Denver Bar Association
November 2007
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That Dog Got Money?!

by Craig Eley

I’d marry again if I found a man who had 15 million dollars, would sign over half to me, and guarantee that he’d be dead within a year.

—Bette Davis

I sort of feel the way about pets that Bette did about men. They are messy, a lot of trouble and expensive (and hamsters, I have learned, sleep around a lot). There is nothing more galling than trying to find a veterinarian who is open at 10 p.m. (they’re out there, but they’re expensive) to see what is wrong with a gerbil that weighs 4 ounces and cost $2.50 to buy, while children around you are sobbing, pleading with you to "Do something!"

As a child, my siblings and I had lots of pets, so by the time I bought my own house I had had my fill of them. Each of my kids, however, occasionally would beg for a pet, with the usual promise that "I’ll take care of it." (When the human genome is totally decoded, they probably will find a gene that contains that exact phrase, because it has been uttered without coaching by hundreds of generations of children.)

Having been blessed with a child with mild asthma, I used that as an excuse to forbid the adoption of dogs and cats, and, when the kids were naive enough, hamsters and other rodents of their ilk. But they made friends with kids who would hold an inhaler in one hand and a guinea pig in the other, with no ill effects, and the jig was up. It got to the point where they would threaten to run away from home if we didn’t get them a pet.

Time has passed and this inconvenience has resolved itself. My youngest has turned 21, and I am offering to get him a pet if he would leave home.

So, it was with interest that I read about a person who loved her pet so much that she left it $12 million. This tender-hearted person was hotel magnate Leona Helmsley, aka The Queen of Mean. When she died a few months ago, it was revealed that she had totally disinherited two of her grandchildren (maybe they never sent thank-you notes, who knows). However, she left Trouble, her white Maltese, enough to buy more than 25 million cans of Gravy Train (which, coincidentally, is what Trouble will be on for the rest of her life). Her other two grandchildren were left a paltry $5 million each, less than half of Trouble’s inheritance. I guess we know who grandma loved best.

Under the terms of her will, the care of Ms. Helmsley’s dog falls to her brother, Alvin Rosenthal, who is 80. She left him Trouble, as well as $15 million. Brother Al reportedly has refused to adopt Trouble. I suppose he’s got his $15 million; why would he want the dog?

I, however, am more kind-hearted than Al. Even though I never have met this pooch, I have seen her pictures, and I would gladly take her in. Not only that, I would treat her in the manner in which I assume she has become accustomed. For example, I would add a large room to my house, with a bar and indoor grill for cooking up Trouble’s favorite tidbits. I would add a hot tub and a pool so she would get exercise. Of course, they would be large enough so I could accompany her on her swims, so she wouldn’t get lonely. And she certainly deserves a multi-media theater, where she can view "Animal Planet" all day long in surround-sound (while Trouble’s money will pay for all the home improvements, I am willing to pop for the cable).

I will take off time to accompany Trouble on travel (first class, of course) to exotic places, where she (we) will stay only at the finest hotels. Room service will bring us the best the hotels have to offer.

But, alas, all is not perfect in Trouble’s world. It is well-known that she bit Helmsley’s housekeeper, who then proceeded to sue Helmsley for the injury. The case was thrown out by the judge, who ruled that Helmsley’s workers’ compensation policy protected her from suits from employees. Now that Trouble has come into her own money, however, the plaintiff is planning to strike again, apparently under the theory that because she wasn’t Trouble’s employee, workers’ compensation won’t protect the mangling Maltese. The housekeeper’s son, in fact, was quick to provide a sound bite shortly after Trouble’s fortune became public: "That dog got money. That money is going to be taken away from that dog." No question as to where they’re going with that.

The cuddly canine will, therefore, need an attorney to keep her money from the maw of the housekeeper and her son. As luck would have it, I am married to a lawyer who probably would be happy to defend Trouble, even if it means weeks of depositions in New York and a month-long trial. Although such a zealous defense would not come cheap, I would be there with Trouble (charging nothing except for my modest living expenses) to give her moral support through the entire ordeal.

Also, because of my high regard for this harassed hound and her reputation, our legal team will not be content to just fight a rear-guard action. We have evidence that the New York Post, in its Aug. 29, 2007 edition used its front-page banner headline to label the bereaved Trouble a "Rich Bitch." Insensitive? Certainly. Defamatory? We’ll see.

So, Uncle Al, if you don’t want her, just send me the address and I will personally fly out and pick up this monied mutt. I will offer her everything a canine craves — food, love and lawyers.

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