En español | Jackie Treneer, a professional pet sitter in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., adopted a 14-year-old bichon frise and a 4-year-old miniature poodle when she discovered that their owner — one of her longtime clients — had died and the woman's husband was unable to keep the pets.
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"It wasn't cheap for me to take on the care of these dogs, but it was the right thing to do," says Treneer, owner of Angels Pet Sitting Service.
It doesn't have to be that way. Just as most of us make funeral arrangements, set our affairs in order and draw up wills to help our families with painful transitions, it's possible to make arrangements to help your animal companions, as well. Here's how to be prepared:
Identify true pet allies. Select people who are willing to step in and care for your pets should you require hospitalization, become incapacitated or die. Do not assume your friends or relatives will adopt or even temporarily care for your pets. Select two or three caregivers and discuss details with them. Offer to reciprocate for their pets, if you desire and are able to do so.
Pack a pet-plus ID. In addition to your own basic identification and contact information, you should always make sure to carry along info about your pets: Their names and ages; contact numbers for the vet and after-hours pet emergency clinic; and names and phone numbers for your pet's backup caregivers. (Also list any medication your pets may be taking, as well as details about where you keep their supplies.) And keep a copy of this in a visible place in your home, such as on your refrigerator, for emergency personnel to quickly spot.
Spell out each pet's care in writing. Detail how your surviving pets should be cared for, by whom and where — in another home or in a pet sanctuary. Provide info on each pet's personality, eating habits, special needs, favorite items and rituals. Let people know where you keep these instructions.
Budget for your pets' care by setting up a fund. This fund should cover the cost of your pets' food, medical needs and supplies. You can work out a monthly payment plan with estate planners, financial planners or life insurance company representatives.