In these dog days of August, my thoughts drift inevitably to Annie, the most perfect pooch ever.
Some of you, I’m sure, would offer evidence – in the form of your own favorite canine – to rebut my claim. That’s fine. There’s ample room in this Great Doghouse for us all.
But Annie was pretty obviously the best. What other dog, after all, could train an otherwise capable lawyer to sit and stay? Not to mention how she made me smile.
Which is not to say she was without fault. She snored. She watched too much television. She’d lose her mind when she saw a squirrel.
And yet. Her passing is so recent that her smell still lingers, her voice still echoes, and sometimes at night I am awakened by the soft nudge of her muzzle, only to open my eyes and realize she is gone.
Old Dogs, New Tricks
Don’t worry, this is not another sappy dog story. Busy legal professionals have better things to do than wax sentimentally about a rescue mutt whose legs were too short and ears too long to ever be taken seriously.
But I will share a lesson Annie taught me that has served me well in life and the law. It happened less than a year after we met in a muddy pen in Edgecombe County and I brought her home in a cardboard box, back when she was still young and headstrong and thought life was a banquet that had been prepared just for her.
One sunny afternoon while taking a walk we stopped at a nearby convenience store. Just outside the glass doors was a standing ashtray, the plastic kind with a skinny neck and round base. I leashed Annie to it and turned to go inside.
Just then a truck backfired. The noise startled Annie, who lunged toward me, causing the ashtray to tip over. The rigid plastic struck the cement with a loud crack. This further frightened the poor animal, who – still tethered – took off running across the parking lot.
The Demons That Chase Us
You might think a beagle-basset mix with a big belly and easygoing demeanor could not move rapidly, especially if she happened to be dragging a smoking receptacle behind her.
But Annie could have been Usain Bolt as she sprinted in terror that day. Banging in her wake, the ashtray made a fearsome racket. The faster Annie ran, the louder the noise. The bin burst open, spewing cigarette butts and pluming gray smoke like a vision from Dante’s twelfth circle.
I took off after her. But I could only watch helplessly as she dashed directly into the street, where one can only imagine what motorists thought as a crazed dog in a clattering smokestorm passed before their cars.
Miraculously, though, she made it across the street and to the McDonald’s on the other side, where an angel appeared from beneath the golden arches and calmly scooped her up to safety, ending the nightmare.
It’s a Dog’s Life
To this day, I must confess to having a soft spot for McDonald’s and an irrational fear of outdoor ashtrays.
But the big takeaway was realizing that, like Annie, I too am pursued by demons. They’re back there, behind me, and largely of my own making. The good news is that to make them disappear all I have to do is stop running, turn around, and confront them. Then I see there’s nothing to fear. It’s all just smoke and noise.
I like to think I gave Annie a good life. I hope I gave her a fraction of the joy she gave me. In my dreams I see her bounding through green fields, her ears flying and her eyes bright, the picture of pure happiness.
And oh, how I wish I could hear her snoring just once again, and we could watch Netflix together, and I could stroke her ears and tell her how wonderful she is.
Jay Reeves has practiced law and done some other things over the years. He likes beagles, bassets, and every breed in between. Want to learn how to unleash the power of your own unique story? Or perhaps you need a speaker for your next bar meeting, firm retreat or CLE? Contact email@example.com or 919-619-2441.
Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina and is author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World. He runs Your Law Life LLC, which helps lawyers and firms improve their well-being and create saner, more successful law lives. He is available for talks, presentations and confidential consultations.