The Trial of the Old Watchdog

An old experienced collie, who had been a faithful country watchdog for many years, was arrested one summer’s day and accused of the first-degree murder of a lamb. Actually, the lamb had been slain by a notorious red fox who had planted the still-warm body of his victim in the collie’s kennel.

The trial was held in a kangaroo court presided over by Judge Wallaby. The jury consisted of foxes, and all the spectators were foxes. A fox named Reynard was prosecuting attorney. “Morning, Judge,” he said.

“God bless you, boy, and good luck,” replied Judge Wallaby jovially.

A poodle named Beau, an old friend and neighbor of the collie, represented the accused watchdog. “Good morning, Judge,” said the poodle.

“Now I don’t want you to be too clever,” the Judge warned him. “Cleverness should be confined to the weaker side. That’s only fair.”

A blind woodchuck was the first creature to take the stand, and she testified that she saw the collie kill the lamb.

“The witness is blind!” protested the poodle.

“No personalities, please,” said the Judge severely. “Perhaps the witness saw the murder in a dream or a vision. This would give her testimony the authority of revelation.”

“I wish to call a character witness,” said the poodle.

“We have no character witnesses,” said Reynard smoothly, “but we have some charming character assassins.” One of these, a fox named Burrows, was called to the stand. “I didn’t actually see this lamb killer kill this lamb,” said Burrows, “but I almost did.”

“That’s close enough,” said Judge Wallaby.

“Objection,” barked the poodle.

“Objection overruled,” said the Judge. “It’s getting late. Has the jury reached a verdict?”

The forefox of the jury stood up. “We find the defendant guilty,” he said, “but we think it would be better to acquit him, nonetheless. If we hang the defendant, his punishment will be over. But if we acquit him of such dark crimes as murder, concealing the body, and associating with poodles and defense attorneys, nobody will ever trust him again, and he will be suspect all the days of his life. Hanging is too good for him, and much too quick.”

“Guilt by exoneration!” Reynard cried. “What a lovely way to end his usefulness!”

And so the case was dismissed and court was adjourned, and everybody went home to tell about it.

MORAL: Thou shalt not blindfold justice by pulling the wool over her eyes.

The Trial of the Old Watchdog

James Thurber

James Grover Thurber (December 8, 1894 – November 2, 1961) was an American cartoonist, author, humorist, journalist, playwright, and celebrated wit. He was best known for his cartoons and short stories published mainly in The New Yorker magazine, such as "The Catbird Seat", and collected in his numerous books. He was one of the most popular humorists of his time, as he celebrated the comic frustrations and eccentricities of ordinary people.

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