If we are lucky, we will have many pets who bless and enrich our lives for many years.
Unfortunately, we are going to grieve for them many, many times throughout our lives since their life spans are so much shorter than ours. However, if we persist in pet ownership, at some point, our pets are bound to outlive us.
We have all seen emailed pleas for pet rehoming for suddenly homeless and loveless pets who have lost their owners, since it is human nature not to want to recognize the inevitability of our own passing. Culturally, we seem to always be shocked when friends and loved ones die, even though we intellectually know it is going to happen to all of us. This trait was felt strongly in my horse community due to the recent and unexpected loss of a longtime local dressage instructor. At the age of 62, after a great day in her barn and a wonderful evening with her friend of 50 years, she apparently settled into her easy chair, not to reawaken.
For my friends of a particular age, and myself, this loss was felt not only in the unexpectedness and sadness of her passing, but it also brought up a lot of discussions of “what if“. What if that had been me? Am I ready for it to happen? It could happen to me. It could happen to any of us. It is one thing if one has a lingering illness and has time to make necessary preparations. It is quite another to be caught unprepared for the care of your pets should something happen to you unexpectedly, especially horses, as they require more consideration than smaller pets due to their size, value, expense and smaller population of owners.
Are your wishes known? Have you made proper arrangements? Have you put those details in writing and given them to your spouse or a trusted friend? If you are able, have you made some financial arrangements in the form of a pet trust for them?
I have a pet trust as part of my will. It hasn’t been updated in a few years and things have changed. Oh, the pets are the same, but like women‘s stereotypical reputation, my mind has changed about my plans for them. I hadn’t even articulated those changes to myself until this recent loss. No one likes to think, nevertheless have to plan for their own demise, but it is the responsible and loving thing to do.
Having to contemplate this also made me realize that there are two scenarios to plan for. The first one is an unexpected and immediate passing. The second scenario is if you have some notice and time to actually execute the plan. I realized I would handle each scenario differently. So my pet trust needs to be set up in the case of the former, which can be altered should I experience the latter. This is a comforting conclusion for me because if my end comes unexpectedly, I won’t be around to micromanage the details of my pets future but can rest in peace knowing they will be okay. But if I have time to plan for them, I will. I will lovingly arrange for their new home. I will sadly but assuredly hand them over at the last possible moment. I will kiss them goodbye one last time.
Love your pets, have consideration for your estate executor, make your plans and sleep soundly, knowing the likelihood of something happening to you is many, many years away; but when it does happen, your pets will still be loved and cared for in your absence.