Thursday, 28 June 2012

Story of Mellie: Care of a pet when a guardian becomes ill or dies.

 I have been a very busy dog this last week. On a conference about well being for companion animals. One topic that we need to talk about is what happens when a pet can no longer be cared for by their guardian due to illness or death of the guardian.
 Now then, humans "get their affairs in order" because they know that one day they will die or get sick and be unable to care for themselves. They make a will and their belongings are dispersed according to that will. They make plans to go into a nursing home or stay with one of their children.

But what happens to pets when someone dies or becomes disabled. Often they go to the pound.
Mellie (short for Caramel), my older sister, (and I mean old),was just such a case.
Mellie was 14 when she came into our family. She  was living the good life, the only child of an adoring mom. She was walked several times a day in a beautiful walking path just outside her home, she traveled frequently to California with her mom and to many other wonderful places. They were inseparable and loved each other very much. Mellie had expensive coats and toys and carrying cases for air travel. She was and still is a bit of a diva.

Then Mellie`s mom got really sick. Mellie no longer went for walks but she did not know why. Mellie's world came crashing down around her. Her mom had lung cancer and deterioriated very rapidly. She could no longer pay attention to Mellie for even the basics. One of her mom`s friends tried to walk Mellie but it was very infrequent.

 Shortly after Mellie's mom died , my mom went to get  Mellie as she was coming into Jack Russell Terrier rescue. When my mom picked her up she was in the almost empty apartment that she had called home with her mom  for 14 years. The poor dog was grieving, confused, angry and in a near state of hysteria. The four people that her mom had lined up at the last minute that were supposed to take Mellie all backed out. May have been because Mellie was so distressed and was snapping at people. I can not blame her for being frightened and upset. She was such an emotional mess for the first 6 weeks she was at my house no one could touch her. We were very concerned about her.

 One day, after about 6 weeks, Mellie hopped up beside my mom - it was unwise to try to pet her because she would snap at all of us if we got too close. This day she heaved a big sigh and put her head in my mom`s lap.  She asked to be petted by bumping my mom`s hand.  Mom petted her ever so gingerly and she did not snap. Mellie had decided she would give us a chance. My mom had a few tears just then because she knew what grief Mellie had suffered. It was so unfair to this little dog.

By this time my mom figured she was not adoptable and we told JRT rescue that we would keep her in our family. Mellie is now 18 and I must say in wonderful shape for an old girl. Sometimes she even tries to play with me, hopping around like a teenager. I think the old girl has a few screws loose and I am much too dignified to play with someone old enough to be my grandmother. Sheeesh.

 But the point of my story, or Mellie's story is this  - if you plan for someone to take care of your pets should you be unable to, get this in an agreement in writing  well in advance of an emergency and make sure it is someone you trust. If you think it is possble the appointed guardian will not be there for your pet when the time comes contact a rescue and get advice from them about care of a pet when a guardian becomes ill or dies. You may be able to secure a promise for the rescue to take your pet and rehome them if no one else will do it.

Tell your humans to take care of this detail right now while you are thinking of it. Pets cannot fend for themselves when they lose their guardian and they are often not at their most lovable and adoptable when they are stressed and grieving.

Look at Mellie. She has had 4 good years and she is still going strong.  But she could have been euthanized due to her age and behavior all because her guardian did not plan well for her care in the event of her being abandoned due to illness and death. Get your humans to make plans for your care right now. This is my best advice.  And help your guardians stay healthy by getting them out for their daily walks and hope you never have to face losing your loved ones.
That is all for now,

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