I Had to Put My Dog Down

Q I recently had to put my dog down. He was suffering and it was the humane thing to do. He had been with me for the last twelve years, through law school (I’d sneak him into the library on occasion), through a two-year job search, and finally at my side as I navigated the hellish time-suck of my current job at a mid-size law firm.

Actually, at my side is a tad generous toward me, as I often had to hack up my schedule or hire someone to walk him some days, as I could not consistently get away from the office at the end of the day. Yeah, I felt guilt, which is why in the last year as he was declining I spent a lot more time with him and promised I’d make his final days easier.

I scheduled the day that my dog would die. I found a vet that would come to my house (unfortunately, only during the work week) and made all the arrangements. Two weeks in advance I cleared it through my supervising partner and a few other partners for whom I did work. I asked for two days off and the partners seemed accommodating, one even taking the time to ask me about Ninja (my dog).

The day before I had planned to put my dog to sleep, one of the partners dumped a load of work on me. I reminded him that I was putting my dog down. He seemed put off, asking me all sorts of questions, finding it preposterous to take two days off, and ending with “just do it and then come back to the office. We need you.”

I was enraged, distraught, and devastated. Sure, I could “do it” and come back. But I didn’t. I took the two days off (one day was a full day with Ninja before he died) and returned on a Thursday, ready to dig in again to the grind. But some of my critical work had been reassigned to someone else and the message to me from at least one partner was clear: you are wimp, someone who has no clue about what it really means to practice law.

Honestly, did I do the right thing? More importantly, should I say something to the partner or just let it go?

A Fortunately or unfortunately, doing the right thing is almost always relative. If you want to know my opinion, yes, you did the right thing. You took two days off to be with a trusted pal before he died. I’m sure some readers will think it’s preposterous to do that for a dog and to do it somewhat defiantly, given the one partner’s last-second demand. But it was right, it was honorable, and it was something your dog deserved for all that he had brought you. Two days. Out of about 4,300 days your dog was at your side. Or, to put it in better perspective, more than 15,000 days you’ll probably spend working for the man.

That said, the partner probably thinks you did the exact wrong thing, obviously not understanding that humans are capable of being sentient and caring beings. Fuck him. Though the thing is, the partner will forget about it, if he hasn’t already. So, unless you want to go on a crusade to raise awareness about pet bereavement policies in the firm (generally not recommended), let it go. Chalk it up as perhaps one more reason to leave that job if or when you can. Or one more reason to avoid the asshole partner who has no clue about human compassion.

  • Anonymous

    I would have done the same thing.

  • Eurotrash

    You did the right thing, no doubt.

    Just ignore the partner and get on with the programme. It was insensitive if not down-right callous. It is that kind of attitude that gives big law firm as bad name, really. Law is a people business and you cannot treat your associates like office supplies.

    I would be more worried about the fact that you are actually doubting whether you did the right thing. You ought to ask youself whether the firm attitude is starting to corrupt your moral compass.

  • FreddieKrueger

    Your dog probably had more humanity than that asshole partner.

  • E

    Fuck that partner. I’m sure your dog appreciated that one day more than the partner would appreciate you giving up all your evenings for a year to do his work. You’ll have far less regret in missing out on those assignments than you would thinking that you had neglected your dog right before he died.

  • Jillian

    My sister put her dog to sleep last week. She was in a lot of pain and could hardly walk or stand any more. Of course its sad, and I am upset that I didn’t get a chance to say good bye, but it was the right thing to do. :( I am sorry for your loss.

  • Mean Partner

    Let me dispense with the fuzzy sympathy provided above, and provide a real life response.

    Your decision to encumber your life with an animal that needed to be walked when you should have been looking for a job, or handling work is your business. You may be a great lawyer and the Firm may be willing to overlook it but you are not in the real world.

    I sympathize on the passing of the dog, but this is a bad economy, and clients need to be serviced like never before. Plenty of other lawyers are willing to do so, here and abroad.

    Maybe you have a Trust and are insulated from real life. I don’t. And those of us who do not wish to look for a job for 2 years, or risk the one we have, find it hard to grasp the need to blow off work for 2 days to deal with a dog. People that keep the paychecks coming by elevating client needs over their own dogs, and often their families find it even more difficult to understand.

