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


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.

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?