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A puppy for a lawyer’s fee

/ 05:02 AM April 15, 2018

 

One exhilarating experience in starting a professional practice is when you get paid for the first time. I remember that just days after taking my oath as a lawyer, I was invited by an old friend to his house in the hope that my knowledge of the law would help restore the peace in his family. He and his siblings were quarreling over a modest inheritance, a piece of land the division of which they couldn’t amicably agree on among themselves, to the point that it seemed it could end up dividing them instead.

When you are just getting started, there is an unmitigated eagerness to do your job well. And although I vaguely remember the details now, I must say I truly exerted effort in that legal consultation if only for the fact that it took me the entire afternoon at my friend’s house.

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And then, when I was leaving, they handed me a puppy — a pure white Maltese-Japanese Spitz crossbreed — which amounted to my first-ever professional fee. Not that I was expecting anything in return. In those days, my mantra was never to charge a friend for my legal services. I was just happy to be treated as a lawyer.

Sometimes I look back to that day and remember that no matter how much I would earn later in my law practice, nothing compares to the exhilaration of receiving the puppy that a friend “paid” me for my legal assistance. I cannot put a price tag on the happiness of my children when they saw the fluffy, cotton-white little creature with blue eyes and a tail that endlessly wagged with joy. At that time the kids were crazy about Spider-Man, but because it was a girl-puppy, they agreed to name her MJ. I guess if she were human, she would have movie-star looks and make a movie with Tobey Maguire.

MJ was like a new playmate, a fifth child that had just been born in our household. For the next 11 years, she was my children’s friend and growing-up companion. And even when the kids slackened from the constant pampering and attention they showered on the puppy in the beginning, gradually becoming indifferent to her as she grew into a dog, she remained steadfast and unwavering in loving her humans.

She seemed to dedicate her life to repay me in kind for bringing her into this family, for whatever it cost us to keep her, which was actually insignificant considering how much she had protected us. The little toy dog was a fierce defender of the house from any “intruder,” whether human or animal. If she couldn’t fight, MJ raised hell and drove the “enemy” crazy with her nonstop barking. She was a barking supertyphoon for one whole night when a huge toad blundered into our property. We have neighbors who keep several big dogs, yet burglars would break into their homes. There was no such incident with us while MJ was around. She may have been small but she had a big heart, and her boundless courage made sure we could all sleep soundly at night. I can’t imagine how many times she must have saved our lives.

Unfortunately, life is too short for a good dog. MJ passed away on April Fool’s Day (how I wished her death was just a prank!). My wife and our children cried a river when we buried her in our backyard.

MJ continues to remind me of myself when I still viewed the world with the pure innocence of a puppy—one always eager to please and to sacrifice for someone else’s happiness.

* * *

Adel Abillar is a private law practitioner with a small office in Quezon City where, he says, “I alternate between being boss and messenger.”

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