As a lawyer I’m used to all the jokes and bad opinions of my profession. I’ve never taken any of it too seriously; however I became acutely aware of the shortcomings of my colleagues in a most unusual situation that involved my dog. In contrast to the general opinion of lawyers, most people hold dogs in high esteem and dogs are known for generosity rather than greed. (Except when it comes to their favorite treat maybe!) The day Sadie had enough of being good, validated some very bad assumption about lawyers.
My dog Sadie has always been a model of perfect dog decorum. She never chewed one shoe; never peed on the carpet during her housetraining and never chased one of the three cats that lived next door. I always smiled and graciously accepted the numerous compliments heaped on me for her stellar behavior even though I knew I had nothing to do with it. (It must have been the lawyer side of me accepting credit I didn’t deserve.) Nope, I was no dog trainer and blindly stumbled through the many trials and tribulations of caring for a puppy, but even in her early puppyhood, Sadie knew how to be on her best behavior and I think she had a reason for it.
Sadie didn’t have a great beginning in life. She was one of several unwanted puppies born to a purebred Cocker Spaniel that dared have puppies with a German a Shepherd. Along with her siblings, she was foisted off to the county animal shelter as soon as possible. Sadie had been in two homes and the shelter before she agreed to be my dog and in the process, she learned to make her life as easy as possible by doing what she thought was expected of her. She seemed to have this innate sense that if she was good, I would keep her. Even on our very first walk, using a make-shift leash and collar, she didn’t tug or pull and when I stopped to talk with two women who wanted to ooh and aaah over how cute she was, Sadie just sad demurely at my side.
Sadie’s most serious infraction during leash training had been countless “peesters” that sometimes made her lag behind. She was about five months old when we went for what was to be a very short walk because it was hot. Only a few blocks from home, I felt dead weight on the end of the leash. Expecting to see Sadie watering yet another patch of grass, I turned abound and was surprised to see her lying on the ground motionless. She didn’t respond to a gentle tug on the leash so I immediately scooped her up in my arms and started running for home. I’d made this dash once before when fire trucks raced by me as I walked and I realized I’d left eggs boiling on the stove. Yep…their destination was my house and since I’d just moved in, not only did they get all the smoke out from the burnt eggs, which by the time we all got there were stuck to the kitchen walls and ceilings, I got to meet all my neighbors. I ran much faster even with Sadie in my arms, though it was hard to see through my tears.
I placed Sadie on the sofa and hysterically called her vet. Due to the temperature that day, he thought Sadie was perhaps overheated and instructed me not to cool her down too quickly, but to let her lick ice cubes and rest on the sofa. I held the ice cube to her mouth as she licked and I cried and soon she was standing up licking my face. Believing all was well; I fed her a Frosty Paw and sighed with relief. She seemed fine and was soon sitting in front of the refrigerator begging for another Frosty Paw which made me suspicious that had been the motive for the entire incident. Sadie was soon running around with a chew, so all was well.
That is until the police appeared at the front door. In my worried state I hadn’t shut off the house alarm until after I got the vet on the phone and while talking to him ignored the call-waiting signal. That was a big mistake because the caller was the security alarm company and following procedure, they’d called the police. As the police left, those same neighbors who’d been so friendly and sympathetic when the firemen were there quickly returned inside their houses. I’d save explaining for later, and returned to watch Sadie.
A few weeks later I returned after work, and as usual went straight to the basement to get Sadie out of her crate. She greeted me enthusiastically and ran her usual laps around the crate before heading for the stairs. She collapsed just as she was staring up the first step and in a state of panic and disbelief; I picked her up and ran up the stairs. Sadie was limp in my arms as I placed another frantic call to her vet. Heat was not a factor this time and after waiting until Sadie recovered sufficiently to walk to the kitchen and take a drink of water, he told me to bring her in first thing in the morning.
During Sadie’s exam her vet explained what he’d discovered from consulting with a colleague. Sadie might have a heart condition that was causing this. She’d need to wear a heart monitor for 24 hours just like humans often have to do in order to get an accurate diagnosis. I thought it was no big deal and had seen people with cell-phone sized devices for the same purpose.
