George Graham Vest represented Missouri in the United States Senate from 1879 through 1903. Earlier in his life, he practiced law in Warrensburg, Mo. At a time when dogs were regarded as little more than chattel, a man sued another for shooting his dog, requesting damages of $50. When the time came for his summation to the jury, Mr. Vest delivered the following speech. The jury responded by awarding the man ten times what he’d requested, damages of $500 – or nearly $10,000 in today’s currency.
The best friend a man has in the world may turn against him and become his enemy. The son or daughter 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 upon 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 clouds upon our heads.
A man's dog stands by him in prosperity and 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 from 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.
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.
If fortune drives the master forth, an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful