The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

May 14, 2012

Jacque Gage: Relationships between animals, kids subject of heartwarming book

JOPLIN, Mo. — Until just recently, I was unaware the phrase “A dog is man’s best friend” has its origins 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 to the Missouri Supreme Court, and in 1870, Burden’s lawyer made impassioned closing arguments in what has come to be known as “Eulogy of the Dog.” 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 in Warrensburg.

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 24 stories in the book, 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 5-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 aides for children with autism, a dog providing calming influences for a child with emotional needs, a dog in a “doggie wheelchair” who is encouraging for a child in painful leg braces and the brain-damaged little boy whose only language was the word “no” until after beginning horse therapy.

Other stories are about turkeys, cats, llamas, rabbits and turtles and their relationships with children. 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 that 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, including 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 grades kindergarten to five to practice reading skills by reading to certified therapy dogs.

This program is in hiatus right now, but will begin again June 12. Check the library’s calendar for all these program dates as well as dates and topics for other summer programs at joplinpublic    index.php.

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


Jacque Gage is the director of the Joplin Public Library.

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