A man who had not written a will left a $2 million estate, but the most hotly contested item in court has been his golden retriever, Alex.
The four-way dispute over the 13-year-old pet was so intense, an attorney was appointed to represent the dog’s interest. On Monday, the judge decided the man’s divorced parents should split custody, The Commercial Appeal reported.
"At first glance, the petition seems almost frivolous, but after speaking with all parties, it is evident that this is a highly emotional issue for all involved," said Alex’s attorney, Paul Royal, in his report to the probate court.
Ron Callan Jr., 35, committed suicide on New Year’s Day. He had been a partner with his father in Callan Salvage & Appraisal Co., and the father was named the estate’s administrator.
In the consent order the judge approved, the elder Callan and his ex-wife, Esther Snow Gnall, will trade custody of Alex every two weeks. Both parents also agreed to take the dog to the veterinarian for arthritis treatments and any other needed procedures.
Before the agreement was reached, the elder Callan had custody and took Alex to work during the day. The father has cats at home, though, so at night, the dog stayed with Callan Jr.’s former girlfriend, who had known Alex since he was a puppy.
The son’s fiancee also was interested in Alex, and Gnall had said if she won custody, she would allow the fiancee to spend time with the dog.
Royal, the dog’s attorney, said he believes all four people love Alex and would take good care of him, but they were using the fight for the dog to punish each other for past transgressions.
"This case is similar to a bitter custody battle involving children where each party loves the children, but the kids are stuck between two people who cannot coexist," the attorney said in his report.