You Were Always on My Mind

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I am the sole caregiver for my pets, so if something happens to me their well-being is in jeopardy, since my two brothers are not dog lovers. While I am in good health, accidents or the unexpected can occur. I had a caregiver in mind, but circumstances have changed. Older pets languish the longest in shelters, and my dogs are twelve, seven and six years old and are more likely to be put down. This Reuters Money article says:

“This is not a unique situation, most ordinary pet owners want to provide for their pets should they become incapacitated or die. An estimated 500,000 pets are euthanized every year at shelters and at veterinarians as a result of pet owners predeceasing their pets.  “Many people outlive their pets, and they assume that relatives or friends will step in if something happens to them,” says Scottsdale, Arizona estate planning attorney and pet owner Joel Klinge. “Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.”

CNN had a great article about planning ahead and I have taken the liberty of paraphrasing most of it.

• Create a pet care plan — and share it.

  • Write a detailed list of everything associated with caring for your pet, such as dietary restrictions, favorite toys and even temperament issues, medication and vet. This information will help you determine who is best suited for caring for your pet. Of course you need to discuss it with the individual. Don’t minimize the amount of care your animals require.  Most important of all, gain their consent.  Don’t assume that your family will want to take care of your dog or cat.  Also it is best to have more than one person picked out. Life happens, and circumstances change.

• Consider setting aside money for pet expenses.

  • Pets are expensive, there is no getting around this. While most individuals love animals, in today’s economic climate many people just can’t afford them. It is sound practice to make sure that the individual you select to care for your animals has the money to do so.

• Do the legal legwork.

  • First rule of thumb, put it in writing. Depending on your state, you can provide for your pet in a will, contract or pet trust.  A pet trust is the most costly since it establishes a trustee who then makes payments to the caregiver. You do have to designate a trustee, backup trustee, caregiver, and backup caregiver. However, the trust makes sure that your pets are cared for in case of a contested will. ASPCA has a list of states here.

• Consult an attorney or estate planner.

  • Laws vary from state to state.

– Emergency Contact List

  • Carry an emergency contact list in your wallet or purse that includes friends or neighbors who can quickly reach your pets. Medical personnel then know that you have animals and can notify the correct individuals.

Petfinder’s also has an article that addresses these issues.  They even have an example of a will.  Also mentioned is:

  • Post removable “in case of emergency” notices on your doors or windows specifying how many and what types of pets you have for emergency personnel. They recommend not using permanent stickers because many firefighters assume that they are old and outdated.
  • Affix to the inside of your front and back doors a removable notice listing emergency contact names and phone numbers in addition to the information in your wallet.

Don’t let the words of  Willie’s  song “little things I should have said and done” impact your pets.

If you have pets, have you already planned ahead insuring their welfare?  If so, I would love to hear about it.  If you haven’t yet finalized any plans do you think it is something you will do in the future?

– Leigh AAR

6 thoughts on “You Were Always on My Mind

  1. maggie b.

    This is a great topic to discuss. In my family we always had pets growing up but none of us do as adults. Expense and time are the main culprits there. That is why I think it is important to talk to people about pet care – not everyone can accept a pet, no matter how much they care about the person leaving them behind. In my case, I am allergic and have other family issues that would make taking a pet impossible. I had to make that clear to a friend who thought she could dump her cat on me after she tired of him.

    May I also add that responsible pet care includes life time (and clearly beyond) commitment? The stories of exotic pets dumped in locations where they then destroy the natural balance are deeply disturbing, such as the tale of the python in the everglades. People need to learn that living things are not toys. You can’t just dispose of them when you are bored.

    maggie b.

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  2. LeeB.

    Excellent column Leigh! I never even thought about taking care of pets as they get older but it certainly makes sense.

    And Maggie, yep, it is sad about exotic pets being dumped. Unfortunately, even regular pets are dumped.

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  3. Bessie

    I’m still sad thinking about an older co-worker who died. When I went to the funeral home, I asked about her older dog, Peppy Joy. They said that the dog had been euthanized and the ashes had been tucked inside of Clara’s casket. Obviously she had made this arrangement ahead of time–but I am ambivalent about it. I think all of us believe that nobody could take care of our pets as well as we do–and that the pet would be heartbroken if we suddenly disappeared. But I would want my dog to survive–especially if I could find someone who wanted to take her in. My sister did that 8 years ago. Her friend died of a brain tumor. She had three dogs that she had to find homes for. N.G. was the last one. When my sister agreed to adopt her, Shirley died within the week.

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