Sharing our lives with our pets is one of the most rewarding investments we can make. They offer love, affection and attention and ask nothing in return. We provide them with food, shelter and other material comforts, but truthfully, most of our animal companions offer their gifts unconditionally. As a small token of appreciation, each of us should endeavor to ensure they are protected from harm no matter what. The best way to accomplish this is to include them in our family planning (long term pet care).
Gone are the days of Fido in the back yard in the dog house. Pets have come into our homes and are no longer relegated to the yard. They sleep with us and we make elaborate plans for their comfort. We provide gourmet or home prepared food, comfortable bedding, clothing and more. We seek the best pet professionals such as veterinarians, groomers and sitters. We schedule play dates and take them on trips. In short, our pets are full fledged family members.
This is a win/win situation. It is easy to see how our furry friends benefit. Countless studies show that we benefit as well. Pets help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and generally make our lives better. Many are trained as service and therapy animals. The full impact that pets have on humans is just beginning to be measured. Pets most likely give us far more than we give them in their lifetimes.
Making short term plans for the pets we love is a relatively simple project. We know what we’re going to feed them today, where they will sleep tomorrow and who will give them their treats the day after. Or do we? We all know that sometimes, the best made plans go astray. Most of us are under the assumption that we are in control of our own lives. Yet we watch TV news reports and read newspaper articles every day that prove just the opposite is true. Although many of us hate to admit it, there are many things we do not control. Make sure long term pet care is not one of them.
Our pets place so much trust in us. They rely on us completely and without question. Don’t let them down - plan for the unexpected. There are many, many ways this is possible. Here are a few easy things everyone can do:
Carry an emergency information card in your wallet. This will alert emergency personnel that there are pets in your home and where to reach someone to care for them.
Post emergency signs in your home. On the front and back doors and on the refrigerator are good places for these. In case an emergency worker or someone else has to enter your home when you are not there, this will advise them of the number of pets, their species and alternate caregiver information.
Post emergency window decals on windows of all sides of your house. In case of fire or evacuation, this alerts personnel to the fact that pets are present BEFORE they enter the home.
Record pertinent facts about your pets and communicate them to someone you trust. Be sure to include veterinary and medical records, special needs and a photo ID for each pet. It is a good idea to keep vaccine records with the documentation. Alert your veterinarian and family members of your wishes.
When you leave pets with a boarding facility or pet sitting service, write a detailed list of procedures to follow and people to contact in case of emergency. If you are traveling and cannot return immediately, you should ensure there is an alternate plan for care in place. Check with your veterinarian to see if you need to complete an authorization form for care while you are away.
Properly identify and mark pets when traveling. Be sure they are wearing identification tags on collars as well as a more permanent method of identification (such as microchip or tattoo), if possible. Label crates and hang a “traveling with pets” sign on rearview mirror.
Familiarize yourself and your family with evacuation procedures for pets. Some provisions have been made in the law since Hurricane Katrina. Be sure you know how to handle these, just in case.
Set up a pet trust and/or add provisions to your will with an attorney or other estate planning professional. No one likes to entertain the idea or leaving pets behind because of death or disability, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Clearly there are many steps we can take to maintain our pet’s health, safety and happiness on a short and long term basis. These should be considered even more carefully if you have long-lived pets, suffer from a chronic illness, are of advanced age or have multiple or special needs pets.
If you do not have family or friends that are willing and able to care for your pets, there are options. There are sanctuaries that will allow pets to live out their lives without cages, etc. There are groups who place your pets in foster homes temporarily while searching for loving permanent homes. There are organizations that provide guidance and assistance if you are not sure where to turn for help.
None of us know what the future holds. We do our best to provide all we can for our families. Don’t leave our pets out when making plans for the future. Be sure to include long term pet care in all of your family planning. For all they do for us, don’t we owe it to them to make sure they are safe and happy for THEIR entire lives?