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Why Every Legal Professional Needs a Dog (or a Cat or an Iguana): A Slice O’ Life with “The Tomato Whisperer”

Why Every Legal Professional Needs a Dog (or a Cat or an Iguana):  A Slice O’ Life with “The Tomato Whisperer”

GizMo, the Cairn Terrier of unknown age and origin who agreed to take up residence in our home in 2005, is the Woody Allen of dogs. Unlike Woody, he’s cute enough to pose for a free poster in a teen magazine. Like Woody, he nurtures his neuroses and expects us to as well. The females in our house ignore his borderline psychoses and are willing enablers. We giddily indulge his idiosyncrasies, competing for his entirely arbitrary affections with little delicacies like hot peanut butter and salted cashews.

We don’t know where he lived before. I found him while doing some volunteer work in “th Hood,” as my youngest daughter calls the area. (It’s okay when she calls it “th’ Hood” because she grew up there). He was racing neck in neck with the giant wheels of a city bus.

Against my better judgment, but unable to resist a single-minded ball of mud trying to sink his teeth into a gargantuan city bus, I got out of my car, despite having been repeatedly warned to stay in it with the doors locked. I squatted down, thinking “he’ll never come to me and I’ll get mugged and I’ll be in the evening news for being an idiot.” But he did come, instantly, and exposed his filthy, matted belly for a rub. The mud ball turned out to be a purebred Cairn, with no microchip and no missing reports.

He got his name because he has ears like the movie gremlin, Gizmo. His greatest psychosis evidenced itself during the next thunder storm. He morphed into the Tasmanian Devil, spinning madly in endless crazy circles, bumping into walls and furniture, all the while barking hysterically and growling at operatic pitches…for hours.

The Tasmanian Devil is hilarious on The Cartoon Network, but not in your actual house. Hence, the nicknames, “GizManiac” and “GizMoronic.” Nothing calmed him. Our vet prescribed Valium which had no effect on him whatsoever. I, on the other hand, experienced some angst. I wondered if it was okay for me to take it instead. Did I have an addictive personality? Did the vet really mean for me to have it during thunder storms and not the dog? Would the vet give me more Valium?

This brings me to his latest psychosis, “barking down” tomatoes. Last summer, I was a proud city farmer with five big pots of tomato plants on the patio. (“Pseudo-farming” is a relaxing activity for high strung paralegals.) GizMo stood in front of them for hours, barking incessantly, maybe at the scent of the chipmunks that dug in the soil. Judging by the evil looks my neighbors gave me, there may have been a HOA plot afoot to poison him. I wondered if it was too soon to call for a refill on the Valium.

Then came the day when I got home after a 10-hour workday and settled bleary-eyed in my recliner. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed him playing with a cute little red ball. I started my pre-dinner nap. Then I remembered he didn’t have any red balls. He was playing with one of my precious newly-ripened tomatoes. To give him credit, it did look like a chipmunk had gnawed on it. I regretfully threw it away. A few minutes later, I found him playing with my only other viable tomato. GizMo,“The Tomato Whisperer,” was the only successful harvester of fruit from my patio last summer.


Every legal professional needs a dog (or a cat or a Vietnamese pig or an iguana) to love us unconditionally when we come home from a tough day at the office (where we aren’t loved unconditionally). I recently did a “Twittervey” via Twitter, asking legal professionals how their pets helped them relieve stress, and got the following great responses:

@iolanthrosa: I knew I made the right decision to start a home-based paralegal business the first day I did my job with my cat on my lap!

@KeransVA: Putting your trust in your horse while riding is a fun, demanding way to reduce stress as little else occupies your mind.

@MyLawNetwork: All they want is love and attention, whenever you want to give it.

@Rosebay: lil dog is so silly he makes me laugh (I responded that he makes me smile, too!)

@carolynelefant: You can tell from my twitter photo, that my puppy makes me happy. Plus added excuse to go out & walk.

@gretajean: Taking care of the dogs enables me to get my mind off of objections or exhibit lists or whatever is due. For a moment. I work at home and the dogs hang out with me all day (and night). Having them forces me to get away from the computer some. (Here’s the link to her Twitter profile picture, which is her beautiful greyhound

@ymfbrooks: Dogs don’t give deadlines!

@LindsayGriffith: RE dogs & stress – my dog reminds me of the simple things: 1) remember to eat; 2) take breaks; 3) get fresh air every day; and 4) always take time to hug your loved ones – those things are great to keep stress low (esp. taking breaks!)

@lindastuder: Sofie & Winston can make me laugh even on the hardest longest days & take me outside everyday for fresh air & meeting neighbors! I love ’em!

@VBalasubramani: a droopy, crinkled forehead, “the outing will be over in a flash” look always reminds me that there’s more to life than law

2 Responses to Why Every Legal Professional Needs a Dog (or a Cat or an Iguana): A Slice O’ Life with “The Tomato Whisperer”

  1. “Dogs don’t give deadlines!”

    I wish! We have deadlines for going to bed, for getting up, for meals, for treats, for feeding the cats–I don’t know what I’ll do if the day ever comes that I don’t always have someone to tell me what to do and when to do it.

Contact Info:

Lynne J. DeVenny, N.C. State Bar Certified Paralegal

Owner & Virtual Paralegal, DeVenny Paralegal Services

Email: lynne.devenny[at]

Telephone: 336-582-0003

Inquiries are welcome, with free quotes available.

Meet Lynne:

Lynne DeVenny is a North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal with over 27 years of experience working on complex litigation cases, including medical malpractice, personal injury, workers’ compensation, and Social Security disability.

Disclosure: I am not a lawyer and cannot provide legal representation or legal advice.

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