    The same people that keep your firm profitable and in business by sacrificing their own family time may, not surprisingly, have little sympathy with your notion that clients ought to suck it up while you are out for 2 days for a dog, no matter how nice that dog was.

    If you find this to be inhuman and hard-hearted, I find you to be naive and presumptious.
    A big part of the working world expects people to miss out on kid time, dinner time and some weekends. Needless to say, there is almost no tolerance for sick uncles, aunts, cousins, former nannys, neighbors, babysitters and so on. Animals are even further down the list.

    The tough-talking dudes above are not going to pay your salary, give you a job or take care of you if you’re sick. Your job and its health benefits will.

    • Madrigorne

      If all you do is work, and don’t take time for else, you erode the entire point. You end up with a job, nothing else. All the crap about encumbering your life with an animal is horsepucky. Most law firms/companies are looking for ‘encumbered’ people, who take their jobs seriously to support their lives/mortgages/families/car payments/lessons. They want people with roots who aren’t going to work ’til something pisses them off, flip the bird, can their lease, pack their crap and go find another job, or go back home to live with Mom and Dad.
      Nobody ‘blew off work’. The time was planned, scheduled and the other partners were warned well in advance of the event. Failure to plan on the part of the partner is exactly that – failure, the guilt trip was giant failure number two. Now that partner has estranged the OP as a coworker, the partner has proven themselves as not to be trusted – will blame the OP for their own failings to plan for a scheduled absence. If it was heart surgery, brain surgery, would they have said the same thing? Do they have the right to decide if it is important enough? The time was already approved by their supervising partner, and the decision to remove the critical work to someone else, and the statement by the partner about the OP being a wimp – see hostile work environment, lawyers should know better.
      I would not come to work after having to put down my longtime companion, be it dog, cat, boyfriend, mother, child, nor would I want the poster to come in either. The odds of mistakes occurring when in such a profoundly compromised emotional state are very likely, and everyone involved (if they’re not a complete managerial moron) should understand that. All the claptrap about choosing to encumber yourself, as if the OP should bear punishment for his emotional entanglements, how it should not affect their work performance, this was scheduled, the time was set aside purposely so it would not adversely affect. Any mistakes made would fall directly on the shoulders of the OP, it is more professionally prudent to take the time.

      • Mean Partner

        Spoken like a true government worker at heart. Yes firms like “encumbered people”– because they are expected to value their jobs, not foist their encumbrances on the firm or the company.

        And “she had it all planned.” She “warned the partners” in advance. Really? Something happened to ruin some plans? Really? in the real world? Imagine that!

        Please wake up: the Firm’s clients don’t care if you have a sick dog or a bad head cold: they need answers now, and if you can’t provide them, someone else at another firm will. Its not their job to wait for you or the partner you stood up for a dog. So you think they are being unrealistic and unfair? Well, that is why they are running a business and you are in a service business. When is the last time fedex told you they had a cold, or someone’s sick dog, made it impossible to ship your products? When a client needs an answer now, they want it now.

        You save the days off your your illness, those of your kids or a spouse. Not a dog or a cat.

        Your “I am a postal worker at heart” view of the world is so european. “I planned a vacation so everyone must accomodate me.” “Everyone must wait for me.”

        I wish it were true that we could all work 37 hours a week, retire at age 50, never be fired, have 6 weeks of paid vacation, and live in the sun. I’d move there myself. But Greece isn’t doing too well now is it?

        Are we going to have to take are of you too, because you thought it was morally superior to lose your job taking care of animals?

        If you can’t keep pace, get off the track and out of the way. Some small firm somewhere, or a storefront law clinic might put up with this. A real firm in any city cannot.

        The partner that needed an answer does not want to keep the client waiting, put the file in a suspense tray, and have to take it up in the middle of another project for your dog.

        Read “The Partners,” a book about big law firms. In it one at a large firm–I think Cravath–describes a partner’s material annoyance at an associate who skipped a meeting to take his fiance to the doctor. The partner if I am not mistaken was David Boies, the liberal minded man who represented Al Gore in the election litigation in 2000.

