St. Martin’s Press (c/o MacMillan, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010), 2015. 230 pages, hardcover. $24.99.
Reviewed by Debra J. White
Sally Baynard, a former public defender in Charleston, South Carolina, has represented drug dealers, rapists, thieves, murderers and more, but a dog? Never.
A Schnauzer named Sherman is at the center of a divorce case, Hart vs. Hart. Both husband and wife want Sherman. The judge presiding over the case assigns Baynard to represent Sherman’s interests and to file a report to determine who should have Sherman.
Sounds simple but it isn’t. Both Harts claim devotion to Sherman, but only one can have him. Who should it be? Will there be shared custody? Or one spouse with full custody and the other with court-ordered visitation rights?
Baynard, a delightful character with a kind heart, dutifully fulfills her job by interviewing both parties, Sherman’s veterinarian, and family members to make a final determination.
Complications set in when Baynard herself becomes attached to Sherman. She has to make a tough decision that neither party will ultimately be satisfied with. How do you divide the love and devotion of a family pet? And now Sherman is tugging at Baynard’s heart too.
Lawyer for the Dog is light, breezy reading for dog lovers, taking the twists and turns of many complicated real-life divorce battles. Domestic pets including dogs like Sherman are increasingly the subject of custody disputes in bitter divorces, noted by 27% of the members of American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers in a 2014 survey, up from 15% in 2006.
Sadly, divorcing couples in other cases often dump dogs and cats at the nearest shelter, even old toothless longtime pets with no prospects for adoption.
Lawyer for the Dog is the first novel authored by Lee Robinson, herself a former practicing attorney. Although there is no thrilling hard core crime drama here, the story moves along nicely with a satisfying conclusion.
If you like dogs and reading, you should enjoy Lawyer for the Dog.