Tuesday, June 05, 2012

What happens to a pet when its human dies?

Pets grieve. There have been numerous documentations of wild animals mourning deaths within their midst, and then there is this personal observation.

My mother passed recently and I took my Scottish terrier, Maggie, in to see the body. The pair had been buddies, and I wanted the dog to understand that her friend was gone. A brief sniff of the hand, and Maggie turned away.

A short time later the family gathered in the foyer with Maggie sitting in the middle, watching as the gurney was wheeled out and loaded into a waiting van. As the vehicle pulled out of the driveway, Maggie uttered a brief, “Owww.”

She then went to my father, sat down and looked up at him. He reached down to pet her and she laid her head on the wheel of his walker. She had never done this before, always having shied away from him unless Pop had a treat in his hand. That day, she stayed near my dad, lying at his feet and leaning against his leg. Maggie is lucky as she still has a family and a home.

We all know it may happen, but how many of us have made provisions for our pets in case we die before they do? The passing of a human loved one is stressful enough for family members, but it is also a significant change in the life of any pet left behind. Many of these animals are dumped at shelters because their humans have not planned ahead. Some are just released outside by selfish relatives and left to fend for themselves, something the animal has never had to do especially if it had always been indoors. Imagine the terror, hunger and danger it faces. We see these poor animals all too frequently showing up at our feral cat feeding stations or lying dead on the road.

Often the pets sent to shelters are elderly themselves and not considered adoptable. They suddenly find themselves tucked into a small cage with just the basics of food, water, litter box, and maybe a toy. Strangers come by and look in their cages. Some of the animals are shy and shrink back in fear; others may become aggressive, neither of which presents a very positive response for those looking to adopt. Depression often sets in. Many are given the needle.

These thoughts are always in the back of my mind, wondering what will happen to my own cats and dog should I suddenly die. I have gone so far as to ask a couple of trusted friends if they would take my pets if need be, but that’s as far as I’ve gone. One of these friends is making plans to move out of state, so now what?

Haven’t we all laughed when the news splashes stories of wealthy persons leaving large amounts of money to a beloved pet? In retrospect, this shows just how caring the deceased was and actually makes a lot of sense.

We all should be proactive and search for friends and/or family that will promise to take our pets. Preferably, it should be someone the animal knows and is comfortable with. To sweeten the deal, a pet care trust can be written allowing for your estate to cover all needs until the animal’s death, something I’ve just found out about. Here is a great website offering affordable pet care trusts written by reputable attorneys at www.trustedpetpartners.com. These trusts are valid in 46 states and can cover all your pets, should you have more than one.

Too late to make this a New Year’s resolution, but it’s never too late to take a personal pledge. Knowing your furry, scaly, or feathered friend will be well cared for after you are gone should be enticement enough to get you moving on this.

Product of the Week: Sunny Seat, the awesome window mounted cat bed, has been in constant use since I installed it in my foster kitten room. Whether it’s holding a litter of kittens or a single adult soaking up the sun and watching the world outside, it’s the purrfect addition for any home with cats.

The roomy shelf installs in minutes, requiring no tools, only a clean (important!) window. Even better, it can be moved to different locations in the house to keep it new and exciting. My cats and I endorse this product with five purrs.

Marci Kladnik is a board member of Catalyst for Cats, a Santa Barbara County nonprofit organization.

source: santamariatimes.com