If something happened to you, would your dog be welcome in (and able to fit into) someone else’s home and family?
If something happened to you, what would happen to your dog? Do you have a commitment from someone in your life to keep him for the rest of his life? And, here’s the kicker: Would that person be happy to have your dog join her family, or would it be a hassle?
I was thinking about this in relation to a blog post (“Straight Talk for Senior Adopters”) I recently wrote. In that post, I mentioned that senior dog owners have a special responsibility to make sure that they have made arrangements for their dogs in case of their deaths – as well as a responsibility to make sure that their dogs are healthy, socialized to others, and well behaved, so they will be welcome and cherished, not unhappy burdens, to their new owners. It shouldn’t have been a surprise that a number of people pointed out in the comments that people of all ages should do these things – and they are right! People die unexpectedly at all ages.
But I was thinking about dogs I have met at the animal shelter where I volunteer – dogs whose elderly owners died and who had no one step up to take them into their homes and families. I was present for one heartbreaking handover in the lobby of the shelter: A woman brought her father’s dog to the shelter for surrender after he passed away, saying that she lived in a “no pets allowed” apartment complex, and what’s more, she had small children, and the dog was terrified of kids and had bitten them. Well, the dog was terrified of everyone; I would guess that no one besides the deceased person had touched the dog in years, if not the dog’s entire life. While I’m sure the man who died had not planned on dying, he hadn’t done the dog any favors by failing to habituate her to other humans. In a shelter environment, it was going to be a long, hard journey to get her to accept contact with, much less trust and love, another person. But I couldn’t fault the daughter, either.
At least think about whether your dogs could not just fit in, but actually thrive, in a home other than yours if the unthinkable happened to you. Maybe you already have a commitment from someone to take in your dog if you died – but does your dog have behavior issues that would be difficult for your designated person to manage? If you have the sense that there’s no one else you know who would put up with your dog’s reactivity to other dogs, barking, leash manners, or whatever, consider putting some time and effort into addressing those issues, for your dog’s sake!