It’s a cat eat dog world


I sometimes hear people talking about themselves as a cat or a dog person, as if you can only be one or the other. I’m a fan of all animals, except perhaps any that might want to kill me.


As a child I had a cat who I adored.  Her antics were often relived and laughed over, long after she was gone.  Like the time she hid behind the freezer (the motor was warm) but then couldn’t get out. Or her love of curling up around the door stop, like she was trying to hatch it (it helped that the door stop was round and yellow) or her ability to eat left over spaghetti Bolognese, by draping all of the pasta neatly over the edge of her bowl and eating the sauce.


As an adult with a young family we had a rescue dog, who was the sweetest, kindest animal I’ve ever met, although not blessed with huge brains.  He once killed a squirrel by accident – they were playing chase and the squirrel lost, but poor Buster had no idea what to do with it and couldn’t understand why it had given up on the game and was just lying there.  Then there was the time that we were in the park, and he lost us (we were about 10 feet away!) and decided to try and find his way home (which was 2 miles away!)  He was picked up by the police and returned to me in the park in the back of a police van.  He looked so proud of himself as he bounded out of the vehicle to greet us.


However, I’ve recently realised that there are people who don’t like cats, or dogs, or any animal unless they are served up on a plate with french fries.  I was out for lunch with a client recently.  We had picked a cafe simply for it’s convenient location in the centre of town.  What we didn’t know was that this cafe allows people to bring in dogs.  I was sitting facing the door, and noticed a young girl (she was about 20 – that’s young to me!) come in with a small dog.  Unfortunately the first my client became aware of the new arrivals was when the dog bounced up on the chair next to him to greet him.  To be fair, one doesn’t expect to be licked in the middle of one’s lunch, but his scream of disapproval I later found out had as much to do with his allergy to animal fur as the unusual greeting, as evidenced by his excessive sneezing that accompanied the rest of our meeting.


The dog owner looked perplexed.  She couldn’t understand how anyone could fail to be enchanted by her very cute dog.  


My client was perplexed.  He couldn’t understand why anyone would want a pet, let alone to bring it into a restaurant for lunch.


They both have a valid point of view but see things from very different angles and have difficulty understanding the others.


This is not an uncommon situation.  I’m currently advising a property developer who is trying to complete on a house building contract.  The owner of the site believes that my client is in breach of contract, and is pointing to the word “works” in the contract which were supposed to have started weeks ago.  That’s easy, my client assures me, “works” means the preparation which we started weeks ago.  However the site owner is certain it means when they break ground, which is still some weeks away.  


My client is certain he’s right.  So is the site owner.  Unfortunately the contract doesn’t give a definition for “works” and so we have all reached a stalemate.  Neither side wants to sue, because one of the many problems they will face is proving what “works” means.  Both sides are convinced they are right, but both accept that in the absence of a clear definition in the contract, it’s subjective.  The only good news is that this means it’s an ideal candidate for mediation, of which I’m a great fan.


If you are involved in business, and prepare your own contracts, read the paperwork through carefully and make sure that all the important terms are defined.  Even if you are certain that something is very obvious, be aware that the other side may have an equally obvious, but very different interpretation.  Definitions are so important that in some contracts, we go so far as to define what a working day is, or what a month looks like, because even these every day terms can have different meanings.


Kleyman and co solicitors.  The full service law firm.  For whichever side of the table you are on.