One of the most famous show-business maxims is W.C. Fields’ advice to “Never work with children or dogs.” It’s good advice; no matter how skilled you are, an adorable child or dog is always going to steal the scene, along with the hearts of the audience.
Good advice for theater is also good advice in court cases, which are often just a very, very expensive form of vaudeville. Rule No. 1 of going to court should be: “Make sure your opponent isn’t a 10-year-old girl who just wants her dog back.”
Mitchell Rechter and his lawyer might want to think about that rule very carefully. Rechter is facing a lawsuit in Michigan filed by Hannah Wise, the daughter of his ex, Adrienne Lenhoff, because she wants him to return her Teacup Poodle, Mystery. There’s just no way to make that scenario play well in front of a judge, jury, or the news media.
Lenhoff and Wise lived with Rechter in his house for four years. When Lenhoff and Rechter broke up, she and her daughter moved in with a friend and put most of their belongings in storage. The dog stayed with Rechter, with an understanding that Hannah could come by and visit him any time she wanted. But Wise says that when she asked Rechter for the dog back, he neither answered or returned her calls.
Rechter isn’t making any statements to the press, but in an official response to Wise’s complaint, his lawyer claims that “The plaintiff abandoned the dog, gave it to the defendant to take care of, knowing he wanted to care for the dog, and took another dog with her when she left.”
Wise denies that she abandoned the dog; She says that Mystery was a gift from her grandmother three years ago, while her previous dog, Mystic, was dying of bone cancer.
“When Mystic died, it felt like he didn’t actually leave me. I had Mystery. … He was a part of me. He would come in my bed and snuggle up to me,” Wise told the Oakland Press. “[Rechter] wouldn’t give me my dog back. And he knew that I cared about that dog so much. It was really heartbreaking for me.”
The lawyer representing Wise is of course her mother’s, but the decision to call the lawyer and go ahead with the case was the girl’s, and she is the official plaintiff. The mother has been appointed to represent Wise’s legal interests as a minor. Lenthoff says that although the experience represents a loss of innocence for her daughter, she’s also very proud of her.
“At such an early age, if there’s any positive lesson for her at all, is she’s learning if somebody has wronged her, she is empowered to stand up for what is right and what is just,” Lenhoff said.
Via Oakland Press
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