Many of us have had pets the greater part of our life. So what happens when we look at the realistic winding down of our lives and we still want the companionship of a pet? Well cared for pets seem to live a long and, in many cases, a beautiful life. The problem arises when the steward of the pet has a significant aging issue which may confine this person to a residential care center.
Sometimes family will take the pet and bring it to see the person. Sometimes the pet will remain in the family home with a spouse or significant other. And sometimes there is simply no good solution. This is the difficult part for many, what happens if they cannot remain at home. Solutions are variable from rehoming, to a friend taking on the responsibility for the person, to the person demanding the animal be put down - so there is no worry of mistreatment.
The decision is a heartbreaking one as these friends have been together for a good amount of time. Frequently, the person has transferred all feelings for family to this pet and it is as though we are asking them to do away with a spouse or child. Everyone from human to pet would be better off if the discussion had taken place a few months prior, when everyone is comfortable and thinking clearly.
The importance of a pet within a person's life is monumental in significance. This means just as we prepare for old age with our legal documents and our preparations for our final days, it is a good time to make some plans for our pets. Some have friends or family who will take them, some have made arrangements for the pet to return to where it came from, some have made legal arrangements through Will to have the pet cared for and there are the ones who wait too long.
When we adopt another life, that promise is for the pet's lifetime. Not our comfortable time in life, not our physical life here; rather we are making a pledge to be supportive of this pet for its life. Given some thought and preplanning we can make this work for everybody. It is important to make these plans, and will only become more so as we age and see our friends aging as well.
Pets have become family to us and in many cases they are our service animal as well. They have dedicated their life to us and we now must do the same for moral and ethical purposes. As pets become more and more common place with seniors and the disabled there will become more solutions for this eventuality. However, if today you are a family member, friend or executor of an estate; look at all options including family, friends, rehoming, or rescue organizations. Look carefully at the reputation of rescues; get references from organizations or rehoming organizations. It is the purpose of the family member, friend, or executor to look at appropriate options not just the local shelter. And most important, make these decisions while you can and not when you are in failing health or in need of care for your own wellbeing.