Of all the animals on Earth, I have learned most from the dog. Although my boyhood home was next door to a veterinarian, Doc Dapson in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, I never owned a dog until 1975 when we lived on a farm in Upstate New York.
In his epic poetry, Homer tells us of Odysseus’s dog Argos who faithfully waited 20 years for his master’s return from the Trojan War. Upon seeing the disguised Odysseus, Argos
had just enough strength to wag his tail, then dropped his ears and died. Dog stories abound in literature and film… Old Yeller, Jack London’s Call of the Wild hero Buck, Skip who teaches his young master Willie about friendship… Common to them all is faithfulness.
Pliny the Elder – who incidentally died in 79 AD in Pompeii at the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius – wrote the standard text for natural history study, Naturalis Historia. In his work, he identifies the dog as “the most faithful friend of man.” How true.
With few exceptions, the first creatures to greet me when I return to my home are my dogs. Their tails wag furiously. They can hardly contain their happiness and each always bears that smile that all dogs display in moments of pure joy, but that not all humans can see and appreciate.
Most of us are familiar with the saying “A Man’s Best Friend is his Dog,” but few of us know its origins. The saying evolved from Senator George Graham Vest’s court speech in 1870 that has become known as “Eulogy to the Dog.” In it, Senator Vest reminds us, “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.”
Dogs are ever present to teach us about faithfulness, friendship and bravery among many attributes that they display. There is no better book to read or film to watch than “My Dog Skip.”
If you have a dog, learn from him, and apply the lessons he teaches you to your fellow man. If you don’t have a dog, they are everywhere. Observe them, appreciate them and learn from them. They teach us to make the world a better place.