Whole Dog Journal's Blog January 11, 2017

Do You Have a Backup-Plan for Your Pet-Care Needs?

Posted at 03:01PM - Comments: (22)

I woke up this morning with a blinding migraine headache. It hurt to open my eyes, it hurt to sit up, and getting dressed made tears start running down my face. This doesn’t happen very often, and I have medication that I can take that will bring relief in an hour or so. But lying in bed was not an option, because I’m currently fostering another litter of puppies, and they don’t care whether my head hurts or not: they are hungry, and their pen needs cleaning. That’s a responsibility I took on, and so, weepy or not, I got up and dressed, took my migraine med, and got rolling.

My adult dogs can handle a delayed breakfast, and thanks to the recent installation of a dog door – one of those inserts that fits into a sliding glass door frame – they can and will take themselves out to potty if need be. But foster puppies in a pen are a different matter. By the time I got them out of the dirty pen to potty outdoors, fed them, cleaned the pen and changed the water, and put them back in the pen with some fresh toys, the throbbing in my head was abating a bit.

While I cleaned the pen, I thought about the pet owner’s need for backup. If I was super seriously ill, there are people I could call on to help. My husband and my sister would be my first line of defense. I have dog-loving friends who, given a bit of notice, could come and help before they went to work and afterward.

"We're counting on you, dude! Get it together!"

Because I foster for my local shelter, in a worst-case scenario, I could call the staff and throw in the towel, and an animal control officer could come and collect the puppies and take them back to the shelter. The same is true for the best-run rescue groups; there are enough people helping to keep the load light on any one person. But I’ve heard about plenty of rescue organizations that turned out to be, in reality, just one very disorganized person, and perhaps a few of her friends, struggling under the load of too much to do with not enough resources.  When that person gets seriously ill or debilitated, the animals suffer. It’s a situation that every small rescue organization has to look out for and actively prevent.

Another thing I thought about as I cleaned the pen: If I had a stroke or something else sudden, how clear would it be to anyone coming in to help what to do, who to call? I’m sure my husband would figure out to call the shelter and ask for help, but it might not happen right away. However, since I organize all the care for our dogs, would he know where to order their food, which is not available locally? Would he know which vet I bring them to, or the fact that I have pet insurance for them now? I know for certain that he would not!

I think this afternoon I’m going to make it a point to grab the files with their vet records and insurance information, and put them somewhere that he can access them more easily – in our home, not my office – and let him know where they are.

I’m also going to write out some instructions regarding which foods I buy for them and where I buy it. I’ll also include a contact sheet for the shelter staff, so he will know, quickly, who to call if someone needed to come grab my foster pups and get them to someone else who could take over.

Then I thought: What if my husband and I both were in a car accident, coming back from a movie at night? I recently saw a laminated card you can put on your key ring that alerts first-responders to the fact that the bearer has pets at home, and includes an emergency number to call (here’s just one example). I need to get one, and put my sister’s number on there. She has a key to my office, and she knows the shelter staff, so the puppies could be taken care of quickly, but I don’t think she has a key to my house! Nor does she know anything about my dogs’ records; I need to get her a key, show her my file of information on the dogs and where I keep it, and maybe put some cash or a check in the file, in case she needed to cover their expenses for a while.

My husband and I have talked out our wills, but neither one of us has done anything yet about them. We have real estate and bank accounts to deal with - but in my will, I also need to write up my wishes about what would happen to my dogs, and make arrangements for their care. That reminds me: WDJ has a good article on this in its archives. I’ll read that and get going.

Funny where a bad headache can take you.

Do you have plans in place for your pets, in case something were to debilitate you for a day, a week, a month, or permanently?


Comments (22)

There's certainly a great deal to know about this topic. I like all the points you've made.
Thank you.

Posted by: dogmal | April 25, 2017 5:26 AM    Report this comment

Back-up is my greatest concern, as I have an animal care business, with close to 40 clients, with about half a dozen who rely on me daily and weekly. I have yet to design a clear system that will work for anyone who has to fill in for me. And I don't have that person either...how irresponsible is that? And when I had a terrible case of vertigo, I carried my phone from room to room at home, in case I fell down and hurt myself, at least I could call clents. Somehow, I need to make my calendar reflect all that I have in my head, where people live, animals at residence, and all kinds of info, like where their keys are kept! Aside from that, I love my work!

