by Judy McFadden
A Cedar Rapids homeless man knew all too well the meaning of the saying, “A man’s best friend is his dog.” Kevin McClain and his dog shared a battered car for years before he collapsed and ended up at a hospice. He lay there alone and friendless, dying from terminal lung cancer. Can you imagine being sick and homeless with only the love and devotion of your beloved dog and the heartache of having your best friend taken from you?
The paramedic who transported Kevin asked if there was anything he wanted before she left him at hospice. “I want to see my dog before I die,” he whispered. He said her name was Yurt. His only dying wish was to see his best friend one last time. By chance the paramedic volunteered at the shelter where Yurt had been taken. After contacting the shelter, she made arrangements with the hospice facility and the family who had adopted Yurt to reunite them.
As Yurt crawled into Kevin’s arms, his eyes opened and he saw love and devotion reflected in the eyes of his faithful pet. She happily licked his arms, then covered his face with kisses and snuggled close to his body in the bed. Yurt remained in her master’s arms until he died with a smile on his face two days later. Kevin McClain’s last days on earth made bearable by a faithful and loving dog. Yurt truly was “man’s best friend.”
Other dogs in history and throughout the world have shown love, devotion and loyalty. Greyfriars Bobby was a Skye terrier who lived in Edinburgh, Scotland in the 1800’s. After his master died, he visited and sat daily by the grave for fourteen years. He is buried nearby. In 1925 a Siberian husky named Balto led a dog sled in 50 degree below zero temperatures and hurricane force winds on the last leg of a live-saving mission from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska, delivering a serum to halt a deadly diphtheria outbreak. The present-day Iditaron Sled Dog Race is inspired by that triumphant journey. Japan’s Hachiko was an Akita in the 1930s that went to a train station every evening at the same time for nine years and waited eagerly for his master who was never to return.
Greyfriars Bobby, Balto, and Hachiko have something in common. They have statues erected in their honor and movies made to remind us of the unwavering and heroic devotion of “man’s best friend.”
Have you ever wondered how the saying “A Man’s Best Friend is His Dog” originated? In 1870, Old Drum, a favorite hunting hound of Charles Burden was shot and killed by his neighbor for trespassing on his property. Charles sued and the matter went to trial. His attorney, Senator George Graham Vest, made the following closing speech to the jury:
“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 to be 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 a man has, he may lose. A man’s reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action… but the one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog.”
“A man’s best friend is his dog” came from that speech. Many of us have experienced friendship and faithfulness from our canine companions.
Did you know there is a day to recognize them? National Dog Day was August 26, 2014. Colleen Paige founded it in 2004 to honor and show appreciation for dogs and also to encourage rescue and adoption. For all that they do, dogs merit a special national holiday and truly deserve to be called “Man’s Best Friend.”
Find more pet articles of all kinds in our pets section.
Check out KRL’s review of Life with McDuff: Lessons Learned from a Therapy Dog by Judy McFadden. And you can find more pet related articles and stories in our Pets section.