Blog Goes to Dog

Sandy Balick of provides some reading recommendations regarding pets and their place in the family (and divorce).I was surprised and somewhat gratified by the response to my last blog “Pets Need Mediation Too” regarding the mediation of pet issues in divorce and their inclusion in separation agreements. I say “somewhat” only because I thought at least someone would enthuse over just how adorable Peaches and Coco are. I’m not offended though – all parents believe their kids are cutest, don’t they?

Many of you, quite appropriately, adhered to the more sober-sided aspects of the post. There was the inevitable suggestion that pets are better companions than kids. Others suggested directly or impliedly that it was silly to focus on pet-stuff when the lives of children should be paramount in separation and divorce. Any one of these views could support a string of point/counter-points that would get us at least to Thanksgiving.

There was interest in the mention I made of the book, Inside of a Dog, by Alexandra Horowitz and further reading suggestions were solicited. Frankly, I’ve barely skimmed the literature but I’m happy to accommodate with two references. First, a good friend and fellow canine-ophile alerted me to the recently published, A Dog Named Boo – a true tale of the saving of a dog, followed by the saving of its adopter, a dog trainer by profession. The author, Lisa Edwards, may be seen (with Boo) reading an excerpt on YouTube.

Sometimes to cover my state of not having read too much, it’s helpful to be able to find a great piece of writing that provides convenient multiple reading recommendations and analysis. I found exactly such a source neatly wrapped in a wonderfully dog-centric family tail, er, tale.

Dog Story by Adam Gopnick appeared in the August 8, 2011 edition of The New Yorker, (available on-line). It’s written around the story of his daughter Olivia’s adoption of Butterscotch, and focuses on books exploring theories of how the dog got to be a dog.

For the dominant man adopts/civilizes beast view, Gopnick cites Edmund Russell’s Evolutionary History. The essay points to an intriguing dissenting line, too, that the dog crept to the edge of the campfire – that the dog essentially adopted humankind (incentivized, perhaps by some tasty litter), set in motion in a 2001 book, Dogs by Raymond and Lorna Coppinger.

Gopnick also mentions dog blogger, Dan Derr (see Psychology author of, among other titles, How the Dog Became the Dog. I would be guilty under Derrs’ view that people reduce dogs to objects of cuteness. This is an unwarranted status comedown in the humankind-dog relationship, in his view, from what was, not long ago, a relationship of equals. (In my defense, my many lengthy conversations with Peaches and Coco fully honor this equal relationship, assuming their full command of English.)

Based on his own observations of his daughter and Butterscotch, Gopnick wonders if competing views of how dogs became our friends simply fail to factor in this simple consideration: “people love pets” to which I would add (at risk of offending Derr and others), that all else is commentary.

Simplistic as this may be, for our immediate consideration, it is precisely this love that accounts for pets, of whatever species, occupying a rightful place in the literature of separation agreements.

Perhaps overlooked in all of this is their critical presence, in the background, helping in their mute yet remarkably understanding way to keep kids and parents (though they may no longer be husband and wife) together in a modified family relationship. In fact, one post caused me to wonder: would the mediation process benefit from the actual presence of the animals in the mediation room – sounds nuts but, a little less so with each rethinking. Can’t say I’ll try this but it’ll perhaps stir the blogzingermen to action!


Feel free to ask any questions, to comment, or to request more information in the Comments Box below. Also, please feel free to forward this blog to anyone you know who might be interested in its topic.

Sanford (Sandy) Balick, Attorney & Mediator, NY Sandy Balick signature
Sanford E. Balick, Esq.
Founder & Principal MediatorConsensus Point Mediation, LLC.
Phone: (646) 340-3434


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