Episode 54 – Debra Vey Voda-Hamilton

In 2008 Debra Vey Voda-Hamilton decided to resume her career after a 13 year career break to raise her children by starting Hamilton Law and Mediation. She created her own niche field, employing collaborative law and mediation to address civil conflicts including special education, contract and animal conflicts. Listen in as she gives some great advice and steps you can take to protect yourself and your pets.

Welcome to the Professionals and Animal Rescue podcast, where a goal is to introduce you two amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved with animal rescue. This podcast is probably sponsored by do bert dot com. Do Bert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Now on with our show. Deborah Vejvoda Hamilton as a former government attorney who has resumed her legal career in 2010 after a 13 year break to be a stay at home mom, she created her own niche field, employing collaborative law and mediation to address civil and criminal conflicts that arise over animals. These disagreements occurring divorce, landlord, tenant contract malpractice and pet service relationships. Deborah is the author of Nipped in the Bud. Not in the, but How to Use Mediation to Resolve Conflicts over Animals. This important work describes how mediation can resolve many conflicts involving animals, not just who gets the cat in divorce or how to deal with a barking dog. There’s so many other instances where people are sometimes almost blinded by their passion for or against an animal that they behave irrationally and cannot resolve their conflict on their own. Unfortunately, many times they head to court, where the law trees pets as property as just a thing. Deborah will explain why hiring a neutral and participating in mediation is a better way to resolve conflict for all, especially the animal. Hey, Deborah, Thanks for coming on the show today. Well, Chris, I’m so glad to be here. I love what your group does. It brings together people to have conversations just like I do and sort of hold the drama back, which is perfect. Yeah, absolutely no drama here. So tell us a little bit about you and kind of your backstory. Well, I’m an attorney by training. I was a litigator for about 13 years. I took a 13 year break to raise my two sons, and I didn’t practice law. Then I was a p t a mother. And so if anyone knows about being a p t a mother, you have to be a really good player in the sandbox. Or you might end up in back to school night with no food, and I happen to be the vice president of my son’s school, so I was up there trying to organize these things. So when I went back to litigation in 2008 I spent two years litigating, and it really didn’t feed my soul. Although I was good at it, it didn’t feed my soul. I always said, Can’t we talk about this? Can’t we sit down and have a conversation? And like Kali attorneys, if I was the defense attorney, Mary, or if I was the plaintiff attorney, the other side wouldn’t talk to me. I walked out of a case where I won. I looked up to heaven and I said, There has got to be a better way And in that moment I stop litigating and I started training for about a year in mediation. So from 2008 to 2010 and litigated 2010 I have this regulation and all of 2010. I stop litigating and trained to be a mediator, which you might say, Well, that’s easy for an attorney to to it actually is really difficult because attorneys air talked to know what the right answer is and how to move people forward and what the law says and what you could do under the law, mediation is about enabling the parties to solve their own problems. So, Chris, you’ll be you’ll laugh to hear that I keep very colorful duct tape on my media tables because I tell my clients I do that to put it over my own mouth. When I want to help you find a solution, it really will be your solution. And that’s what mediation provides for everyone their solution to the issue. But it takes a lot of listening. Interesting. So now I’m curious. How did this now go down a pass to you? Straight as a litigator, right? And now a mediator. And now you went down a very specialized path with animals. So I I did every mediation known to man for two years so that I would really cut my chops and know what I was doing. And I realized I really didn’t want to do divorce per se. I really didn’t want to do neighbor conflicts per se, but I did want to do the neighbor conflicts about the barking dogs. Okay, Want to do? The divorce is about sharing the dogs, and I did want to do the veterinary malpractice conversations and the Pet Service Providers client. I wanted to do those. So I came home and told my husband, I am limiting my practice to conflicts over animals and I actually wrote a book in 2015 Cold nipped in the bud, Not in the Butt. How to resolve Conflicts using animal Complex using mediation. And it’s a best seller on Amazon because it gives you step by step six steps on how to do it. You might have to hire a mediator to make sure it happens, but really honing in on how to have a conversation when you’re angry at someone because I found that in my litigation practice, no one ever got the opportunity to tell their story. Their attorney told their story, and they told their story that fit into the facts that would get them to win the case. Most people really just want to tell their story as it stands and a mediation. They could do that confidentially. It won’t come to bite them in the rear end after they say it, because everything in mediation is confidential and usually people will sit there Go. I didn’t know that’s what you meant. I thought you meant this. Oh, I didn’t know that. You felt I thought you felt that because we perceive things differently. I’m sure everyone on this phone has received