When Walter died at the age of 97 there was no one left in his
immediate family except Millie.
Millie was a more-or-less cocker
spaniel of questionable heritage. Her legs were too short for her
body, and there was an interesting ruff around her neck that
suggested a chow somewhere on the family tree. Millie was a happy
little love-any-burglar-to-death gal who gave Walter a reason to get
up in the morning, and lots of little jobs to keep him on schedule
throughout the day.
While Walter wasn't rich by any means, he was rich in the love he
and Millie shared. His only real worry as he got older was about
Millie, who was a far sight younger than he was. "I want you to make
sure that Millie has a home when I go," was his emphatic instruction
the day we met.
It took some doing, but we made it happen. The fact that Walter
was prepared to do what needed to be done to make it happen is what
gives this story its happy ending.
Walter was able to remain active in his church because someone
came to give him a ride every Sunday. After we brainstormed a bit,
Walter decided to approach this much younger woman (age 75 or
thereabouts) about adopting Millie "when the time comes." She knew
Millie, and they got along.
Now, this woman, while willing, was living on a fixed and fairly
low budget. Her only concern was that she couldn't afford the food
and veterinary care Millie would need. The loving part she could
So we set up a meeting with Walter's attorney. This attorney drew
up an addendum to Walter's will, setting aside a sum of money in a
special trust to be used for Millie's care as long as she lived. Any
money remaining in the trust when Millie died was designated to a
rescue organization, to be used to help other Millies.
The day Walter passed away and I got the call, I simply had to
call Millie's new mother, and we made arrangements for Millie to go
to her new home. While Millie obviously mourned Walter, she made a
good adjustment in time, and she is now thriving. I'm sure Walter is
looking down and watching with a smile, because everything turned
out the way he wanted.
Millie and Walter's story isn't typical. How many times, when an
owner dies or moves to long term care, do beloved pets end up in
shelters, with three days to be adopted before they are euthanized?
Or even worse, end up on the street? I don't know, but I do know
that it's far too many.
We make arrangements for our children to have care if something
happens to us. We do the recommended planning for our own care,
should that be needed. We prepare wills and trusts to bequeath our
stuff. We're rarely as prepared as Walter was to take care of our
pets, who depend on us just as much as our children.
If you know older persons with pets, ask if they have made any
pet lifecare arrangements you should know about. If the answer is,
"Yes," offer to help get their instructions written down, so there
is no confusion about what will happen to the pet should the worst
happen. If you know that there will be funds available to help
subsidize the cost of caring for an older animal, offer to help your
senior get any necessary legal advice to set up lifetime pet care
arrangements. Your senior will probably be relieved, and you may
well save the life of a treasured pet who depends on us.
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