I am writing to tell you all about a true story involving a topic none of us like to talk about, but we must….death. Your death. Read on…
A year ago, I met a lovely new client. I’ll call her Mary. Mary was a single woman who retired from a wonderful professional career. She chose to live in Boise because she heard great things about our wonderful city. I liked Mary from the start. She was an intelligent, caring pet owner. She was fit and lively and had lots of travel plans, both as a business consultant and personal travel. She was excited about entering this new chapter of her life. Almost giddy about it. She approached me with trust and told me she used pet sitters before and knew the routine. She was a model client, right from the start. She filled out the information about her home and pets on our software forms. She established a relationship with a vet right away. She was pet mom to a senior bunny and cat. Both had special needs diets and she took wonderful care of them. She always checked in before leaving town and made us aware of any changes to her pets’ care routines. She was truly a model client.
Fast forward a year. Mary used us quite frequently as she continued to travel often. She was delighted with our care of her pets. She told her primary sitter that she would be moving out of her rental soon, and staying in the area. She was looking at homes to buy. She remained excited about life and especially about buying a home. We were excited for her.
A few days after she returned from her last trip, I got a call from her sister, 3,000 miles away. Mary had passed away! Whaaaat???? Mary? Healthy, fit, happy Mary? This is a bad joke, right. Unfortunately, not a joke. I called her primary sitter and we were both in shock. We met at Mary’s house and took care of the pets, who had not been cared for in a couple days. Since Mary was single and retired, it took a couple days for someone to notice. Mary got the flu and something went terribly wrong. She passed away in her bed. I assured her sister that we would continue to care for the pets as long as needed.
The next day, I called Mary’s sister. As gently as I could, I started inquiring about Mary’s pets. Surely, Mary communicated a plan for her pets should something happen to her. I asked the sister if Mary left instructions in her will or elsewhere. I wanted to comply with Mary’s wishes for her pets. To my utter surprise, Mary had made no plans for them! Her sister told me that she suspected Mary thought she (her sister), would adopt the pets and take them into her home. While the sister told me she loved animals, she said she couldn’t take them. Furthermore, she was completely helpless is making any arrangements for them! She threw it back on me and acted angry when I didn’t offer to take care of things. I pushed her as to following Mary’s wishes. Do you want me to take them to the local humane society? Will you contact the no-kill cat shelter? Will you find a new home for them? She was not pleased with the options. Finally, she said, “Look, I’m an animal lover, but these pets are at the bottom of my totem pole. I just want them to be adopted together and for them to go to a good home.” I asked her how I could help. She did not have an answer, she just wanted me to comply with her nearly impossible demands. As frustrated as I am with the helplessness and unwillingness of this sister to do the right thing, let’s face it, this was Mary’s responsibility.
This scenario has been emotionally draining on me. I want the best for the pets, but I do not wish to take on two senior pets and get them adopted together. The cat is 12 years old and not very friendly. The Bunny is 7 years old. Bunnies are not a common pet. Finding individual homes for these guys, much less getting them adopted together is an unfair request to make of me. Will I help. Yes. I would never let a pet down. Do I feel this should be my responsibility. No, I do not.
Why am I writing about this? To encourage all pet owners to set up a trust and make arrangements for their pets, in the event you should pass before your pets. Do.It.Today! Find an organization you trust and support and talk to them. See if they have a program. Most do. Sign up, get it in your will. Be generous, financially, to the organization.
Here is a list of resources and examples:
Thank you for considering this difficult issue.