reported as injured, abused or abandoned, were caught and their miserable lives saved through people who care.  The majority of these heart-wrenching rescues are found on the website Hope For Paws (hopeforpaws.org) and as hard as they are to watch because of the pitiful sight of these poor and lost canines, they are always messages of hope and new life.

It’s no secret that I’m a dog person and have had the experience of owning four great dogs since 1998, each of them with their own personality and traits and yet all very friendly, quiet and obedient.  Three of them have been dogs that were rescued and one, Big Bear (who died two years ago of cancer) was from a farm where these big dogs – Wolfhound/Shepherd’s —  have been in the family for generations.

As Christians we have to keep our priorities straight and no life is of more value than that of the human being.  The right to life of all persons whether in the womb or walking the earth is the inalienable right of all human beings and to defend that life is the duty and mandate of all people of the earth, not only Christians.  Our God has made us for Himself and He is the Author of all life.

Part of the life of the earth are the creatures he has created and among them the dog, which just so happens to be ‘God’ backwards.  One should detest seeing any living, breathing and feeling animal come to harm, abuse, abandonment or neglect.

Years ago I came across the following article called Eulogy On The Dog.

A George Graham Vest wrote and gave the speech, “Eulogy on the Dog,” during a lawsuit in 1870. — Congressional Record, October 16, 1914, vol. 51, Appendix, pp. 1235–36.

A foxhound named Drum “was known far and near as one of the fastest and least uncertain of hunting dogs.” He was shot and his owner sued for damages, $150 being the maximum allowed. The case started before a Justice of the Peace, was appealed to another court and transferred to another. It was in the final trial, in the State Circuit Court at Warrensburg, Missouri, that Vest made his speech, the peroration of which is above.

According to the recollection of Thomas T. Crittenden, counsel for the defendant and later governor of Missouri, Vest made no reference to the evidence but confined himself to a tribute to canine affection and fidelity. “He seemed to recall from history all the instances where dogs had displayed intelligence and fidelity to man. He quoted more lines of history and poetry about them than I had supposed had been written … It was as perfect a piece of oratory as ever was heard from pulpit or bar. Court, jury, lawyers, and audience were entranced. I looked at the jury and saw all were in tears.” — Gustav Kobbe, A Tribute to the Dog, pp. 9–18 (1911).

According to John F. Phillips, former law partner of Vest and a member of the House of Representatives, whose comments appear in the Congressional Record with the eulogy on the dog, the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff for $500, far more than the sum sued for. The excess was remitted. Vest was elected to the Senate eight years later and served 1879–1904.

 Eulogy on the Dog  (from bartleby.com)

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 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 absolute, 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.

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 can be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that had 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.

(Fr. Charles)

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