This week we were all astonished by the article I commented on this past Monday, Knuckles, the puggle. It seems he is embroiled in a custody battle between his mother and dad. At last count his dad was out $60,000.00 in legal fees to get Knuckles back. The dad made an impassioned plea on Facebook, in the newspapers and on national TV, (The Today Show & Kathy Lee & Hoda) for help in financing his struggle to get his dog back. I know about these kinds of struggles. The attorneys, who take these kinds of cases on, do so reluctantly because they are no win situations. All the attorney knows is that the client will keep going from attorney to attorney until they find one who will champion their cause. The attorney knows the court does not want to see them or their client in court, clog the docket. This is after all a dog, not a child. In my mediation practice, cases like this are much more than a nuisance to the clients I help each and every day. This is much more than a fight about a dog. Mr. Dershowitz expressed that he feels Knuckles was like his ‘son’. He needs to see him because he misses him so very much. The reality, for Mr. Dershowitz, is that Knuckles is his son, or as close a facsimile to his son as he can be. The love he has for this dog is clear in his statements and his writings. With respect to Mr. Dershowitz’s ex-girlfriend, she loves the dog as well. She states that Mr. Dershowitz gave the dog to her and she is not giving him back. The dog is very important to her as well. We are not hearing her side of the story as much since she is in possession of the dog. She has not publicly come out to decry her love for the animal. She doesn’t have to. It can be implied by the fact she took the dog at the end of the relationship. I suspect Mr. Dershowitz failed to realize just how much he would miss Knuckles when he gave the dog to his ex at the end of their relationship and she flew with Knuckles to California. It is difficult, at the dissolution of a relationship, to know how you will feel a day, a week, a month, a year later. Once the dust settles it is lonely. You may start pining for something others think is ridiculous from the relationship. A lamp, a chair, a pet! Unfortunately, all three of these things are seen as the same in a court. This conflict is barking up the wrong tree by being fought in a court. Had the people involved known I existed, and is all I do, (mediate conflicts between people over an animal) it may have been settled for much less money, in much less time and with a retained relationship between the people over the dog. Now they are shelling out significant amounts of money and time. They have no relationship and the dog is at the center of a nationwide campaign where some people understand the action and others laugh and make snide comments on the bulletin boards under the news reports. This is their life. It is a dog, which in better times enhanced their life together. It is the last best thing about their relationship. Now that has been torn apart by their bitter court battle. This could have been avoided and a resolution better effected if they had known about the availability of submitting their conflict to mediation. Mediation could have helped resolve their conflict in less time for less money and possibly retaining their relationship around the last best thing their relationship had created. The next time you see a couple splitting and they have owned an animal together, let them know there is a way to amiably work on a custody plan that doesn’t require a court battle. If they want to discuss leaving the door open to see and spend time with there animal going forward, offer them the information about using mediation for their conflict. I am here to help guide that discussion so something like this does not occur. This couple is too far-gone for mediation to work effectively now. They can’t even sit in the same room right now. However at the outset, had they used mediation instead of litigation, a feather instead of an elephant gun, to facilitate a discussion, who knows where we would be. I believe we would never have heard about Knuckles or his dad’s plight or the $60,000.00 in legal fees he now owes. And isn’t that the way it should be? It is not knuckling under pressure; it is shouldering a responsible manner of decision-making.
Hamilton Law and Mediation—Helping People Resolve Conflicts Involving Animals.