Updated: Nov 20, 2019
Making placement plans for your pets should you pass before them is not an easy topic to discuss. It's something no one really wants or thinks to talk about at any given time. But please do not assume that your family will take care of your pets just because "they know how much my babies mean to me." Just because you love your pets with all your heart, doesn't mean your family will or can automatically care for them should something happen to you.
We at Woody's Place Senior German Shepherd Sanctuary get many requests from families to place a senior German Shepherd belonging to a loved one who has passed away. Often and unfortunately, the family can not take in the now-abandoned dog for reasons such as:
Their lifestyle does not permit it.
They already have a dog who does not get along with other dogs.
Someone in the home is allergic to dogs.
They never agreed to take the dog.
It's sad but true.
Now, imagine your the dog. You're up in years, so you're a bit achy, slow, and have some difficulties, seeing, hearing, and getting around, but your human loved you so, always took care of you and made sure you were comfortable. You were happy with your human and your daily routine. Then one day, you wake up, your human is gone, and now there is someone stopping by once in the morning and once at night to feed you and take you out to potty, but that's it. The rest of the day the house is quiet and dark. You're scared and lonely, so you start to panic and tear up carpets and pillows. Plus, you can't wait all day to go potty, so you potty in the house. Then when the person arrives, they yell at you for having an accident inside and tearing up the carpet and pillows. You don't mean to misbehave, but your life has changed so much that this is what you do. You just want your human back, but that doesn't happen. Unfortunately, this is an all too realistic scenario.
Now you can see why it's essential to have that tough conversation with your family and make sure they are on board with taking your pets should you pass before them no matter what age your pets are and how healthy you may or may not be. Even if your family absolutely can not take your pets if you should pass before them, then there are steps you can take to ensure that they don't end up in a cold, loud, over-crowded, scary shelter, such as:
Have two trusted friends lined up to care for your pets.
Work with an attorney to create a trust fund for your pets, and appoint a permanent caretaker to care for them.
Consider an organization that, for a fee, will provide care and housing for your pets until they find them a good home.
It's also important to put in writing a letter of instructions to ensure that the transition for your pets from their home to a new home goes as smoothly as possible. Some things to consider:
The habits of each pet
Food and feeding schedule
Veterinary care information
List of medications and medical conditions.
Preferences such as good with other pets, not good with small children, pulls on the leash or is scared of thunderstorms.
Furthermore, life can be cruel, and sometimes unexpected things happen, so it doesn't hurt to give a friend or family member a key to your home in case something suddenly should happen to you so that they can care for your pets in the interim. Also, carry a piece of paper in your wallet or purse stating you have pets at home, the type, age, etc. So if something happens to you when you are away from home, someone can check on them.
Most importantly, think ahead, have that conversation about who would take your pets if you are no longer able to, and plan, plan, plan. It is uncomfortable to discuss, and no one wants to think about it, but do you want your faithful, loyal, loving pets to end up in an already over-crowded shelter where they will be mourning the loss of their owner and be scared and confused. If you love your pets, then please, take the time to plan and have that talk with your family, friends, or an attorney and caregiver.'
By Nancy Fedich & Dawn Mimnaugh