George Graham Vest (1830-1904) served as U.S. Senator from Missouri from 1879 to 1903 and became one of the leading orators and debaters of his time. This delightful speech is from an earlier period in his life when he practiced law in a small Missouri town. It was given in court while representing a man who sued another for the killing of his dog. During the trial, Vest ignored the testimony, and when his turn came to present a summation to the jury, he made the following speech and won the case.
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.
My dogs are ordinary, but special to me.
Won't be in Westminster, like the dogs on T.V.
One is adopted, the other a stray.
No need for a pedigree,
One is neutered, the other is spayed.
They give slurpy kisses, and dance on the floor
And expect belly scratches, when I walk in the door.
A ride in the car, a walk in the park
A burger for supper, just before dark.
They eat and they stagger, and fall to the ground.
To sleep and digest, the bounty they found.
A hamburger hangover comes as no surprise
Treated better than the dogs of Westminister;
They control me with brown puppy eyes.
Oh what unhappy twist of fate
Has brought you homeless to my gate?
The gate where once another stood
To beg for shelter warmth and food.
For from that day I ceased to be
The master of my destiny,
While she, with purr and velvet paw
Became within my house the law.
She scratched the furniture and shed
And claimed the middle of my bed,
She ruled in arrogance and pride
And broke my heart the day she died.
So if you really think, oh cat
I’d willingly relive all that,
Because you come forlorn and thin
Well don’t just stand there – come on in!
– Author Unknown
We were feeding, grooming and exercising the horses on our farm one hectic Saturday morning when a car pulled into the yard. A women rolled down the window to talk to my husband, Michael. "We heard that you have children here to help on Saturday mornings," she said. "We wondered if you would have our daughter Sophie? Her father and I are very worried. She's 14 and has stopped talking - she hasn't spoken a word for two years. She likes reading books about horses and we heard about you."
Love and affection: The bond that develops between a horse and its career can reap benefits for both parties.
Sophie stepped out of the car. She was sullen and overweight, with baggy, ill-fitting clothes and lanky, unwashed hair. She was hunched, as if there was a heavy weight pressing down on her. Something inside me knew exactly where to take her. "Come with me to change the dressings on a horse called Darcy," I told her. Darcy Day was one of 30 or so retired racehorses we had rescued and given a home to. She had come to us in a terrible state a few days earlier, saved from a neglectful owner. Bony and with her head hanging low, Darcy's coat was matted and discolored. Her eyes were dull and streaming, her bones protruding through her coat, her hind legs swollen and oozing a dreadful yellow discharge. Her tail was a tangled mass of wet hair and manure, her hooves long and overgrown.
Sophie started coming every Saturday and slipped into the rhythm of work on the farm, devoting herself to Darcy, laughing and smiling with the other children, but never joining in their conversations.
Darcy was clearly very distressed and had broken out in a heavy sweat. Her temperature was above normal, her hind legs were hot and swollen, and her skin had split in several places.
The vet gave her painkillers, antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, and Micheal cleaned and bandaged Darcy's hind legs as best he could, then bathed her eyes and put in eye drops, but the poor horse seemed to have lost the will to live. However, as Sophie walked into the barn, Darcy astonished me by going straight over to her and lowering her head to be petted. "She never comes over to me and I feed her," I complained gently. I could tell Sophie was pleased. She held out her hands and Darcy put her nose into them. Despite how ill Darcy was, she was able to make a connection with this silent child.
As I changed the dressings, I asked Sophie to help. She seemed bright enough, finding the correct bandages or tubes of ointment but however much I chatted, she never spoke. When her parents came to collect her, she didn't even wave goodbye.
Poetry in motion: Through caring for horses, children can develop responsibility and confidence.
The following Saturday, I was surprised to see her parents' car pulling into the yard. This time Sophie followed me eagerly, and again Darcy came over as soon as she entered the barn, making a gentle whimpering sound, she didn't do this with any of the other children.
I showed Sophie how to groom Darcy by feeling the horse all over with her hands, smoothing down in the direction of the hair. Sophie began grooming and Darcy was enjoying it so much that her eyelids began to droop. She almost nodded off on her feet. That's a huge compliment from a horse, implying absolute trust, and it was yet another sign of the growing bond between them. Sophie started coming every Saturday and slipped into the rhythm of work on the farm, devoting herself to Darcy, laughing and smiling with the other children, but never joining in their conversations.
Meanwhile, Darcy continued to recover. Her legs healed, her coat improved, and she started to take an interest in life. They were getting better together.
Something must have happened to Sophie two years ago that made her lose her confidence, and she got it back through her relationship with Darcy. Horses are powerful therapy.
Then, one day towards the end of summer, Michael put his fingers to his ear, indicating that I should listen to something. Sophie, who was around the corner from us, was speaking to someone on her mobile phone. "I was just walking across the yard," she said, "which is a long way from the stable, but Darcy knew straight away I was there and she started to whinny. She always knows when I'm coming." We were both amazed Her voice was perfectly clear. When her parents arrived, I called out; "bye Sophie, see you next week!" and to my astonishment, she called back: "bye!' Her mother phoned us later "What on earth did you do?" she asked. "she's talking again completely normally, as if she had never stopped." Michael said: "Something must have happened to Sophie two years ago that made her lose her confidence, and she got it back through her relationship with Darcy. Horses are powerful therapy."
This gave Michael an idea. We knew of a couple of organizations that used horses to help adults with mental health issues. We wondered if we could offer the same kind of experience to children with emotional, social, or behavioral issues.
The silent heroes sit at their desk everyday
You may not know of them, but they always find a way
The diligently toil for those who cannot speak
Growls, meows, barks and songs, a protector of the meek
Strongly in the court room, they speak up for the mute
Battling for justice, for the ugly and the cute
Defending any animal on earth that you can see
Proving we are all the same, sentient living beings
Our attorneys fight to legislate for humans and their pets
For justice and equality, love and loyalty we can't forget!
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