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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pet Planning for the Unthinkable:
10 Steps to Peace of Mind

by Carrie Boyko, CEB
© All Things Dog Blog
My Mom with Oliver and Jacque

The idea of this topic may turn your stomach. A while back when hubby and I made a plan out for our inevitable, it included our pets' care, just in case.  After all, I can't imagine living without a pet. Tanner, Oliver and Patches are an integral part of my day, so I don't see myself moving in the direction of a pet-free home. If you're on that same plane, you may want to think about who and how your furry friend will be cared for when your time comes.

I'm probably a bit closer than most of you to this point, so I've done the planning. It was awkward, and required more thought than I expected. But I feel better about having done it, now that a plan is in place.  Here are some of the questions you'll need to answer, when putting your wishes down on paper:

  1. First and foremost, before you can devise a plan that spells out who and how they will care for Fluffy or Fido or Feathers, you'll need to detail the level of care you require. In other words, what are the absolutes, those things you can't bear to think about your pet going without in his days after you leave.
  2. Thankfully, the answers to #1 were left to me. Although my husband loves our pets dearly, he may have considered a bowl of chow and a patch of grass to be all that the dogs require. I had a lot more in mind when it came to the details of their days, so I suggest you and your significant other decide who is to make the decision, or how you will compromise on the fine points.
  3. Take some time to make notes about the daily and periodic care that you provide to your pets. This will help you in itemizing a list of requirements that will ultimately lead to your decisions about who and how.
  4. If your list gets out of control like mine did, be ready to ask yourself what is reasonable to your likely designated caregiver. Considering their needs, time and affection for your pet(s) is important to making it work out well for both.
  5. If you have multiple pets and multiple caregivers in mind, your pets may have a better outcome than if you expect to land them all together in one home and get the care you desire. Maybe your granddaughter is up to the task, but not many of your friends or relatives will have the time, energy or affection you require if asked to care for multiple pets.
  6. On a case by case list, describe the daily routine, food brand/flavor, veterinary care, exercise, affection and environment (indoor/outdoor/crated or not, etc) that you expect. Leave no details out that will haunt you later. Better to over-plan than leave it to another's imagination.
  7. Every plan for the future involves money. It's inevitable. Take your list above and determine what a year's worth of care should cost; then take a stab at estimating how many years may be required. Keep in mind things like boarding or petsitters when your replacement is away. Consider their schedule and whether a regular back up needs to be settled on. Look at every likely pitfall and plan for it financially. And finally, you'll have to estimate your pet's lifespan excessively to assure you leave enough of a cushion to give him the lifestyle you're requesting. Will dog walkers or a daily pet sitter stopover be required? What about medical needs? Grooming, bedding, toys, leashes, sweaters and carriers...don't miss a thing.
  8. Now it's time to have those dreaded discussions with the potential caregivers you've likely chosen during the process of spelling out the care required. Keep in mind this is not an interview. If they do not want the job, move on!
  9. What happens if none of your friends or family want to take on your furry friend? This is the impasse I cannot imagine. Consider a beloved pet sitter, veterinary assistant or neighborhood pet lover. With a small compensation, you may find the right fit for Fido. No, it's not perfect; but it is a plan that could work out well once your pet and his new caregiver bond. You'll have to find someone in whom you have that belief.
  10. Once you've settled on a figure and a person for each pet, ask your attorney for assistance in adding this to your will and/or trust, along with your instructions and the financial legalities
This is not a plan you should enter into lightly. On the contrary, I recommend you take several months to contemplate the pros and cons of each decision. As costly as it is to change your legal documents on a whim, the caregiver decision could get sticky if you decide to change your mind later. Think it through carefully before having the eventual discussion with your chosen ones. 

How will you know you've made the right decisions? When all was said and done, I sat with Tanner and Oliver and looked deep into their eyes. Somehow I knew then that it will all be okay. I hope you'll feel the same about your decisions.


Lori Miller said...

This is a great post that draws attention to an important topic. I've often thought about how I would need to make arrangements to have the Jacks taken care of to *MY* standard of care.

Carrie, with Tanner and Oliver said...

@Lori: Sounds like you're already on the right track. Making those decisions is the first step to acting on them.

Sage said...

It's something everyone should think about, no matter what the age. We've designated in a current will who would take our guys when the time comes.

FANCY the Red Standard Poodle said...

Hi Y'all,

This is a subject my Humans have been discussing and working on too. Evidently my Human has willing people who she does not want to leave me with and one questionable family who may not want me depending on their own pet when the time comes.

Just hopped by to catch up on your happenings and say hello! Have a great week!

Y'all come by now,
Hawk aka BrownDog

Carrie, with Tanner and Oliver said...

@Hawk: There are definitely many angles to consider when contemplating a caregiver for a loved one, furry or otherwise. Best wishes to your human!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this post with us. I've never thought about this until today. :) So thank you very much once again. This was really helpful :) Take care! I was Blog Hopping and found you!

Carrie, with Tanner and Oliver said...

@fluffypopcorn: So glad to have you hop by. Please stop again and often! I've got to check out your site; what a cool sounding name.

Brando and Bogart said...

Great information, Thank You for sharing!! With all the weather and other emergency's that are possible!

Anonymous said...

Hey it's Jet here. I don't even want to think about this, showed Mom... she said valuable info...

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