        • Madrigorne

          Troll again.
          She? There are a lot of assumptions in your statement.
          I work in the service industry (non government), and have lost vacation time (use it or lose it) because of coverage and time off wasn’t an option/can’t take sick time or vacation because the client needs answers immediately, not an hour from now, NOW.
          I understand the pressures; I live them. If I’m not dying/afu – I am at work.
          I fully expect to work until I drop – don’t really believe retirement will ever be an option.
          That said, I don’t want an emotionally compromised attorney doing the fact checking because they are most definitely going to miss something that will screw up my case.
          Two days off is not so much, and there are other staff members there that should compensate, if they are at all competent, assuming that OP is not super-lawyer.
          This was not a vacation for the OP, this wasn’t a haircut, the dentist, or picnic with mom. This was the scheduled termination of a family member.
          I understand Partner X and yourself believe a dog is neither worthy of such a title, nor the emotions that come with it; that OP is either milking the situation so they can spend some sunshine time away from the books or some emo kid too fragile to survive in the real world.
          I guess OP will have to weather that and keep working hard until Partner X changes their mind, forgets entirely, OP changes jobs, or one of them drops dead.

          • Mean Partner

            You are projecting a “woodstock” and “telegraph avenue” world view on how a firm should operate, and how clients should think on real firms and real clients. Needless to say we both KNOW that no firm and no client thinks as you do.

            “Oh sure, my Habeas petition is due next week, but you go take a few days off to handle a dog’s funeral. Don’t worry about your acquired knowledge and my life sentence in prison. Get someone who knows nothing about the case to fill in for you.” Sure, that happens all the time. That is just how clients think.

            Partners are the same: “The anti trust trial is next week, but we’ll get someone who hasn’t spent a year preparing for it to sift through the last minute document production from the other side. I mean what can possibly be in here that they delayed till just before trial to produce this stuff? Hey, you planned for time off in the middle of last minute trial prep. Who are we to interfere? By the way, what kind of bonus were you expecting?”

            State Bar investigators too: “Oh you forgot to add that jury instruction because of a dog’s funeral? Well then, excuse me! We’ll dismiss this claim of incompetent practice of law right now!”

            That woman or man is simply insisting that everyone else assume the risks of a mad client, the transfer costs of using someone else who does not know the case,–all those risks and costs. She is so immature she can’t grasp that she’s expected to perform as an adult not a kid in pre-school. That is DOES matter if she’s there or not. Its NOT the firm’s job to put things on hold for her or her dog.

            I don’t think she’s milking it. She’s just terribly naive, not grown up, socially inept and thinks that people has the obligation to put real life on hold for her and her dog. If not they are “mean” because she does not get the real world.

            She thinks dogs are “just like people” and donates money to dog shelters but never to shelters for runaway teenagers, homeless addicts or to send poor kids to summer camp (Mean Partner donates to these things that he considers “real” charities, and of course “Coal for Tots” at Xmas).

            You sound like a nice enough person but if you don’t toughen up, you’ll stay at the entry level management rung forever.

          • Michelle Beth

            These arguments are becoming religious and as such it has become detached from reality. Please spare us all that sanctimonious crap on helping people and not dogs. Some love people; some love dogs; some say screw them all. All equally valid.

            The reality – It is completely within the partner’s professional discretion or responsibility to reassign some of the critical work to someone else. And that partner is entitled to whatever sentiment he/she had on the associate. If the firm’s culture is not suitable for this associate, he or she can hit the door and move back to his/her parents’ basement. Just the fact he/she had to ask for someone’s affirmation on whether he/she did the right thing confirms that this is a wimp who has no clue about what it really means to practice law.

          • Mean Partner

            No its not all the same and they are not all “equally valid.” Tress don’t have standing. There IS a difference between a sick child emergency, a wife that was hit by a car, and putting a dog down.

          • Michelle Beth

            Okay Mean Partner, there IS a difference between a wife and a dog. As eloquently stated in one of the comments — “A pet is far more loyal and trustworthy than a spouse or a girlfriend. Both the spouse and the girlfriend can cheat on you and bring home crabs, VD or worse. A pet can’t.”

          • Madrigorne

            I disagree.