Posted by: islandsooz | January 15, 2017 7:36 AM    Report this comment

OMG...I can so relate to the migraine pain and the pressure to take care of all those little ones...
Interesting timing...because early in December I became very ill with a what I believe was a case of bronchitis. Felt shitty and was in bed, with my pup beside me. We live with my elder parents, neither of whom can handle her. It's a long story...but dad is deaf and going on 100 but very capable and active thought has some physical strength limitations and can be knocked down by my 40# pup. Mom is 94 and has cognitive impairment. They love my pup...but never got involved with her training (she's 6 now)...and at one point dad attempted to beat her up when he misinterpreted due to his deafness what she was going over to my mother for...I was in the room, jumped in, and threw myself over my pup to protect her. So now, although they get along most of the time, if there is a threatening move toward me...she can be very reactive and uses her teeth...So when we are downstairs, or in their space, she is (with our trainer's blessings and understanding of all the circumstances and players) leashed...with me at the other end...and I do not let her go near the folks unless they are sitting and not a potential threat.
So you can imagine what it was like the 2nd week of being sick when it was all I could do to get downstairs to let her out and get her food...I was incredibly weak when I developed a loss of appetite...and it gave me time to think about who would help in an emergency.
It needs more thought. Someone I trusted and still do, puts his faith in an ex spouse who has some mental health challenges that result in her taking horrible chances with the well-being of her pups. I would NEVER want her involved with the care of my pup, so my other friend is out as well.
My friend is actually a pet sitter. Again I have known her over years and I am sorry to say that she is not a person I would feel comfortable with either. For instance I do not believe she would respect my veterinary choices as far as provider and care (my views are educated and informed thanks to WDJ). If I wanted my pup to remain at home...she would not put herself out to make 4 visits in a day...
We have no family besides ourselves. My only sibling is in FL and has cats. I don't know if she would do her best for my little one.
It absolutely kills me to contemplate this stuff.

In the meantime, I realize the least I could do is write down what my little one eats and her special treats and patterns...like wanting an Oblaten cookie after dinner:-)

I have decided that if I even god forbid get that sick again (I couldn't go out to get food for myself either) that rather than depend on others, I am calling a pay for service provider to go to the store or clean up if needed. It really got bad with dirty dishes/ paper cups etc...to the point that one day I just took a trash bag and got some of it cleaned out.

So scary...we all need to do what we can. It would be great to have a plan with someone where we promise to be there for theirs, if they will be there for ours...but the trick is to find a like-minded individual who shares our thoughts and concerns, that we can rest in peace knowing we can TRUST.

I think more and more that there will be single people who will share these concerns...

Posted by: robin r | January 14, 2017 11:24 PM    Report this comment

Yes. We made new wills when my husband had knee replacement surgery (he is 74 and I am 67). Our dogs are our heirs and we have someone who will take care of them.....it is a relative of my husband.....all paws crossed they take good care of them. If not I plan on coming back to haunt them.....big time!!!!!!

Posted by: Olivia | January 14, 2017 6:48 PM    Report this comment

I have a file on my computer desktop (entitled 'The Big List of Stuff';-)) that has instructions for pet care. It isn't as important these days as it used to be, when I had dogs with heart disease who were taking multiple meds, multiple times a day, but I still update it and have told husband/kids that it's there.

Posted by: ccrow | January 14, 2017 5:14 PM    Report this comment

Just reviewed our trust last night which now includes instructions on where to place any dogs we might have and funds to go to that Rescue to cover any costs. Very timely article! We are fortunate to have a vet tech living across the street from us who works at our vet office who would be able to attend to our dog in the short term.

Posted by: Laurenmaddock | January 13, 2017 9:40 AM    Report this comment

Excellent reminder, thank you.

Posted by: meldrape | January 13, 2017 6:55 AM    Report this comment

Nancy-what a great article! Thanks for the info-and am proud of you to look after the 4 legged "kids" even though you were in pain :-) I live in N Central FL, and my family is all down in the Tampa Bay area, so I am kinda at a loss what would happen to my "babies (cats, dogs & horses) if anything happened to me. Doubt my family members could take them in, since my daughter has 3 cats & 2 Great Danes, my brother has a boxer & my mom & sister have a German Shepherd, and my dog is about 80 lbs! Guess I need to get busy & find someone up here in the boonies who feels towards animals as I do...just in case! Anyway, thanks for the post-gave me some serious thought!

