November 1, 2007

A Starvin' Dog's Belly

There's a saying I've been turning over in my mind for a while since I heard it on the last season of The West Wing. Congressman Fields, an old Texan buddy of President-Elect Matt Santos (D), gets the cold shoulder from him in his bid for the Speakership in the new Democratic House. No White House support.

Stunned, Fields digs around for the right doghouse analogy: "Fill a starvin' dog's belly and he'll never bit ya. The difference between a dog and a man."

A trip to Google located the source of the saying finally:

Mark Twain: "If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man."

The screenwriter for the West Wing episode gave it some Texan twang so Congressman Fields could deliver it. It sounds much better. I'm not sure when or where Twain said it. But I found more sayings from the Yellow Dog era.

Harry S Truman: "You want a friend in Washington? Get a dog."

Dwight Eisenhower: "What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight--it's the size of the fight in the dog."

and Lawton Chiles: "A cut dog barks."

Lawton and Rhea Chiles tested out Twain's wisdom in 1958 when they went door to door for his bid for state representative from Polk County. Lawton made fun of Rhea for carrying dog biscuits for the mean, starvin' dogs...until he got cornered by a German shepherd and yelled "Dog biscuit!"


AngrySicilian said...

We should of carried dog snacks while canvasing..

Amy said...

I recall suggesting that, but I don't recall why it was vetoed.