          • Mean Partner

            FROM: Mean, Cruel, Demanding & Billable LLP
            Mean Partner was reviving one of his partners who fainted at the Obamacare decision today, and struck his head on one of the firm’s gold fixtures.

            MP has now set aside the paperwork for evicting evicting helpless widows and foreclosing on mortgages to type this reply. He is sacrificing one billable segment to respond to the piece of sappy, pablum above which is reprinted below:

            “As eloquently stated in one of the comments — “A pet is far more loyal and trustworthy than a spouse or a girlfriend. Both the spouse and the girlfriend can cheat on you and bring home crabs, VD or worse. A pet can’t.”

            FROM: Mean Partner:

            “As eloquently stated…?” For lonely losers, perhaps, who prefer the uncritical blind “loyalty” of a dependent animal that cannot read, write, or speak over the genuine loyalty of a human being.

            Who have “checked out” of society, and prefer hairy animal with claws, a tail and fleas to a spouse or a girlfriend you can spoon with, have sex with, argue with and sit on a beach with her head on your chest with.

            What you call “loyal” is mere reciprocal dependence. An animal that ignores your bad breath, ballooning weight, bad manners, insipid conversation and devotion to endless tv in exchange for food. “Uncritical acceptance” isn’t loyalty its blindness. You may as well praise an associate up for partner that year, laughing at her partner’s stupid jokes, and ignoring his clumsy efforts to grope her, for her “loyalty”.

            “Pet People” prefer to forego the touch of a woman’s thigh in order to snap a leash on a hairy, yapping little poodle.

            They make pet doors in their houses that enable burglars. They let their pets poop in our parks. Pee in our yards. Bark on Saturday when MP is trying to sleep.

            “Can’t bring home VD or crabs?” I suppose we don’t need to point out what else the animal does not bring: sex; human companionship. The ability to have kids. Life as humans know it. (MB: this is not religious–its life as a human being!)

            Dogs won’t be there to feed you if you’re sick, protect you from mean nurses in the old folks home, or tell you to stop eating pork rinds. Your kids will–even if they hate you because they don’t want to be despised by other people.

            Mean Partner prefers the companionship of women, children (and a long pre nup).

            Infuriating as men and women can be with each other, MP toasts all women wherever they are as the best company.

          • Michelle Beth

            Yes, Mean Partner, you’ve made your case. Just adopt me. I may be there to feed you when you’re sick, albeit fast food, but I will protect you from mean nurses in the old folks home (no Anna Nicole Smith). If you are to eat pork rinds, I will find you the one with lower sodium. As your adopted daughter, I will do all that – even if I hate you because I don’t want to be despised by other people (and I know I will be). QED.

            p.s. Frank, You shut the fuck up, or I will sue you for economic tort.

  • A

    First, I am so sorry for your loss. I just lost one of my childhood cats last week, Thursday, actually. I had planned to take her to be put to sleep the next day but she died at home. I was right there with her and she went peacefully. Unfortunately, there are many (I would hazard a guess that this partner is one of them) who don’t understand those of us who treat our pets like family. My cats have been more loyal to me than many of the humans in my life and I would do anything for them. You cleared the time with the appropriate higher-ups and you did right by a loyal companion who would have risked his life to save yours. Don’t give this guy a second thought. Hang in there.

  • Jo

    @MeanPartner – I envy you your old age, surrounded by attentive loving clients, reviewing a life rich with happy memories of unending hours in the office, warmed by the satisfaction inherent in a life well-lived …

    Or not.

  • Mean Partner

    Actually, I plan to be surrounded by kids and grand kids, not brooding cats and amiable dogs.

    Kids by the way that received good medical care, had lots of books, went to a great university without emerging with 200k in student loans. Don’t worry: I’ll have enough time with my kids, as I won’t be taking days off to tend to dogs.

    • michelle beth

      Would you adopt me ?

      • Mean Partner

        I would if I could, if only to be there when you tell “Ellen” you want to be Frank.

      • Frank

        Dont do it. You lose. If she is gross, you will have adopted an inedible bovine. This broad may have a cute name, but my instinct is telling me moo!!!!

