Thursday, November 27, 2014

How Did a Dog Become Man's Best Friend

Dogs are social animals that have high intelligence and have worked with humans for many years. They become a part of the family and we in turn become a part of the pack. Most people have heard the saying, "A dog is man's best friend" or something similar to that, but if you are like me you probably don't know how dogs got the title of "man's best friend".

The Case
The first time the saying "A man's best friend is his dog" can be found is the manuscript of an old trial about the killing of a black and tan hound named Old Drum. Charles Burden who was the owner of Old Drum was a farmer and a neighbor of Leonidas Hornsby who had lost some sheep on his property, from what he thought were attacks by local dogs. He swore to himself to kill any dogs he found on his property and when Old Drum wandered on his property he ordered a hired hand to shoot the dog.

Charles Burden went to court and sued Hornsby for damages but after several appeals in lower courts the case finally ended up in the Supreme Court of Missouri. During the trial which was held in September of 1870, George Vest, the lawyer for Burden gave a speech to the court, that some call his "Eulogy to the dog", that won the case. Some of Vest's speech was not preserved but the first portion was: what follows is the speech that gave rise to the saying, "A dog is man's best friend."

According to History Place,  George Vest, the lawyer for Old Drum's master said these words to the court, "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 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 stones 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 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 fierce, 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 from 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 wing 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 his company to guard against danger, to fight against his enemies. And when the last scene of all comes, and death takes the master in his 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 in death."

The Outcome
At the end of the trial Burden won his case and was awarded fifty dollars. In 1958, years after the trial had ended, dog lovers throughout the U.S. pulled together and had a bronze statue of Old Drum erected in Warrensburg, Missouri, on the southeast corner of the current Johnson County Courthouse lawn. The bronze sculpture depicts a hunting dog standing on all fours with his head held high. On a plaque on the front of the statue there are the words that won Burden the case and is also the origin of that old saying most of us have heard from time to time, "A man's best friend is his dog."