something that later on I found out that that wasn’t what was meant at all. Because that’s how we are. We perceive things from our own perspective and our own triggers and our own life experiences. So when someone says something or does something, it could trigger something in us that creates conflict. And how do you get that genie back in the bottle? Really? But with mediation, you could do it with someone I have to say. Unfortunately for everyone listening, I’m likely one of only two or three. And I’ve actually trained the two or three people who in the United States practices mediation of conflicts over animals. Most mediators, one of fun with their hair on fire. Why is that? Is that because it’s so emotional? And people are so tied to their animals? Yeah. My mediator colleagues often say I don’t know how you do with those people are crazy animal people, crazy cat people. Crazy dog. Yeah, we are because we’re so passionate about these animals. And who better to help you focus on the animal than someone who understands how you’re feeling? So that’s what I absolutely focused my practice simply on helping people have a conversation. I go to rescues all the time when they’re having staff or volunteer issues and sit down and just have everybody go around and talks first. I’ve never done that because I was never cracked the safe space. We get to a point where the administration here is that the volunteers don’t feel feel appreciated. The volunteers feel that the administration thought they were appreciating them by doing this in this. And so all these things come out and you go, Wow, I didn’t even realize you did that. And really, you could have done this and it would have been enough. This is a conversation that is just simply facilitated by having somebody in the room who helps them here themselves and holds a safe space for their side of the story, and other people go out. That’s not how, like, wow that. Wow. And you just if the light bulbs go on, I don’t know how many rescues I’ve walked out of that everybody comes out and says, Well, I never thought I’d ever talked the administrator again And now because I know what she’s doing I will, Yeah, You know, I I’ve had some of those conversations myself where there’s a perception that an animal shelter director is this or that. And, you know, some of the best relationships I’ve built over the years were just on a conversation. I went in with a preconceived notion that this person was gonna fight me. And once you sat down and really had that conversation when I want it understood their perspective, and it really kind of changes you. But I will bet Chrisman you went into that conversation. You did more listening. At first I did because if you listen, I have. In the book, it goes, Stop dropping a role. So that’s what we all know. If you’re on fire and when you’re incompetent over an animal, you’re on fire. I don’t care who you are or where you’re from. On both sides, you’re on fire, so I have the concept of stop, drop and roll. If you’re in conflict over an animal over a discussion and rescue, stop talking and listen. Yeah, because you’re gonna hear things that you can then pick up that you agree upon and that will take you a step forward. The drop stands for dropped The need to be right you are. You and I had a long conversation before this recording and both of us said, you know, everybody’s right. The way they approach it there, right? Because they’re at least helping the animals. They might not be right. The way I define it, they might not be right the way you define it. But if you drop the need to be right, I always say And I’ve made up this word you’ll be writer here how you are in simpatico with the other person. You could pick on the things you agree on instead of the things you disagree on. And then how much writer will you be? And then the last one, of course, is dropped. Is let what people say. Roll off your back. I say this to veterinarians all the time I go. Please do not answer When your clients is man, do not tell them how wrong they are. Do not you know, do not try to educate them when they’re angry because they can’t hear you. So let it roll off your back. Tell them I use this with us before you gave me incredible clarity on this topic. And I appreciate that. And we talked about this this morning, tomorrow morning or the next day. Give him a date certain so that they know you’re gonna get back to them. But let them go home without you telling them how wrong they are. And nine times out of 10 when you get back together, they will be in amore equilibrium point in their life and will be able to have a conversation. But if you decide not to let it roll off your back, I’ve had people tell me that people come back and apologize. They didn’t even have to have that second conversation because they let it roll off their back. The person came back and apologize because, you know, they’ve been cut off in the street or the wife fought with them that morning, or whatever you know, precipitated them, letting you have it. So it’s what it’s what I do as a practice. And of course, we talked before about my other piece of my practice, which is caring for the care of pets, and that’s what rescue always wants to do. Every rescue contract states that has come back to the rescue of something happens to them, right? But how do you make sure that happens? It is almost impossible to keep track. I don’t care who you are of every dog that leaves. Unless you’re gonna call and write them, you’re gonna visit their home because they could lie for their teeth. But the dog is still there, and it isn’t so what do you want to do? You want to actually give them the tools that will build the document. So there’s the lawyer coming out me again. I apologize, but that will build