It has been credited to President Harry S. Truman, with the following famous quote: “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” I have always been a dog person, so to speak. I appreciate cats as pets, too, and maybe one day I will have a cat for a pet, but the main pets in my life have always been dogs. My husband, not quite the animal fan that I am, has agreed over the years to let our family have a dog. Our first dog was Maggie, a standard -sized Dachshund. We had 3 children at the time that we got her, and she was very good with our children, patient, never growling at them, grateful I am sure, to sit near the highchairs and do her part in keeping the kitchen floor clean! Even when 4 more children were eventually added to our family’s size, it didn’t faze Maggie in the least. We even included her in one of our family’s Christmas pictures and my husband didn’t even object to that. Unexpectedly one Spring, when Maggie was 10, she died; an undiagnosed cancer was the culprit. Several years went by and then our 7 kids began the chant,” When can we get another dog?” Along came Marshall into our lives, in a neat and unexpected way.
My husband’s oldest niece, Elizabeth, and her husband, Tim, were looking for a dog. Elizabeth has a view of dog’s much like my husband’s while Tim grew up always having dogs around the house. At his urging, they visited some animal shelters in their area of Southern Illinois and one dog, in particular, caught Tim’s eye. A 1 year old, male mutt, a Beagle and Basset Hound mix. He had been named Gotham, had a stubby tail, instead of the long tail commonly found on a hound dog, and this was the dog Tim chose. Gotham was renamed Marshall and he became a very fortunate dog. Marshall had been neutered, and after a trip to the vet for a check-up, he was ready to be loved upon and to reciprocate that affection to his new masters. Several years went by and Tim and Elizabeth were ready to begin their new life in Kenya, working with the Masai people. Elizabeth, a nurse, would be working in the community health arena and Tim would be helping to start up local churches, they had raised their financial support, had the town selected they’d move to, their slots at language school set, but what to do about Marshall. As much as Tim hated the idea, it looked like Marshall would have to go back to the animal shelter. Our family learned about this plan and after meeting Marshall one Christmas day, we said we would take him in. Tim and Elizabeth were relieved and Marshall was soon delivered to us with all of his supplies.
Marshall seems like the laziest dog in the world. His day usually begins with getting up at 6:30 with me, as I get up with our two sons who attend Rolla High School. After Marshall has spent a bit of time outside, he barks once and I know that it’s time to let him back into the house. He then has his breakfast, and then trots off to one of the sofas in the living room for a nap. Once in a while he alters this by going back upstairs to the master bedroom to take his nap on the queen sized bed! Around noon, Marshall gets up from his slumber, and goes back outside for a bit, then back in to watch the unloading of the dishwasher, the making of lunch, hoping for scraps or leftovers of meat. After lunch is done and the kitchen put back to rights, Marshall takes another nap in the living room. Between 4 and 5, weather permitting, I try to take him for a walk. He gets so excited, very animated at the idea of a walk that he starts up that howl that Beagles are known for, especially when he sees the leash in my hand. The walk usually takes us around our subdivision, where I am always amazed at the amount Marshall’s bladder must be able to hold as he marks his territory in quite a few spots along our paths. When we first lived in the Rolla area, we were renting a house outside the city limits, and Marshall got used to the long walks on the country roads and lanes, but he did not like the cows and cattle we would walk by, often whimpering as we passed them. The cattle, for their part, usually ignored us. Marshall added a new habit while we lived at the rental house. He would nap until 9:00 a.m., then go outside to sniff and roam around and precisely at 9:45, he would bark to let me know that he was back. Then in he would come and the napping would begin in earnest. When we moved into our new home inside of Rolla’s city limits, we had a bit of a time with Marshall, as he thought he could wander and roam like he did out in the country, and through trial and error, we discovered how he was making his escapes from the fenced in back yard; under the gate there was a dip in the ground and he would force himself under at this spot until he gained the other side and freedom. After a weekend in Rolla’s Animal Shelter, Marshall was sprung, and a better eye has been kept on him ever since.
Marshall can be smelly, causing a trip to Rolla’s Dog Wash, next to a new Car Wash on Kingshighway. He will knock over the kitchen trash can if he thinks he is the only one in the house, so we have to put it up when we are all going somewhere for a couple of hours. And when my husband goes to work in the morning, Marshall likes to get on the bed and snuggle up to me and keep on sleeping until the alarm clock rings at 6:30 a.m. He is a loyal dog, giving comfort to our youngest, who often wants Marshall to sleep in his room at night, snuggled against him and helping him to feel safe. Marshall wouldn’t be a very good watch dog because whenever a person comes to the front door, he wants to greet them, usually in a friendly way. He will bark if he sees another dog walking outside past the house, so that warning does go out to us. Several cats in the neighborhood watch us when we walk by their master’s houses, but Marshall usually ignores them, and I think the cats are puzzled at his indifference. When Marshall, who is now 7, goes on to his doggy reward, I don’t know if I will want another pet. I am assuming that by that time, most of our children will have left the nest, and I don’t think my husband will want he and I to have a dog underfoot.
I feel sorry for folks who don’t see the value of having a dog, or any pet, in the home. The care of the pet does help teach children responsibility. It has been shown that dogs do lower people’s blood pressure and walking them daily is also good for the owners. I think that there is something kind and wonderful about a dog and the relationship the creature develops with its owners. As a last illustration, from Missouri state history, in September of 1870, there was a famous courtroom speech given by George Graham Vest in Warrensburg, MO . A farmer, Charles Burden, had a faithful hound dog called Old Drum. A neighboring farmer, Leonidas Hornsby, owned livestock. Some of his sheep had been attacked and died. Hornsby assumed his sheep had been attacked by some local dogs. He ordered that any dogs wandering onto his property were to be shot on sight. On Oct. 28th, 1869, Old Drum wandered onto Hornsby’s farm. Hornsby saw him and ordered one of his farm hands to shoot the dog and the deed was done. Burden, very upset by this, filed a lawsuit for damages against Hornsby. It was at this trial that Vest gave his famous speech: “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 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.”
Mr. Vest’s summation won the case for Charles Burden, and it brilliantly showed the love and faithfulness that a dog has for its owners. I am glad Marshall became a part of our life, so very glad we agreed to take him in to avoid his having to go back to the animal shelter. Glad that we could ease Elizabeth and Tim’s minds about what would happen to their dog. Marshall is a great dog and adds to much our family’s life.
Coren, Stanley(2009-10-21), ” A Man’s Best Friend is his Dog” The Senator, the Dog, and the Trial. Psychology Today.