I am not your typical pet lover. As a teenager, my mother was frightened by a dog. She never got over it and passed that fear on to me. In fact, we would cross the street whenever we saw a dog—even if it was on a leash. My only relationship with animals was to insure that our paths never crossed. I carried that fear for decades.
Nor am I your typical lawyer. Most lawyers start on their legal paths in college. I went to law school after careers as a teacher, mother, grandmother, businesswoman, Broadway theater producer and the first woman Haute Cuisine chef in America, earning a degree, très bien (with honors), from the Cordon Bleu in Paris. I’m glad I did so many other things before I came to the law. They have helped me understand what people need the law to do for them.
In law school my focus was trust and estate law where I realized that the common thread that runs through many people’s lives is their wish to maintain control over themselves and their property—even when they are unable to express the details of those desires.
I wanted to learn how to help. Homework, in one of my classes, was to write a “last will and testament.” I wrote my will, leaving funds and property to my three children, grandchildren, and charity—and some to my dog, Soupbone. The professor gave me an A+ yet drew a big red X through everything pertaining to Soupbone.
“Dogs are property,” he wrote. “They can’t inherit.”
He went on: “You know, this part about the dog in the will, this is just like invisible ink, all these instructions and care and how to spend the money and all that. That’s not enforceable.”
That’s when I realized that Soupbone, the rescue dog that meant so much to me, couldn’t be protected in my will. Who would keep life going for this little dog if something happened to me that kept me from caring for him? My promise to him was: You’ll never be abandoned again. The commitment we make to pets is for the duration of their lives. It doesn’t end if our ability to care for them ends before they die.
Soupbone gave me love and joy. While I didn’t know it at the time, he also set me on the path of my most important life’s work.
As it turned out, Soupbone did not survive me. But I am grateful to have had him for the years I did and proud that his life inspired me to find a way to protect the lives of millions of animals.