a document that will secure that. You will always know where the dog is. It’s It’s just it’s it’s so much fun. And I know that you want to meet to talk about that because rescue is so important to you. And taking these dogs back isn’t necessarily the best thing for the dogs, right? So being able to know where to pay it forward and keeping the thread so you know the dog is well taken care is okay. Yeah. What’s what’s best for the animal? I mean, I think that’s something you know. One of things I know that you’ve pointed out is the law still treats them like property. And, you know, thankfully, there are some Maur laws they’re getting past in Alaska and Utah and defining them a sentence beings and looking at the welfare of the animal in case of divorce. And those things were all wonderful. But in general, they’re still considered property. And and I think one of the words that I often uses intent, you know what is somebody’s intent. And if they have a ah positive intent and they’re trying to do something healthy animals, even if they’re not doing it the way I would do it, better toe work with them, educate them, help them, you know, fuel their passion instead of beating him over the head and telling them why they’re wrong. And I think you know, as you’ve pointed out, it’s people don’t. They’re so busy telling you realize what’s going around with their stuff. They’ll even focus on their own. And what will happen to them? There’s something were to transpire. That’s why I definitely wanted to bring up the map care planning blueprint because I just thought it was such a great approach to walk people through even rescue groups and helping them understand what’s in the best interest of the animal. Tell us a little bit more about that. So it’s a long term, short term program, and I just want to touch on one piece. So I always think when people have different opinions, like you just said they all had see things differently. Well, we all used to don’t anymore. We all use ways, but I digress. We used to take a map out there were three or four different ways. Ways does this, too. But there are three or four different ways you can get to your destination, and everybody is gonna take a different way. I might want to take the students scenic route I want might want to take the highway. It might want to go over the mountains. I might want to go by the coast, whatever it is, and ways will do that for you as well. They’ll give you a different way to do something and were so willing to take ways. Alternate route because we’re gonna miss the traffic. Maybe that’s a good thing to use as a metaphor. Now that way’s will help you find the most direct route to where you want to go. But you have to be willing to take their word for it and move a different way and taking the route than you’re used to taking. So we’ve just created a new program that I’m not exactly like that. You don’t necessarily all get there at the same way. But you’re all going to the same place, the care of the animals. Here, I’ll go to the same place. Just get there. So the map plan I actually wrote while I was laid up with a broken ankle in 2013 with nine dogs and no one to care for my dogs because I took care of my dogs and all of my care place where my will. So maybe everyone on on your podcast has all their care plans in their will And the program the map program used to be called I’m not dead yet. Yeah, because I might be, um, want to Python fan and I used to start my programs. We throw out your dead. You’ll be dead soon. Yes, if you don’t have plans both inside and outside your will. Your pets don’t get cared for unless you did. So what if God forbid you have a stroke or you have cancer or you come. You start to see the effects of Alzheimer’s. If you haven’t put together a plan, your pet is really left navigating his journey on his own. And you want that Especially. I always want when rescue say to me, we don’t need that way. Have our contract. They said, Yeah, great. Okay, so this dog goes out the door and that person may or may not check in with you ever again and you may check in with them. Maybe because you’re very busy and you’re onto rescuing the other dogs. If you have the make a plan, you know that they have put into place a plan that not only works while they’re alive, but also will work when they’re dead. And you wanted to work when they’re alive because that’s when most people don’t have a plan. So if you have a hurt, so there’s the sixties. Death is after a divorce delay, disease and disability. All those things can befall you. And you don’t have a plan because there I was broken ankle. Nine dogs. Shoot me. Now I put together this plan which every letter stands for something. So the M stands for make a plant. Those people don’t have a plan. I talked to people in California, in Oregon, on the East Coast, where hurricanes come, especially with horses, drives me nuts. Do you have a plan to get your horse out? Well, you know we’ll work together when it happens. And I said, Okay, so how many of you have hitches on your other four so that you can take your neighbor’s horse is just a basic question because you’re not getting that hitch when the fire’s coming down the hill, you’re not getting that hitch put on your car. I’m just saying, I did that in Oregon and it was so funny. The person who organized the talk there, about 40 people who rode together, she said, Do you know how grateful the Hitch guy was? You came T o. Everybody put an extra hitch on their car because they all had intentions off. Saving everybody else is worth but I’m gonna save my first. And if the fire is coming down the hill, I’m not gonna be allowed back up to get your horse. So I’m going to bring the two cars up same time. So what I do is I always say you have to make