Aging Parents, Older Pets: Who’s Going To Care For Fido or Fluffy?

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Guest post by Blog Manager Robbi Hess

Photo 1 (3)My almost-80-year-old mother broke two ribs last Thursday… What does this have to do with BlogPaws? She has an almost 13-year-old Chihuahua, half blind, mostly deaf, never-overly-friendly to strangers, named Chico. As my mom was in the hospital discussions started between my siblings as to "who's going to take care of Chico?"

Prior to my arriving at the hospital it was determined that one sibling couldn't take him because his Mastiff prefers to be the only dog in the house, another sibling said, "we could either take him to the pound or have him put to sleep…" What?! First off, what are the chances of a dog his age,and let's face it his attitude, and health issues getting adopted? Probably none. Putting him to sleep because our mom might be laid up for a while and be unable to walk him? Really?!

Even though I currently have two dogs (and Henrietta does not take kindly to new dogs), four cats and a baby bearded dragon the choice was a no-brainer: Chico would come and live with us. 

Chico was my dad's dog and he never really cared for anyone else in the family. When my dad passed away earlier this year, Chico eventually bonded with my mother. He has been through a lot in this past year; and now he is moved into our home aka zoo, confused, scared and probably wondering where "his" family went. Chico is also accustomed to living with rather quiet adults and having no other pets in the house — this is a major adjustment for him. 

All of this got me thinking: What arrangements do you, or your family, have in place for caring for a family pet if the owner no longer can? Is taking him or her to the pound an option? Would you have him
Photo 2 (2) put to sleep because he's an inconvenience? I know from my own experience, facing breast cancer surgery, I made certain that my family would commit to keeping Henrietta if something happened to me during surgery. I needed to know she would be cared for by people who understood her quirks and her need to be the queen of the castle. 

What can you do — today — to make certain your pets or the pets of family members are cared for in the event of a life-changing emergency? Here are my tips: 

  • Have a family meeting. Since I am dealing with an aging parent my siblings and I probably should have talked with my mom beforehand to talk about arrangements for Chico. 
  • Make certain all family members know which veterinarian the animal usually goes to and has access to the vet records. 
  • Does the pet need certain types of food? Does he eat at a specific time of day? 
  • Does the pet have any medical issues or the need for injections or medications? If you're going to take him into your home you need to be prepared for the care involved. 
  • What are the pet's exercise needs? If you're accustomed to caring for a poodle and are all of a sudden faced with caring for a Lab are you up to the different challenges it may bring? 
  • If you're going to be the family member charged with taking on the responsibility of this new pet, why not do a few trial run weekends and bring her to your house. That way, your pets can meet her and if something happens and the new pet comes to live with you it won't be a completely unfamiliar environment. 

Bottom line: A pet is a lifelong commitment, not one to be brushed off once a family medical emergency arises. Do I have a "relationship" with Chico? Not really. He liked being with "his" humans and we were not those humans. Do I feel that this poor dog has been through enough loss and changes this past year and that he deserves to be cared for until my mother can care for him again? You bet I do. Do I know that my mother can rest easy and recuperate knowing we are caring for Chico just as she would? Again, you bet I do. Do I think that my mom's recovery may have been hindered if she'd had to cope with the idea of having lost her dog — her last connection to my dad — because of her injury? Yes. 

Please, don't wait. Talk to your family today and make arrangements for your pets in case something happens to you or to an aging parent. Making decisions while in crisis mode is not the way to operate. 

 

  • http://mariodacat.blogspot.com/ mariodacat

    Bless your heart for doing the right thing. This kind of thing happens all to often. Before we adopted Mario, I asked our daughter if she would take our cat should something to us. She said she would depending on if her cats would get along with him. Well, Mario is now 8 years old (we think) and so far we haven’t needed an alternative living situation for him. It would kill me to know we had to give him up and not know for sure he was being cared for and loved. Great post – one we all need to read.

  • http://Www.swissideasinbulk.ch Claire

    Great post, thank you !

  • http://emmysits.blogspot.com Emmy Scammahorn

    Great post, Robbi. There’s a woman in Arizona who works with seniors on this very issue. She meets with them in advance of illness and learns about their pet. They arrange for their pet to stay with her in times of trouble. Thanks for starting the discussion.

  • http://www.robbihess.com Robbi

    Thank you for your kind comments. I just know it would have broken my mom’s heart to think her dog would be put down because of her injury. Chico is settling in here and we take him to visit mom every few days — it’s great for both of them.

  • https://www.blogpaws.com Yvonne DiVita

    I’m wondering if anyone we know has an actual document, or will, assigning action to what will happen to their pets, in the event…of you know what. Thoughts?

  • http://www.sparklecat.com Sparkle

    My human will have to deal with this with her dad eventually because his two cats will almost assuredly outlive him – he’s 94 and they’re 8. We already know they will not be a good fit with us (don’t ask! It is mostly MY fault), so if she cannot find another home for them down where we live, there are two options: see if the rescue they originally came from will take them back (ALWAYS check with the rescue, if that is where the pet originally came from – often they will take them back), or failing that, there is a respected cat sanctuary a few hours away that will take them for a fee, which fortunately she can afford to pay. My human is sad we can’t do more for them, but it’s the best we have.

  • http://www.DashKitten.com Harvey Button

    We have an ongoing series of posts at DashKitten.com after seeing an endless series of ‘owner decease’ emergencies go by on FB and Twitter.
    Every article, every blog post helps spread the word about thinking about YOUR PETS if anything happens to YOU.

  • http://www.DashKitten.com Harvey Button

    PS Forgot to say. In the event of Mum and Dad dying at the same time – they have made Wills. THIS IS VITAL. Families don’t always do what you want them to, or even tell them to – the victim is not them, the victim is your pet. Families can become quite toxic when money/property is involved – pets need protection.
    Your wishes need to be defined in writing, in a legal document – a WILL. It’s not scary, it needs to be fronted up to, and it needs to be done, and it should ensure the safety of your animal. Ensure your Executor has specific instructions for any animal you have as part of your family – executors have been known to dump animals in kill shelters. (We just had a colleague do a blog post on Executors) http://dashkitten.com/2126/estate-planning-being-an-executor-for-pets/

  • http://www.roccoshouse.com/ Andrea

    Actually, right now we have a guest-pug at our house for pretty much the same reason you listed above. Only it’s not my aging parent, but a client of the groom shop I work with that has no family at all. He arranged with me to have the dog cared for should anything happen to him, and so when he ended up being hospitalized (thankfully he’s recovering and doing well!) Dayzee never went a day without. 🙂

  • http://www.fidoseofreality.com Carol Bryant

    You need a trust for your dog – very important topic and thank GOD you helped with Chico. I have seen this happen to countless numbers of people and I even had to help someone get their dog a new home because of it.

  • http://mycrazycanines.blogspot.com/ Jody Green

    I tend to adopt older dogs who have lost their humans. It’s often not easy as the dogs may never relate fully to its new family. But at least I know they’re being cared for and loved. I just hope someone does the same for me one day.