In a few days, I took Sadie back to the vet’s office to be fitted with the heart monitor. This was no was puppy-sized monitor; it was almost as long as Sadie’s body. Not to worry, Dr. Paul told me…they’d tape it on snugly and secure it with elastic bandage wraps. The electrodes would be attached to Sadie’s skin under all the wraps so she couldn’t get them loose during the night. They needed to record her heart activity while sleeping and during her normal day activities. Since I’d be in court the next day, they said I could bring her back in the morning and they’d keep her in the animal hospital and observe her.
Sounded simple enough and soon I was on my way home with a very wary Sadie swathed in elastic bandages with the oversized heart monitor strapped to her little body. She seemed to be taking it in stride and in her typical good dog mode, did not whine or bark and made no attempt to shed the monitor. After a few turns around the bed and minimal scootching, she found a comfortable position and was soon asleep. In the morning she was her usual cheerful, compliant self going in the car with me to the vet’s office
I worried all day about how Sadie was handling her ordeal. I barely remember what the hearing was about because I was planning a reward dinner for Sadie. At the court’s noon recess, I hurried outside to call her vet. As luck would have it, one of the lawyers involved in the case followed me out and wanted to talk. I told him to wait knowing nothing he had to say would be as important as finding out about Sadie.
Expecting to hear that Sadie was fine, I was concerned when the vet tech asked me to hold; the vet needed to talk to me. I listened in disbelief as he told me in a terse voice that Sadie was doing just fine, but the heart monitor wasn’t. She’d chewed off all the wires mid-morning rendering it useless! Another monitor would have to be ordered; the test repeated, and by the way…. I’d have to pay for the monitor and it wasn’t cheap.
It didn’t seem possible that Sadie, the very obedient, sweet amenable little puppy would do such a thing. Still not believing this, I repeated… “Are you sure that the wires didn’t just fall off?”
Dr. Paul quickly confirmed that Sadie had been caught in the act. She’d been snarling…barking…banging against the sides of the crate while vigorously attacking the wires. She slipped out of all the elastic bandages and tape and was in the final process of detaching the wires with her teeth when she was discovered…and they had it on the security video as proof.
I just had to ask again, “So you really saw her chew the wires off Doctor,” and the vet impatiently said he’d see me later and hung up the phone. Try as I might, I couldn’t picture my sweet Sadie turning into a vicious monster destroying one very expensive piece of medical equipment. Heck the only thing she’d ever chewed were straps off a purse once when I was sick in bed and she was bored. Well, it was an expensive Burberry handbag, but when I told the shoemaker that Sadie had done it, he only charged me $5.00. And even then, Sadie actually paid for the damages because she had a $5.00 rebate check from flea medication. No, I couldn’t associate sweet Sadie with snarling, aggressive wire chewing.
During all of this, I’d completely forgotten the lawyer standing there waiting to talk to me and realized he’d been blatantly eavesdropping. I asked him what he wanted to talk to me about and in a few minutes he confirmed all the negativity about my profession. He could’ve asked me who was sick or showed concern that I had to rush out of court and make a call to a doctor. No, he had no words of consolation for me or any concern whatsoever about why I was visibly upset.
“Forget that,” he excitedly said, “I couldn’t help overhearing, and it sounds like you have such a great case here! Your client actually chewed wires off a heart monitor while the doctor watched! What negligence! Do you realize we can clean up on this case? How about we go over to my office and get a contract and get right over to the hospital and sign them up?”
I looked at him thinking that after all she’d been through, Sadie decided she’d had enough of obeying every rule…the monitor ordeal had just been too much. However, this lawyer was exhibiting cultivated behavior he considered normal. He had no idea what condition the “patient/client” was in and was planning to make money from this. Maybe those lawyer jokes weren’t jokes after all. Hey…maybe I could write a skit about him and sell it to Saturday Night Live!
That could wait, but for now, this eager barrister wanted an answer, so I said I’d meet him at the hospital later. He flipped open his phone and called his speed-dial ready assistant. He began barking orders to immediately prepare a malpractice contract. He paused to ask me “our” client’s name. I told him it was Sadie Lawson which he quickly repeated, spelled into the phone and signaled he’d see me later. As he hustled off, I walked to my car pondering my dog’s first act of real rebellion and my colleague’s affirmation of everything sleazy about my profession.
I was glad I hadn’t bothered to explain to him the “client” was my dog. He’d know soon enough when he called to confirm which hospital we’d be meeting at. Of course, I only planned to tell him the name of the animal hospital and nothing else.