Pet owners pride themselves in providing the very best care for their beloved companions. They are doggedly dedicated to their dogs, ferociously protective of their cats, will soar to new heights for their birds and gallop over hill and dale for their horses. Pets are members of the family like children to their human caregivers. More often than not, those same loving pet owners fail to plan for their pet’s care if one of the 7 D’s strike. These 7 D’s include Death, Delay, Disease, Dementia, Divorce, Disability, and Disaster.
I am raising my hand because I was one of those pet owners.
In March 2013, I was out in the back of my property looking for the escape route taken by my dog Roxie when I slipped in the new snow and fell. I was about a half acre from my house and knew as I landed and heard the snap, that it was not the sound of a branch breaking. It was my ankle. As I lay in the fresh snow, looking up at a beautiful blue sky, I thought of all I had to do for work in the coming weeks. It only took a day or two for me to realize why.
A Program Born
In the ensuing weeks, I realized my work calendar was the least of my problems. I had a laptop, the Internet and my phone. My business would be ok. My family was caring for me, so I would be ok. However, who would care for my dogs? I had 7 Irish setters and 2 standard longhaired dachshunds. They all have free run of the house and kennel. However, I feed them in their large kennels in the basement. I like keeping track of who is eating and who is off their feed. Stairs were out for the foreseeable future. My husband and son were willing to care for the dogs but they were already caring for me while they went to work and school. Why hadn’t I realized this issue and planned for appropriate additional dog care?
Actually, I had spoken to two long time dog show friends about caring for each other’s pets if one of us should die. We never talked about what we would do if we simply got hurt. As luck would have it, I couldn’t reach out to either of these friends at the time. One was renovating their kennel so didn’t have the room. The other had just broken her arm a few weeks before in another freak accident. Thankfully, my cleaning lady said she would step in and help. But what if she couldn’t? What would have happened to my dogs?
While I recovered from my broken ankle, I realized I likely was not alone in this failure to plan predicament. I decided to write the MAAP program while I convalesced. If you have a will, most pet owners do not, you may have included your pets in your estate plans. They are family after all. We love them and want to assure their continued care. Yet, what about a short-term inability to care for our pets? I call these the 7D’s – Delay, Disability, Disease, Divorce Dementia, Disaster & Death. If we only plan for our pets in the 7th D, we are leaving everything else to chance.
There is a great video out on Facebook depicting an older man with his devoted dog. It shows them going everywhere together, including the dog following the ambulance to the hospital. The dog loyally waits outside the hospital for his master’s exit. His master never comes out. Instead, a young woman comes out and the dog jumps up to greet her. She has received an organ donation from his master. This is a great commercial for organ donation. It is also a stark reminder that this pet owner failed to plan for the care of his faithful companion. The donor had planned for the wonderful gifts he gave to strangers, yet had not planned for the care of his dog. His dog no longer had a home. I always wondered if the organ recipient took the dog home? Probably not.
If you plan only for the care of your pet in your will, you have taken 1/7th of the steps necessary to save their lives. If you put directives in your will but fail to share them with those you appoint to care for your pets or those administering your will before hand, your plans may not be followed. It takes 6-months to a year to probate a will. What will happen to your pets as your estate awaits probate? Do you care?
In response to my own need, I created the MAAP program.
I named it MAAP because it provides pet owners with easy to navigate steps that plan out the journey their pet takes when they cannot care for it, short or long term.
M- Make a plan
A- Address the needs and care of your pets in writing.
A- Appoint 3 people to care for your pets.
P- Publish your plan.
Make a plan so people will know what you want done with your pets. This becomes important if you cannot communicate or do it yourself. You are not dead yet, but you may be unavailable to instruct people on the care you want your pets to receive.
The plan needs to address and include the special things you do/know about your pet. No one will take care of your pet the way you do. However, if you don’t address how you care for your pets and their individual needs & quirks, no one will even try.
Appoint three people to care for your pets. They will be on the front line. Only one can be a family member. Chances are if you are delayed, sick or injured, your family will be with you or caring for you. Your family will appreciate having someone else available to care for the pets. Let the people you appoint know about each other. Knowing who else has agreed to help is key. They will know whom to call on if needed. Redundancy allows for your pets to receive the care you wanted them to receive. Have them accept their role in writing.
Finally, publish your plans. Letting people know your plans assures they will be followed. Unless you tell your family whom to contact to care for your pets they won’t know. They may take measures into their own hands and your desired plans will be ignored, not because they didn’t want to follow it but because they didn’t know it existed.
A MAAP plan is simple to do on your own. I hold workshops all over the country and hold free webinars every month helping people make their own MAAP of pet care. Your pets are members of your family. MAAP out a plan that cares for them. Sign up for your Pet Passport on my website. It is free. If you do, you will receive information on the next free MAAP webinar. Kiss your beloved pet for me. www.hamiltonlawandmediation.com
By Debra Vey Voda-Hamilton, Esq./Mediator