In the event of an emergency, my dog goes to …
If I was a beer drinker, Busch’s three-month beer offer for dog fostering would no entice me. I can’t stand beer though. If a company that sells Merlot or Whiskey Sour mix started handing out offers, I’m in. Regardless of liquor preferences, the bigger point is there’s an uptick in companies trying to help dog shelters find homes for pets — whether it’s permanent adoption or temporary fostering due to coronavirus (which has currently infected 122,653 people and lead to 2,112 deaths, according to CDC).
Maybe the idea of fostering or adopting (another) dog is not of interest to you. But it does bring up a question that you, as a dog owner, should be able to answer: Where would your dog go in the event of an emergency? For quite a few families, that’s an easy answer. The dog would stay with the husband or wife, or maybe the mom or dad. But what about dog owners who are living with roommates who are more or less tolerating the dog but wouldn’t want to own it outright? What about that relative who can’t care for your dog even if it’s just a short trip out of town? Are you prepared for your dog’s care in the event that you have to leave for an extended period of time — or you know, worse?
When someone first gets a dog, they’re so caught up in all the new responsibilities regarding him or her that they often ignore this detail for the rest of the dog care checklist: spaying or neutering, vaccinations, dog food, treats, obedience classes, crates, beds and blankets, toys, etc. It’s a lot that goes into preparing for a new dog to enter one’s home.
Playing and walking the dog is the easiest part. Hanging out and cuddling with your dog while watching TV? You can nail that in your sleep — literally. The life span of a dog is about 10 to 13 years, and maybe longer for small breeds like Chihuahuas. But unfortunately, the dog owner doesn’t always outlive the dog. (I’ve cough-cried my way through “Hachi” — based on the real-life story of the Japanese Akita dog Hachikō — enough to know this.)
Do you think you know the answer to this already? Stop reading this post long enough to text, call or email the person that you think would permanently take care of your dog. Wait for the answer. Then come back to this post.
You have your answer? Good. Now whether you’re pleased or pissed at the answer this person gave you, respect that this person is honest (hopefully). The last thing you want is for someone to lie to your face (or digital screen) about how your dog will be taken care of when it’s probably not going to happen. As a dog boarder, walker and sitter, I’ve seen enough roommates, college kids, spouses and in-laws that looked perfectly capable of physically walking a dog and just didn’t want to. I’ve known enough dog owners over the years, including relatives, whose spouses or children just didn’t want the responsibility of owning the dog. It’s one of the most popular reasons why families (or singles) end up putting their dogs up for adoption or giving them away. It’s a bigger responsibility than even they imagined.
I can tell you with absolute certainty that there are five dogs (of 76 so far) who I would say “yes” to before the full question could be asked. Easily. No questions asked. When do I pick him/her up? I don’t even need dog food, dog toys, water bowls, dog treats, dog blankets, or a leash; I already have them. Don’t count out the dog sitter, dog boarder or dog walker as a potential candidate for your dog’s emergency contact.
While I wouldn’t recommend just handing the dog over to any old body who walked the dog once or twice, if you’ve established a relationship between the dog care expert, why not? On the flip side, I can easily admit with absolute certainty that there are a few dogs I’ve walked who I’d give a definite “no” to if asked to foster or adopt. And I’m saying that as someone who has loved dogs since I was in fourth grade. Walking a dog for 30 minutes to an hour is one thing. Owning that same dog(s) is a totally different responsibility. Don’t just assume you know who would agree to it, even when it comes to dog care professionals. You should always ask first.
There is no one-size-fits-all choice for your dog’s emergency contact. For everyone, it will be different. But make sure you ask the question for your dog the same as you would for your child(ren). If anything ever happened to you, you should want your dog to immediately be cared for in your absence.