Dogs Best Tribute to Man's Best Friend Part 2

About the best tribute to man's best friend in history a court case to defend a dog.


Judge Wright had a crowded calendar, and he did not get to Burden v. Hornsby until late in the afternoon. Determined to get the case to the jury that very day, Judge Wright recessed the court for supper, and announced that the pleading would begin in the evening.

That night, when the court was called to order, the kerosene lamps revealed a gallery thick with people. Not an empty seat could be found. The word had gone out that George Graham Vest had joined Colonel Blodgett against Cockrell and Crittenden, and a real donnybrook was in the offing.

Judge Wright's gavel rapped, and Burden v. Hornsby, with the ghost of Old Drum in the wings, was under way.

Colonel Blodgett spoke 1st. No record exists of the effectiveness of his appeal to the jury.

Then it was the turn of the defendant's lawyers. Thomas Crittenden addressed the jury, followed by Francis Cockrell. Both spoke flippantly of the monetary worth of Burden's property loss, and they "said it was ridiculous to make so much ado about a dog of small value."

Confidently, they concluded their pleas, not realizing that they had given George Graham Vest exactly the opening he wanted.

Vest was on his feet for the final argument. The courtroom was hushed as he fixed his attention on the jurors. He was not interested in the evidence previously presented. He was not interested in the legalisms surrounding a $150 property loss. He was interested in only one thing. A man's beloved pet and companion, a dog, had been maligned.

Vest began to speak, addressing himself only to the subject of dogs and to all the Old Drums in history.

Even years after, when he had become governor of Missouri, Crittenden could not forget Vest's speech. Remembering it, he said:

"I have often heard him, but never had I heard from his lips, nor from the lips of any other man, so graceful, so impetuous and so eloquent a speech as this before the jury in that dog case. 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 dogs than I had supposed had been written. He capped the monument he had erected by quoting from the Bible about the dog which soothed the sores of the beggar Lazarus as he sat at the rich man's gate, and by giving Motley's graphic description of how the fidelity of a dog kept William of Orange from falling into the hands of the Duke of Alva.

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