Lawyer for the Dog makes such a catchy title. On its book cover, the silhouette of the schnauzer on a lead trudging along a smart looking female is just so adorable. The fiction is written by Lee Robinson who is a lawyer herself.
Sally Baynard has been appointed by the judge, Joe Baynard to represent Sherman, a miniature schnauzer a pet dog owned by a couple who are divorcing each other. Joe Baynard was her ex-husband. Even though they have been divorced for eighteen years, she still keeps Baynard as her family name because that is the name she is known for since the beginning of her legal career. Joe Baynard has been a family court judge of the Charleston County Family Court for a decade. When Joe telephones her to ask her to collect a file , she asks him to explain. He tells her that the Hart v Hart case is tying up his court. Both parties are fighting for custody of their dog, Sherman. It is the first time in any court in South Carolina where a lawyer is being appointed to look after the dog’s interest. Under South Carolina law, a dog is just property like a piece of furniture. Sally has no experience representing animals and she will have to look to other states for any precedents.
Sally used to be a public defender who has defended murderers, rapists, burglars and drug dealers. ‘You name a heinous crime or a major human transgression’, she has defended it. The story is narrated in Sally’s voice.
In the opening paragraph,
“Or imagine the worst marriage in the history of the world, I’ve represented the worst half of it. And now what?”
Sally still believes in justice, though she always gives her clients her “ Beware of the Notion of Justice” speech.
‘ It goes something like this : Justice is an ideal we strive for, but it doesn’t exist in the real world. The judge who’ll hear your case is a real-live, messed-up human being just like you and me, with principles and prejudices, and on the day she or he bang the gavel to start your so-called fair trial, he or she may have hemorrhoids or a hangover, or at best will just be in a hurry to move on, to finish up early for that golf game, or a kid’s soccer match , or to take a nap. So forget justice. You don’t want to gamble your life or your children’s future on the temperament of that particular human being. You want to settle on something reasonable, something you can live with. I know, it’s not fair. Maybe justice prevails somewhere and there is a different universe, but it’s a rare commodity here in the courts of Charleston County, South Carolina.
I hate giving this speech. I hate the sound of my own voice, the sourness and cynicism in it. But it’s my duty to try to save my clients from their own fantasies, their own childlike belief in a perfect world.
Or maybe I’m just steering them –and myself –away from the possibility of another devastating loss…..’
Sally feels like a friend you might have and you warm up to her easily. Her personal life reads like real life. There are other characters like Gina, her capable secretary who is divorced like her. Sally and Gina are best of friends. Delores is the sitter for her Alzheimer’s mother who lives with her. When Delores needs to care for her ailing husband, Sally has to consider the option of finding a home for her mother. It is not all work and responsibilities. Enters Dr Borden the vet, tall, trim and in a plaid shirt and blue jeans. He asks her for dinner. Dog Sherman is definitely an adorable character if you like dogs. While Sally is on the case, she has to do some ground work and approach the matter as if she is dealing with a custody matter for a child. Which of the owners makes a better ‘parent’ for Sherman? As Sally begins to investigate, she discovers the underlying issues and problems that mask the battle tussle for dog Sherman.
There will come a time when a pet needs legal representation when a couple is going through a divorce. The story is about how Sally finally manages to come to terms with issues in her own life at forty-nine years old. Lawyer for the Dog is a charming and funny story. A delightful read.