that plan first. You have to write down, sit down and write down what that plan would be if something happened to you. Long term, short term from a broken arm, broken leg to death to disease. I I always point out in my map Webinars, you see cancer commercials for new last and other new drugs each and every one of them has the person staying home with their pet Everyone. Well, when you’re coming home, I don’t know how many of your listeners may have suffered the effects of cancer and had to go through chemotherapy or radiation. You are in no position really to take care of a dog, and your family really wants to take care of you. Wouldn’t it be a blessing if you will? Well, they should know where this plan is. That that’s one of the letters. You have this plan and they can call these people who you’ve appointed to be the pets caregiver. I always say there has to be at least three caregivers. Only one can be a family member. Because if you are sick, they’re gonna want to be with you. So you need the other two. And then the last one would be a rescue. Either A breed specific rescue where the rescue you worked with so that people know that the dog supposed to go back to this rescue? Um, and I always say you make the plan, you Would you appoint the caregivers? So you have three, and then you have to address the needs of the pet. So, Chris, I’m sure you have pets and took idiosyncrasies. Right? 100. Lightning could get along with other dogs. Are medication can they never, ever see, hear or breathe about corn? I mean, there are so many things we know about our dogs. That’s all up in our heads that we haven’t put on paper for anybody else to know something. Stick me with my kids. No, I said, you know, your kids just walked up to me and tell me a They don’t take care of your pet and B. They don’t know in Northern care. I always tell this story. When I first started mediation, a guy came in to have me mediate between himself and the Joneses. It turns out that his mother had a white poodle that she left $5000 to in her will, Um, to the person who took care of, let’s say, fluffy. So the kids brought the dog to the high kill shelter once the mother died because nobody wanted it. And they figured, Owner surrender, you know, owner Surrender have about 24 hours to live, So this is a sure deal. This dogs would be dead and we’ll get that $5000 put back a little share. It’ll be great. Well, the attorney to his credit was, um, pro baiting. Well said, I just need a certificate from the shelter that says that Fluffy was put sleep. So they went back and the Joneses walked in, while Fluffy was still alive and the Joneses were older. And they said, you know, this is a cute white little dog and blah blah. They took fluffy home. And so the attorney wrote a check to the Joneses for $5000 the guy wanted me to mediate to get the $5000 back because they didn’t take the dog in legal terms, they didn’t take the dog with the knowledge that they would get a windfall, and so they shouldn’t get that windfall. And I’m sure an attorney maybe, um would have taken that case, not this one. And I said, Well, yeah, I can’t mediate that, cause I know in this case I can’t be neutral because I just want to smack you upside exactly. But this is what will happen if you don’t make a plan. If you don’t make a plan, you don’t write it down. You don’t appoint the caregivers and let them know. I mean, don’t say Okay, Well, Susie said she would do it, and Jones said she’d do it. You have to sit Suzie down and Joan down and say, Listen, this is the plan I’ve made. Are you willing to be part of it? Yes or no? So that’s make a plan. Address the needs of the pets. So you gonna say whether they’re afraid of thunder? Lightning appoint caregivers, and only one can be a family member and the 4th 1 should be a rescue. Either a breed specific rescue or arrest you where you got the dog and the last one is the most important one. Can you guess what it is? I’m not sure I could publish if you make it and stick it in a drawer and nobody knows it’s there. It’s as if you did nothing. So you need to publish it with your vet. You need to publish it with your attorney. You need to publish it with all the caregivers, your family, anyone, the rescue. If if the rescue is one of the people you’ve appointed to take, you need to give them this so that you have redundancy in care taking because everybody says they’re gonna take care of your pet until push comes to show. And then you need to have redundancy. So Chris Eddie do it, but he can’t. So then it’s good that Mary knows that Chris Chris was supposed to do it. Chris knows if he can’t do it, Mary’s gonna do. It’s a heated pool mayor because he wants your pet to have redundancy in their care. Otherwise, they’re heading back to the rescue and is that guys want No now for rescues who want to know where the pet goes. I always tell the people who take my blueprint program tell the rescue. Here’s the document. You are one of the, um, people who will get the dog back. Now, if you want me to put you first, that’s fine. But I would really appreciate you going to marry or Joan or Steve to place fluffy with them because, well, if he knows them and you don’t really need another dog in your you know, your cadre of dogs, you’re rescuing some new dog. And this dog knows these people. These people are willing to take it. They’re willing to sign whatever contract you want them to sign so that the dog will come back to you if in fact you know they can take care of it. But it it just takes a little forethought until it sampled. So I’m curious. I mean, being an attorney, talk about the enforceability of something like this because I think that’s morning that things that people always worry about while the enforceability is clear. So what you want