Eulogy of the Dog
Senator Harry Reid
Mr. President, I talked to my brother a couple of weeks ago. My brother is 22 months younger than I. We are very close. I talk to him as often as I can. He lives alone in rural Nevada.
The last time I talked to my brother Larry he was very despondent. His dog had died — Smokey. The dog was almost a cartoon caricature, little short legs, a great big stomach. We used to make fun of my brother's dog, but he loved this dog. My brother was very emotional on the phone. He felt bad about his dog having died.
We all know that yesterday Senator Byrd's dog Billy died. My brother's dog was Smokey. This caused me to reflect, of course, as we all do in our lives, on the past. My brother's dog was Smokey, and the dog I grew up with was Smokey, a wonderful dog, part Chow, a great dog. He was a great fighter and protector of us. He could appear very mean, but he wasn't mean at all. But he was somebody I grew up with in rural Nevada. He was a companion and a friend. I still remember him warmly, our dog Smokey.
When I reflected on Senator Byrd yesterday, I remembered the speeches he gave on the floor where he talked about Billy Byrd, his dog. It was obvious he cared a great deal about his dog.
Senator Byrd, on this floor, with the memory that he has — and I cannot match that — one day I heard him recite this on the Senate floor. It was April 23, 1990, and this comes from the Congressional Record. He, by memory, gave the "Eulogy of the Dog" by Senator George G. Vest.
Senator Vest served in this body for 24 years. He is really not remembered for what he did in the Senate, but he is remembered for what he did as a lawyer, because George Vest represented a farmer whose dog named Drum was shot by another farmer. A lawsuit was filed against this man for having killed his dog Drum. George Vest is remembered for the closing statement that he gave to the jury regarding his dog.
This is very short and I will read this into the record. I cannot do it, as Senator Byrd did, from memory. In doing this, those of us who had animals, like my Smokey and my brother's Smokey and Senator Byrd's Billy Byrd, the little poodle he had, will reflect on really what good friends these dogs have been to us. So, again, I do this in memory of Billy Byrd, Senator Byrd's and Erma's friend. This was given to the jury on September 23, 1870. Mr. President, this speech is so memorable that, in 1958, the town of Warrensburg, MO, where the speech took place, erected a bronze statue to honor old Drum and the orator, George G. Vest:
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 whom 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 a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is the dog.
Gentlemen of the jury, a man's dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground when the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he can 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 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 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 into 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 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 and his eyes sad but open, in alert watchfulness, faithful and true, even unto death.
[Taken from the Congressional Record, 1 May 02, page S3592.]