Although Peter Pumpkin was the product of an "oops litter," he had a good life. His owner kept Peter and his littermates after their birth and they had a loving home for many, many years. Then Peter's owner got sick. Although she paid someone to take care of her dogs when she went into the hospital for an extended stay, the dogs were left unattended and were in serious danger. Fortunately, someone noticed--and the police and animal control got involved.
Rescue groups stepped up and Peter eventually found his way to SHUG. This week Peter goes to his new forever home. Although his story is once again back on track for a happy ending, it illustrates how precarious our pets' existence can be. They depend on us . . . and there are some circumstances in which we can't be there for them.
In Peter's case, his mom made arrangements for her dogs' care and things still almost came to a tragic end. Do you have a plan in place if something were to happen to you? Is there a backup? And what if the unthinkable happened?
This question may seem silly or make you think of eccentric millionaires who leave ridiculous trust funds for their cats, but it's actually a very serious concern. The answer should be YES! Just like your children should have a guardian named in your will, so should your furry babies. Otherwise if the worst happens, the pets you love might end up in dire straits.
When making arrangements for your pets in your will, here are a few things to consider:
If you adopted from a rescue group, they will usually take their dogs back--and often insist their dogs come back if the original owner can't care for them. Keep adoption information with your will or with your medical directive. It’s never a bad idea to maintain contact with your original group. If you’re a SHUGer Momma or Daddy, you can stay in touch via email or our private Facebook group (if not a member, send us an email). SHUG will always take back a dog in the event of your death or if you are incapacitated. If you have other Sighthounds, we can step in and rehome them as well.
If you purchased your dog from a breeder, there might be a similar clause in your contract. Again, keep that information in your documents. If the breeder won’t or can’t accept the dog back, consider contacting a breed rescue in your area. See if you can make arrangements for them to accept your dog should something happen to you in the future.
You might also consider setting aside a small amount of money for the care of your pet after you’re gone, or giving a donation to the designated rescue group.
Some other thoughts:
Discuss with your family members or friends about their willingness to take your pets if you pass away. Make sure you include your intentions in your will or other documentation. For good measure, make sure your trustee is aware. Remember, some groups – including SHUG – ask that you get permission before a dog we’ve adopted out is rehomed. And keep in mind that a person's willingness to take on your dog if you pass today may not translate to an ability to do so in the future. By that time their circumstances may have changed. Always have a backup plan!
And just like with the other arrangements you make in your will, review your plans annually. Update vet and medical information, add new pets, and any information that someone caring for your animals would need to know. Even if the care is just temporary, having this information in one place will help if disaster strikes.
If you’re going to need to have your pets temporarily housed while you’re incapacitated for some reason and you’ve got time to plan ahead, make sure you’re choosing a qualified, credible option, such as a reputable kennel. Consider appointing a sort of “doggie guardian,” who can check on your pets when you can’t. Not only does that ensure you’re dogs are being well taken care of – unlike Peter Pumpkin’s situation – but it will relieve your mind and let you concentrate on getting healthy again.
Be sure to check with your attorney or estate planner on how to ensure your last wishes for your beloved pets are followed. There are also a number of books you can buy that will walk you through the basics. One we recommend is the Quick & Legal Will Book by Denis Clifford.
It isn't fun to think that we may not always be able to care for our precious pups, but we owe it to them to ensure their health and happiness.