to do is you want to write it with um, the respect of your attorney. So I always say, I don’t ever write anything that is not available to an attorney to review and in your will and in your testamentary planning both your living will and you’re dead, will I always say, because I’m not a trust in the state’s attorney, nor do I ever want to be, uh, you want to refer to this map program, which means that you don’t to pay your eternal change it when you write it today and you’re 30 years old or 40 years old, which you should. I don’t care who you are. People have accidents. Pete’s things happen to people when their own now and you really need I am invincible. Until I broke my ankle. I mean, I really was invincible until I broke my ankle. And what did I have? A come to Jesus moment. Holy Toledo. What do I do? I really need to make these plans now 2030 40. And you need to sit down with your attorney who doesn’t know anything about this. So every state allows a pet trust every state. So you say, Ernie, I’d like a pep trust. It’s funded with about $1000. Because that’s what the attorneys say to me when I give luncheon learns, well, how much money do they have to fund it with? And I said, Well, not a lot because the person is taking their path is not taking it for the cash pale. They’re taking it for the transition payments. So to get the dog from point A to point B 1000 bucks should do it, no matter who it is. You should always have somebody who’s close by and then somebody maybe who’s far we’ll take it for the long term. But you really need to set that all up, walk into your attorney and say, I’d like to make a pet trust and in the pet trust, I’d like to put $1000 that is, to fund the map program, and the map plan is here in my hand, and I will give it to you and I may update it. When I update it, I’ll give you a new one. But the map program is only by reference because you want to be able to change it because our dogs change our dogs, take medication. They didn’t take medication When Rover, before my friend moved from a four acre home to a townhouse that doesn’t allow dogs. All these things happen. You need to be proactive and prepare. So at the end, I always say, Not only should you publish it, but you want to stick an s on the end. You need to schedule a review every single year and everybody goes, Oh, my God. It took the forever to fill this out and find these caregivers and know all the crap I have to do for my dogs and write it down. Oh, yes. But otherwise they’re left adrift. They’re completely left adrift. And if you think somebody knows exactly what you would do, they don’t. And as we talked about being able to allow people to do their best, they may not be able to take care of the dog the way you would. I had a woman call me who had seven people, none of whom she would feel comfortable leaving her dog with. And I said, So you have no one. She goes now because they you know, they don’t walk the dog they left out in the backyard. And this one doesn’t let it out in the backyard. They walk the dog and he just wasn’t perfect. Gonna go. Okay, so I get it that nobody sees you. All right? I guess nobody’s you. But is this person they have a good heart? Are they trustworthy? Will they do their best for your pet? And will they follow your directives and the people you choose? Interesting. Well, I absolutely love the map program. I think it’s amazing. I love what you’ve done and I love your journey to get here. It’s such an interesting story. So is there anything else you want to share their listeners before we wrap things up? Well, I just would love to have them look at my website. There’s a lot of free videos on YouTube that they can watch when they get involved in conflict at about the map program, because this is all about us working together. And that’s why I don’t litigate any longer because I am on a mission. You and I talked about it before. It’s great if you can sit down in a room and talk to your adversary and actually listen and be listened to. And sometimes you’re in a place where that is just not gonna happen. Maybe consider hiring a mediator if they’ll take the case. If not, call my office and have them help. You have that conversation because the animals are gonna benefit. If, in fact, you will row the boat in the same direction. If you are sticking your oar in to make sure that the other or can’t go in a certain direction not helpful. Worse if you take the or out of the locks and start beating somebody over the head with it because they’re not listening to you. Not good. So we’re all in this because we love animals. And that’s foremost why. I mean, when I started this practice, my husband said that you make so much more in litigation and ago, yes, and my heart is being ripped out of my body, so I’m making much less. But I’m helping people help animals because my focus, when I’m in the room mediating or when I’m helping to make the map program is the animal. That’s my focus, and I’m helping them recognize that that is their focus to and is their adversaries. Focus. It’s just defined differently and have we all get to a place where the animal is the most important thing in the conversation. Yep. Very well, said Deborah. Well, thank you so much for coming on the program today. We appreciate it. Oh, Chris, thank you for having me. And I look forward. If we could get together again to talk about other things. Love to see you again. Absolutely. Thanks ever. Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast. If you’re not already a member, joined the Air P A. To take advantage of all the resources we have to offer. And don’t forget to sign up with do bert dot com. It’s free and helps automate the most difficult tasks in animal rescue.

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