It’s no accident that Jackson’s smiling face graces this blog. Or that I have an interest in animal law or that I’ve represented clients in that practice area or that I belong to the bar’s animal law section.
I come by this honestly. Like a lot of people, I grew up around dogs. They’ve been an integral part of who I am. Long ago, I even reshaped Will Rogers’ famous remark to encapsulate my own thinking on the subject, “I’ve never met a dog I didn’t like.”
And I’m not embarrassed to add that through the years, dogs have been a reliable predictor of two-legged companionability, a kind of litmus test for the simpatico in life.
The first time I ever cried during a movie was watching a B movie starring a German Shepherd dog in wartime. I was 6 years old and saw the grainy black and white with my dad. I learned then, as I know now, if there’s a dog in a movie, the pooch will come to a bad end.
Man’s best friend.
In my office, you’ll still find Missouri Senator and lawyer, George Graham Vest’s “man’s best friend” closing argument. I framed it because I profoundly appreciated the way Vest so memorably extolled the many virtues of the dog. He declaimed it to a Missouri jury on behalf of “Old Drum,” who’d been shot down by a local farmer for supposedly killing sheep.
In part, Senator Vest told the jury, “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.”
Old dogs are best dogs.
If I’m fortunate, dogs will be around when the final curtain comes down. It’s hard to conceive of a home without a dog.
So for my 200th Irreverent Lawyer blogpost, a moment’s respite is in order from all the aggravations posted here. It’s good to instead recall and savor one more tribute to “man’s best friend.” And while there have been many good ones, this particular essay stands apart.
It was excerpted from the book, Old Dogs: Are the Best Dogs, by Gene Weingarten and Michael S. Williamson. Two years ago this month, it appeared in The Washington Post. But I first read it in The Week in the feature , The last word: Why old dogs are the best dogs.
In writing about old dogs, Weingarten talked about his beloved 13-year-old Harry and the introspective way we mark time through them, “In our dogs, we see ourselves.”
He said that old dogs show “exuberant gratitude and limitless trust.” And he added, “When we grieve for them, we grieve for ourselves.”