Posted by: sabersmom | January 12, 2017 6:07 PM    Report this comment

This is a subject that is often on my mind since I live alone in a rural area and seldom have visitors. Often days go by between contact with another person (it is a quarter mile just to get to my mailbox). Even though I use email and some social media, I could go "offline" for days before any of my friends or family (most of whom live an hour or more away) would get concerned. If something happened to me here at home, my pets could be on their own for days before anyone checked on me. My problem isn't what would happen to my pets once someone was notified....but how to get someone notified in the first place.
I have plans to move to a less isolated area in the next few months.....I hope that will help.

Posted by: PJKutscher | January 12, 2017 6:02 PM    Report this comment

As a professional pet sitter, I keep keys for clients who sometimes cannot care for their pets because of health problems. I know the feeding routines, vets, etc., and the animals know me, too. With just a phone call, I step in. Get to know your local professional pet sitter! It can be a load off your mind.

Posted by: dccarter | January 12, 2017 3:22 PM    Report this comment

What is your take on medical insurance for our pups?
Enjoyed this article.

Posted by: SlyBrandy | January 12, 2017 12:51 PM    Report this comment

Trying to function with a migraine is incredible torture. I use an Imitrex injection and my migraine is gone in 30 seconds. Talk to your doctor about your current medication. Fostering the litter is so very admirable. Good luck.

Posted by: L. Cole | January 12, 2017 11:23 AM    Report this comment

I am so glad you wrote this article and hope many get a chance to read it!
There were great ideas in the previous comments!! A couple more: have a sign at the front door that there are x dogs, x cats, birds, fish, etc. inside the house. One never knows for what it's good besides the fire department. Perhaps a note next to the dogs as to whether they are friendly toward strangers?
Also, I am thinking of taping a piece of paper to the outside of the glove compartment in my car, that there are (x) dogs at home unless they are with me. So if I am in a car accident, someone knows to check at home.
Being prepared feels sooo good! It's all about having that Plan B in place!

Posted by: fireweeds | January 12, 2017 10:22 AM    Report this comment

So sorry about your migraine and glad you were able to soldier through. Thanks for this thoughtful and informative article. I plan to share it on our rescue Facebook page. An ounce of prevention.....

Posted by: Holly M | January 12, 2017 10:05 AM    Report this comment

Also think about what would happen if you get in a car accident and have dogs with you. My dogs wear their tag collars in the vehicle. Attached to the crate door are instructions for "Taking Care of My Dogs if I am in an Accident", beginning with "These are my beloved pets". It lists names and phone numbers of four people who have agreed to come and get the dogs as well as the phone number and address of my 24/7 vet clinic. I ask that first responders stay with the dogs until someone arrives. Short traffic leads are attached to the crate doors. Of course, we always hope it will never be necessary.

Posted by: 3GSDsmom | January 12, 2017 9:48 AM    Report this comment

I took a photo of all the meds my 16 yr. old poodle is taking and wrote out the dosage. I gave the list to my best friend and my sister. I have made arrangements about where they would go if I suddenly checked out. There are provisions in my will for funds that would go with them to pay for their upkeep.

Posted by: harbormaster | January 12, 2017 9:38 AM    Report this comment

P.S. also several friends have a key to my house since I am single I don't have immediate in home help with family/spouse.


Posted by: Huskywooer | January 12, 2017 9:33 AM    Report this comment

I have a list with what their meals are like, emergency info etc. taped to the inside of the closet door in the hallway where their food is kept. All my friends know about this. It came in handy when I had a petsitter for my first away vacation in many years this past September. I also have a living trust but that said I need to update that soon. My youngest dog and my older one would be taken care of my my youngest's breeder who is also a friend but now out of state so another reason to update that trust! Thanks for a great blog!

Posted by: Huskywooer | January 12, 2017 9:32 AM    Report this comment

In our trusts, our close friends are named to take all of our pets. We know they will make a good decision as to where the animals will live, with them or re-home, etc. If our friends can not take our pets, they will go to our local shelter, Humane Society of Huron Valley, where the staff works very hard to place all of their charges. Whomever initially takes our animals will get a substantial check to help defray costs and to thank them.

Posted by: msu1975 | January 12, 2017 9:23 AM    Report this comment

Thank you!

Posted by: maisie | January 12, 2017 9:16 AM    Report this comment

Nancy there is a service called Help2Pet that does everything and more that you call out in your article, its eerie how similar it is to what you described. Great article BTW!

Posted by: Ibshile | January 12, 2017 9:16 AM    Report this comment

Fantastic post with information I never thought about before. Thank you!

Posted by: DevorahR | January 12, 2017 8:51 AM    Report this comment

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