Sad but true: Our pets usually depart the world before we do. That’s why we spin comforting visions of their afterlife such as the Rainbow Bridge.
But sometimes the situation is reversed. And it’s even sadder if a pet is left without provisions for care. We need to plan for that possibility, and we need to put those plans in writing.
Among the contingencies to consider:
- being downed for a few days or weeks
- being laid up for an indefinite period of time
- being put out of commission permanently.
I’ll post more about the longer range possibilities, but — on the “cat is on the roof” principle of not plunging right in to a really unpleasant topic — I’ll start by discussing how to arrange for a temporary (no more than two weeks) guardian.
This can be done informally, although not without forethought. Keep a few things in mind:
- It’s essential to find friends or relatives — plural, because you need a contingency caretaker in case the primary is unavailable — who like dogs in general and yours in particular. (He or she doesn’t necessarily have to like you. No matter how annoying you are, a real dog lover would not want harm to come to an innocent pup.) Another thing that favors compliance: any temporary guardian is bound to be aware that you’ll be back in action sooner or later, owing them big time — karmically, if not financially.
- Make sure the people you choose agree to take on the responsibility. Ask them seriously, not just in passing.
- Give them keys to your house, instructions about the care and feeding of your dog, and contact information for your vet. Alternatively, you can specify a professional arrangement, such as having your dog brought over to the place where you board him when you go on vacation. Frankie’s diabetes and his dislike of leaving his domain rule out a caretaker who doesn’t know how to give injections — as well as a stay away from home. Therefore, along with my keys, I gave two trusted friends a list of the reliable, insulin-savvy dog sitters I’ve used in the past (yes, there have been several).
- Determine a way of making your wishes known in case you’re unable to talk. If you don’t want to use a formal service like PetLifeline.com, where you register your essential information, keep a typed card in your wallet and car noting the existence of your dog and providing contact information for your designated emergency caretakers.
Update: Alert reader Adam Yoblon commented below that the Petlifeline service seemed a little dubious when he tried to use it. When I initially recommended it in Am I Boring My Dog, I checked it out thoroughly, but only made sure the site was still up and running for this post. BAD BLOGGER, BAD BLOGGER (sound of me slapping myself upside my head)! So I’m unlinking from that site, and would appreciate hearing from anyone who has used a similar service that they could recommend.