When owner has to end relationship with pet

Hello, winter! As the winds howled outside the warm confines of my four walls, I watched the first snowfall of the season blanket the world in white.

We are so incredibly fortunate to live in such a beautiful state that manifests all four seasons in their true glory.

Spending the frigid day inside attacking a pile of papers littering my office, I came across an article that — again — brought tears to my eyes.

“The Old Man and the Dog” by Catherine Moore, easily can be found by Googling the title and author. It’s a remarkable tale about the miracle of pet companionship and the impact four-legged creatures have on our lives.

Glancing at my overly plump feline curled up in a basket half her size, I am truly grateful to have the opportunity to share my life with several furry friends. I ponder what would happen to them, though, if some unforeseen circumstance prevented me from taking care of them any longer.

I recently encountered two incidents where this particular scenario became actuality. The health of both the owners declined to the degree that they were admitted to an assisted living home.

The first case involved a 10 year-old Rottweile-Labrador retriever mix that had been a loyal friend for years. Neighbors and friends are taking care of him while they search for someone to give him a permanent home.

Can you imagine the loneliness that both owner and dog are experiencing right now?

The other case pertains to a woman who had four cats. Her health declined rapidly and she was unable to care for herself any longer. An assisted living arrangement was her only option.

This woman had been homebound for the past several years and had various companies deliver goods and services directly to her home.

The Schwan’s man was quite fond of one of her cats and upon hearing of her circumstance, took the young cat home. The other three, all much older, still live at the house and the woman’s son is caring for them until new homes can be found.

I went to visit this woman the other afternoon, and upon entering her dark room, I observed a frail, lonely woman curled up on a hospital bed. She is from France originally, a war bride, who has lived in the United States for most of her life.

She has been through hard times, as have many of her generation, but she always seemed to find good in every story she told. And she loved her cats. They were her motivation to get up each morning.

As we talked that afternoon, the loneliness she felt for her pets was overwhelmingly apparent.

Many nursing homes and assisted living residences are finding the benefits of allowing residents to bring pets into their facilities. Studies have proven that pet companionship, especially with the elderly, stimulates both mental and physical health. Many facilities require the resident to physically be able to care for their pet and most will only allow one pet per person. 

So what happens to the animals when the owner is unable to care for them any longer? Family members often will intervene and take the pet. Sometimes friends and neighbors assist in trying to find a new home for the dislodged companion.

Trying to place an old dog or three elderly cats in one home, however, can be quite difficult. Often, if no one is available, the beloved friend ends up at the local animal shelter with slim chances of being adopted. (I am so appreciative to all of you kind folks who have adopted an older pet.)

Imagine, for a moment, what the old dog must be experiencing. The life he had known for all those years suddenly changed forever.

I’ve often contemplated the possibility of creating a retirement home for pets in our community. Similar to a “people” retirement facility, it would be a safe, loving environment where displaced pets could live out their remaining years in peaceful harmony.

There are facilities across the country such as this, typically non-profit organizations that rely on donations and the big hearts of local volunteers. Anyone interested in pursuing this notion, please feel free to contact me. 

While no one knows when their day may come, it is important to plan and communicate your wishes for your best friend’s life if you are unable to care for them. Openly discussing this subject with family members can alleviate worry and compromise. Many people state their wishes for the pets in their last will and testament.

I knew a widow who requested her two beloved dogs be euthanized and buried with her upon her death. She had no immediate family to care for the dogs, and she did not want to burden anyone with trying to place her companions in another home.

Considering how short most animals’ lives are in comparison to humans, we rarely anticipate a perchance instance where we cannot care for them. But please consider your personal alternatives in the event some unforeseen event prevents you from caring for your best friends.

Charlé Thibodeau is a veterinary technician for Aspentree Veterinary Care. If you have a pets question you would like Thibodeau to answer in her column, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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