GPSolo Magazine - July/August 2006

Why I Needed a Dog

Chapter 1. It all started when I was reading The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. You probably know the book. One of the exercises in the book is to write down your various roles so that you can then work on assigning goals to go with each. Most people have roles such as “parent,” “friend,” “occupation,” etc. My roles were: “attorney,” “attorney involved in bar activities,” “attorney who writes and speaks,” “attorney who represents church,” etc. Get the picture? Not only was my life lopsided, I discovered that I didn’t have a life.

Wow—what a revelation.

I knew I needed to change. But how? The book assumed you already had different roles, so it wasn’t much help. I thought about bar hopping—nope, not my style. And online dating had not come into its own at that time. But it is hard to pick up friends standing on a street corner.

Someone suggested I get a dog. A dog? Now how, exactly, is a dog going to give me a life? Okay, I’ll bite. Give me a dog, but not just any dog; I want a black standard poodle.

Okay, maybe not a black standard poodle; the seven-year-old cream poodle needed me. He was mine from the first time I met him. He had been used as a stud dog and was then abandoned. When I met him, he looked like a survivor of a concentration camp. I left for a moment, and he never took his eyes off of where I went. I had no choice; he chose me.

Moose took me for walks around the neighborhood. Surprise—I actually had neighbors! I started to talk with them. I was even invited to some of the neighborhood parties. One night I went to a party where one of the neighbors looked and looked at me, trying to figure out who I was. Finally she said, “Oh! You’re the dog lady!”

The dog lady—I can live with that. Prior to that time, when someone I didn’t know well approached me, it was generally not to invite me to do something, or to see how I was doing, but to get legal advice. Preferably free. Which was one reason I avoided many social gatherings.

But now I had a new occupation: dog lady. That gave me a way of approaching people (and allowing people to approach me) which was not intimidating and did not put me in a place of authority. Moose made me accessible.

Chapter 2. Moose was my heart. I was his sun, moon, and stars. He would have given his life for me, and I counted it a privilege and a joy to do things for him. Alas, all good things come to an end. After six good years, he gave me nine months to get used to the fact that he was dying. Then he was gone. My best friend. He took away the walls that wouldn’t allow people to know how much I hurt. Moose made me vulnerable.

Chapter 3. Then came Charlie. My big, beautiful blue boy. Charlie was born to have fun. Let’s play! Agility? Sure! I like to run, jump, and climb! Classes, dog trials, ribbons, titles.

If we make a mistake at a trial, it is almost always my fault. But it doesn’t matter; we had fun playing—and there is always tomorrow. I can’t get down on myself; Charlie would think it was his fault and would stop. Charlie always wants to do what is right; he never wants to displease me. Charlie has taught me that winning isn’t everything—it’s how you play the game, and the game only ends if you quit.

Chapter 4. If one dog is wonderful, then two must be better! When Charlie turned two, he got a friend, Jazz. Charlie is focused on me. With Jazz? “It’s all about me.” Jazzy is a very sweet, shy dog who turns into a demon on the agility course. She knows that any mistakes are mine, and if I don’t get it right, she will still amaze those watching. Jazz has taught me humility.

Chapter 5 is yet to be written. I am already a better person having known these amazing souls. Am I a better lawyer? I haven’t a clue. But they give me joy and a reason to get up every morning. In fact . . . I believe they’ve given me a life.


Lisa A. Runquist is a principal in the law firm of Runquist & Associates in Los Angeles, California. She has more than 25 years of experience representing nonprofit organizations and is the first winner of the Outstanding Lawyer Award, a nonprofit lawyers’ award presented by the ABA Business Law Section. She lives with her two standard poodles in Northridge, California. She can be reached at


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