Does your dog have a goddad or godmom?
At the start of this year, I received an email from a dog client, wanting to know if I could dogsit three dogs — one of which I’d previously sat for and boarded. I adore this dog, although she steals my yoga mat. I hadn’t met the other two but found out they were a Yellow Lab and a Mutt. Everything in my heart said, “Accept! Accept!” Then my brain had to ruin everything. In a condo, a large dog is a lot all by herself. And in a COVID-19 environment, I am far too paranoid to housesit anymore. (It’s not fun to unpack and repack your whole home for weeks either and much easier to just have the dog come to you.)
I put up quite the fight to get the pet restriction removed from our condo Rules and Regulations. In fact, I didn’t even want to buy the condo I did because I only wanted to live in a pet-friendly environment. But the truth is everyone who wants a dog isn’t always responsible enough to own a dog. And there is a good reason that there are size restrictions in multi-unit buildings. Realistically, having three large dogs in my medium-sized condo could undo all the work I did to test out easing up the anti-pet policy. I grudgingly turned the job down, but not before I reminded her that I’d happily board the yoga mat thief. I love that funny dog.
When people get a dog, their whole goal is to keep that dog for the entirety of its life. Not too many think about who will watch a dog once they’re unavailable (ex. vacation, job loss, move, sickness), but it’s right around the time that a dog needs to be left with someone that this should start to sink in. If someone like me, who would love to live exactly how rapper Da Brat does and have a house full of dogs, can’t do it, then chances are there will be others who want to but realistically cannot always take on the responsibility of your vacation, never mind dog ownership. So does your dog already have an emergency pet contact?
In a dog’s lifespan, a family could have as many as 2,000 arguments over everything from cleanup duty to training to the dog’s whereabouts during vacations. Oddly enough, none of the top 20 human versus pet arguments include who’s left in charge should the pet owner pass away naturally or how to handle a pet during an emergency.
Why? Approximately six of 10 American adults have no will or living trust, reports the American Association of Retired Persons. Some are in denial about the importance of a will, feel only wealthy people need one or just aren’t ready to make vital life decisions. So thinking about the family pet emergencies is more than likely another topic that could be dodged altogether.
For the pet who comes from a family instead of a single owner, it’s easy enough to leave the dog in their hands. But what happens when no plan is set up or the other family members simply have no interest in taking care of a dog that was the four-legged love of the owner’s life? The pet owner should have a pet emergency kit and a guardian (dog mother/dog father) already set up. Here’s how.
Create a pet emergency kit (checklist via FEMA):
- Cleaning supplies (i.e., newspapers, paper towels, plastic trash bags)
- Collar with ID tag, harness or leash
- Crate or pet carrier
- Eco-friendly cleaning supplies (Note: While FEMA recommends bleach, that can be harmful to inhale and the dog may accidentally ingest)
- First aid kit
- Legal papers (i.e., registration information, adoption papers, vaccination documents, medical records)
- Medicine and medical record
- Pet litter (or litter box)
- Picture of owner with family pet (Should be recent in case “missing” handouts need to be distributed)
Ready.gov also gives advice on how to prepare for emergencies, including caring for a pet after a disaster strikes, tips and cold weather guidelines for large animals, and preparing shelter for a dog.
One of the tips includes what to do should the pet get separated from the owner. In the worst case scenario, this includes what should happen to the family pet if the owner doesn’t survive. When planning this out, here are a couple more things to keep in mind.
Do not assume a family member or friend wants the pet. Ask. No one wants to have a living being dumped on them by force or guilt. The recipient of the pet should not only be fully aware of the responsibility but also get along well with the pet. Dogs can go through a mourning period once they realize their owner is really never coming back. Common reactions include loss of appetite, lowered water intake, sluggish response to human interaction, none or little interest in physical or play activity, and howling, according to Cesar’s Way. They will need someone reliable and comforting to get them through these moments.
Make sure the family member or friend can afford pet care. Expenses for a dog can cost as much as $1,580 the first year $1,035 for a cat, according to Daily Infographic. Dogs are great for fitness and a general boost in confidence, but they are not free of bills. Make sure the “dog mother” or “dog father” can comfortably afford those bills. And if not, set aside funds in the will to make sure the animal is financially taken care of for his/her estimated lifespan.
Parts of this post were originally written by Shamontiel and published on the Opie & Dixie blog.