        • Michelle Beth

          Hey dude, you are an asshole and what you uttered is economic tort. You must be the Frank who is the source of Ellen’s sexual frustration and all her FOOEYs.

          • Mean Partner

            Now I am confused: but rather than adopt someone I’ve never met, I’ll have a series of nurses and see which one is the most fetching and obliging. I’ll promise to adopt her, and do it as long a she is nicer to me than that blonde was to Hugh hefner.

          • Lauren

            How about adopting me? I am sexy and can do stuff.

  • Vmaximus

    I have put 2 dogs down in the past 3 years. It is hard and you cannot fathom ever having as good a dog as you had. You will not, but you will find another dog that will find a equal place in your heart.
    I am a engineer and not a lawyer, so dealing with cruel partners is not my bailiwick. Engineering partners on the other hand are logical, and a logical argument can prevail.

  • Larry

    This is some sad stuff.

    A pet is far more loyal and trustworthy than a spouse or a girlfriend. Both the spouse and the girlfriend can cheat on you and bring home crabs, VD or worse. A pet can’t.

  • Greta

    I am sorry for the loss of your dog Ninja. It sounds like he had a great life with you.

    I usually have several dogs at a time, so this, unfortunately, happens from time to time. I have received texts while I was at the vet having a dog put down. Another time I said I had an appointment at 2:30 to have one put down, and the attorney said, “Fine. I’ll be there at 4.” Nice. I filed a lawsuit on the day of my mother’s funeral, and the attorney came by the morning after she passed, and it was about work. I also received texts just after coming out of recovery following surgery. It’s just the way it is here.

    I don’t usually get to schedule mine that far ahead, but I would have maybe tried for a Friday (since it had to be done during the week), or made some other arrangements. Vet clinics are set up to handle this and I’ve found they do a good job in a difficult situation. Taking two days off is great if you can do it, but I think given the climate at the firm at you describe it, I either would have compressed it into one day or not told anyone what I was doing. The less they know the better.

    I think it’s a shame that we have become such a mean society and have lost our compassion for each other.

    • Mean Partner

      Mean partner is curious: did you RESPOND to the texts and meet the lawyer at 4:00? Mean Partner was once partners with a man who was hit by a car, and called clients from the ambulance on the way to the ER (true story).

      Most of us here at Mean, Grudge, Crab, Blocbill, Quarterhour & Fogy were impressed, but we covered it by claiming he was not that badly hurt. The clients were impressed, of course, which is probably why the showboating partner did it (or we’re just jealous we haven’t been able to rise to the occasion that way).

      But Mean Partner has to know: did you RESPOND? I am dying to know.

      • Greta

        Yes, I met him at 4:00, and I responded to the texts after my surgery. Anything less is slacker talk.

        • Lauren

          Who had surgery?

        • Mean Partner

          If you ever come to Mean, Fogy, Blocbill and Curmudgeon, you can keep all your dogs in your office if you want. We don’t like being on a client leash any more than you do, but its obvious: you get it. We salute you.

  • Cherie

    I am so very sorry for your loss, Ninja sounds as though he was a good buddy for you. It is a very hard decision, one in which i am currently facing. I have had Mollie for fourteen years, and at this very moment it seems i finally have the resolve to make the call. It has been well over a year of mulling over the idea, and I always manage to come up with excuses. I don’t want to see her go, and being home will be so lonely with out her. Anyway, I hope everything will iron out for you and you are left with fond memories of times spent together with your best bud.

  • Mr Neutron

    @Mean Partner,

    You’re an irrepressible douchebag, not doubt. I’m sure you’re impressive to a small group of like-minded twats but I know many lawyers who are undoubtedly more talented and more successful to you who understand that being a partner in a “Firm” does not mean having to lose your humanity.

    In fact I just had drinks with one of my longtime friend who makes that a hallmark of his work and I guarantee you he’s more successful and a hell of a lot nicer than you are.

    So, yeah. Keep up the tough-guy, Kingsfield-like approach. Many of us will laugh at you and shake our heads in pity at you. And when you are old and wondering where everyone is, we’ll be reaping the benefits of the humaneness we tended to while you were pontificating like a self-important, self-satisfied windbag.

