Until just recently I was unaware the phrase “A dog is man’s best friend” has its origins right here in Missouri.  In October 1869, Charles Burden’s hound dog, Old Drum, was killed.  Burden sued his neighbor and brother-in-law, Leonidas Hornsby, for the death of his dog. Hornsby had been losing sheep to marauding dogs and wolves and had sworn to shoot the next dog that came on his property.  Old Drum was apparently that dog.

The case progressed clear to the Missouri Supreme Court, and in 1870 Burden’s lawyer made impassioned closing arguments in what has come to be know as “Eulogy of the Dog” (http://www.sos.mo.gov/archives/education/olddrum/Eulogy%20of%20the%20Dog.pdf).  In this eulogy, the lawyer refers to dogs as “the best friend a man has”.  The Missouri Supreme Court ruled in Burden’s favor, and he was awarded the sum of $50.  A statue of Old Drum can now be seen in the hallway at the Missouri Supreme Court building.  Likewise, another statue and Old Drum’s grave can be visited inWarrensburg,MO.

Many animals and their stories are recounted in the book “Animals and the Kids Who Love Them:  Extraordinary True Stories of Hope, Healing, and Compassion” by Allen and Linda Anderson, but of the twenty-four stories in the book, fully half of the stories are about man’s best friend and kids.

This book tells of the magical connection certain animals have made with children and the specific difference these animals have made in children’s lives.

There is the miniature horse, Patty Pat, who is incorrigible except when she is around Tory, a five year old with variable immunodeficiency.  When Patty Pat is with Tory, she becomes a docile and tender companion.

Among other stories are those of dogs who serve as aids for children with autism, a dog providing calming influences for a child with emotional needs, a dog in a “doggie wheelchair” who is an encouragement to a child in painful leg braces, and the brain-damaged little boy whose only language was “No” until after beginning horse therapy.

Other stories are about turkeys, cats, llamas, rabbits, and turtles and their relationship with a child.

OF special interest to me were the stories of dogs and guinea pigs (!) who serve as reading companions.  Allowing children to read to dogs has research-supported benefits.  Benefits include increased self-confidence and fluency in reading (dogs don’t criticize when you stumble over a word or mispronounce it).  Health benefits have even been realized — lowering of blood pressure and heart rate, increased relaxation, and a tendency to forget about pain and limitations.

I liked those stories because Joplin Public Library offers a “Dog Day Afternoon” program.  This is a special program that allows independent readers in K-5th grade to practice reading skills by reading to certified Therapy Dogs.  This program is in hiatus right now, but will begin again June 12th.  Check the library’s calendar for all these program dates as well as dates and topics for other summer programs.  http://joplinpubliclibrary.org/vcalendar/index.php.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book, but must offer a warning.  Unless your heart is made of granite, you might wish to have a box of tissues nearby.