    I now await your inevitable and predictable riposte.

    • Mean Partner

      No you won’t. You’ll lay on a cheap bed sheet at age 80 wondering why you didn’t work harder when you had a chance.

      But, you keep right thinking about all the humanity dividends you’ll reap when you’re in a nursing home placed there by your kids who don’t want you clouding their day to day life.
      And you can wistfully recall about the clients who called for you–“Get me the humane partner right away! You know-the one who gives all his associates days off for their dogs!” There will be so many of those, you’ll send days telling people about them.
      What’s that? Oh you think you’ll somehow retire to live in a nice place with trees, kind attendants and adoring family that visit every weekend? Take another toke Mr. Neutron. I’ll be puffing on Cohibas, wearing my silk smoking jacket and sipping some good single malt scotch.
      And I’m going to quote you as describing me as “irrepressible”….”impressive”…”successful,”….
      Give my regards to everyone at your non-profit theatre group.

  • Lauren

    I would have safe sex with him if i was sure to be hired as an associate!

  • Eva

    I really think MeanPartner is not an attorney at all, and more just someone who gets off on posting his or her self-serving tripe, so as to make himself or herself feel better about living at home in his or her mother’s basement. And could probably use a full psych evaluation.

    • Mean Partner

      Wrong. Mean Partner is like Keyser Soze–very sinister, and real. Except for the gold cigarette lighter as MP does not smoke cigarettes.

      He is also employed and totally exasperated with sloppy-thinking, soft-headed douches like you, that decide to debate someone by wondering if they need a “psych eval”. Michelle Beth has bigger balls than you.

      But your post got me thinking: “what kind of psych issue can I use to eliminate all cats and pets from our firm”? Then I got it! All our new associates sign pre employment agreements that warrants that they have no pets and agree that acquiring one may be a basis for termination. Why? because I decided to rid our office once and for all of these pet problems. we have lost more work days than I can count to staff falling down stairs after tripping over a cat and breaking a bone (2 weeks off), being bitten by a cat (did you know their mouths are teeming with bacteria?), and ridiculous mid-week vet appointments. So I have told everyone I am allergic to animal hair, and get hives, chills, nausea and psychologically off balance. Got an obliging doctor to certify it for me. So now I have a perfectly legal excuse to ban those pets!

      FYI II: I am now having unprotected sex with as associate hired in this dismal market. I met her at a very upscale bar after watching her nurse a drink for almost 45 minutes. After a drive to her place with my hand on her perfect thigh, a night at her place (with protected sex), I offered her a real job (after being sure she had NO PETS and her agreeing to get serious birth control and a STD test). Sometimes I take a minute from in office sex with my new long legged associate to revel in my ridding this office (almost–some old associate has a cat) of new Pet Threats to Productivity. (PTP).

  • Echo

    I am not a dog lover but you did the right thing.

    You applied for the days off 1st. You arranged everything out of working hours. Everyone knew in advance. Perfectly acceptable office etiquette.
    Sounds line this guy had taken on more than he could chew & is used to dumping workload on everyone else to cover his own butt.

  • Jack Boot

    Having been doing this for over 30 years, I can’t even remember the names of clients or cases that I thought were so critcally important at the time 25 years ago. Work comes and goes; clients come and go. You are finally left with exactly what you think you will be left with….memories of children now grown and gone from home, family members and friends gone and present, and yes, memories of the pets you loved you. Hell of a lot more important than the brief due this week. Someonelse can always be found to cover that.

  • http://none tomc

    The fact that you are a lawyer makes no difference. What matters most is that you have a heart and that holds true for many other professions. I admire you for having the couarge to maintain the bond that a lessor creature established with you Animals return their affection by the manner in which they are treated. They accept you without limitation and neither are they cold or calculating like many human beings. The lowest among us could find a dog’s love in the middle of a trash heap. Hold your head high,my dear friend, you did the right thing regardless of the dire consequences to yourself. What the world needs is more Otto Schindlers or Von Stauffenbergs. These men risked their lives in order to stand against dictators who viewed other humans as being beneath themselves as do those who never have experienced an ani m al’s comfort or love. God Bless, In memory of my own loving and departed dogs . TomC