love our pets, and our attachment to them varies from
one individual to another. In cases of the infirm
or elderly, the attachment to a pet may be much more
intense. Individuals with memory loss may not
understand why they have to move to assisted living, or
in with a relative, let alone any problems that might
come with bringing Fido along.
Caregivers may swing from one extreme to another in
their own emotions. The part-time caregiver who
can tolerate animals during short-term visits may balk
at full-time pet and person caregiving. Although
it is essential to acknowledge how you feel about animal
caretaking, it may be best to keep it to yourself until
you explore options. “Preparing” a family member
to give up a pet may take many weeks (or longer).
There is emotional strain on the loved one and caregiver
during this process, as well as on the animal.
and Things Change
hard-nosed parent who made the decision to give up a
child’s beloved pet may now be the one who is attached.
It may stun a caregiver to find that the parent now
exhibits the same sense of loss when approached with
having their pet taken away. Caregivers in this
type of situation would benefit by counseling to find
closure in making a decision that does not access any
hidden feelings from the past. Keeping or giving
up a pet with such an event coloring the situation will
add to stress for everyone in the long haul.
age and/or our health changes, our sense of connection
to people, places, and furry creatures may enhance our
connections. Children who are happy go lucky one
year may have terminal diagnoses placed upon them, and
change their receptivity, too.
There’s a Wag, There’s A Way
case of dogs and cats, an option for individuals who may
be forced to surrender the pet is to have it qualified
as a therapy animal. This is different than a
“work dog,” which can help perform tasks.
humane societies offer classes in pet therapy. The
animal must pass certain tests for social behavior.
If Rover is able to complete the program successfully,
it becomes a gold star on his “doggie resume.”
This may make facilities more agreeable to allowing Mom
to bring him in as a roommate.
from the individual running the program if any
precedents have been set that parallel your
circumstances. Any reputable behavioral training
will reassure family that the pet can be a member of the
household (if that is the only objection).
Assisted living centers, nursing homes, or hospice may
have slightly different rules. Hospice can be the
most accommodating when it comes to end of life needs
being met. Long-term care facilities generally
have one or two pets (often cats) wandering around as
unofficial therapists. Bringing in a custom made,
homegrown, duly deputized four legged therapist may be a
surprise that is welcomed.
it is not, a serious talk with the administrator and
healthcare provider of your loved one may change the
decision. This is especially true if you
contribute to pet upkeep by hiring someone who can be
relied upon to manage the pet at the facility.
health of the loved one is at stake by keeping a pet, a
serious discussion with the physician is in order.
Make sure the doctor understands the level of emotional
attachment involved. Studies have shown that
individuals who own pets lead markedly better lives.
The unconditional love and companionship from any pet
boosts self esteem and the outlook on life. These
in turn help the immune system, decrease stressors, and
ultimately improve the quality of life and health.
A relaxed, happy “patient” is much easier to care for
than one that is down in the dumps.
sense of appreciation expands at an unconscious level
when we accept the pet as an extension of the person we
are caring for.
Depending on funds, those of us who are still learning
to revel in caring for a pet can consider hiring a
service to assist us. The professional pet
caretaker may be agreeable to taking Granny along for
the walk with the dog. As long as we have
researched the company, our trust and stress levels are
members may be willing to rotate schedules in helping to
take care of the pet, for walks, litter box changes, and
other needs. This takes away primary caregiver
stress, and brings family closer together.
Creativity in entertaining options should be at the top
of the list. Again, long-term consequences of
keeping or giving up a pet should be evaluated
regularly. Any success is cause for celebration,
and makes challenges that much easier to handle.
is said and done, your loved one’s creature will be a
reminder of a shared joy. Animals are often
underrated in terms of memory and intellect. Pets
do remember. A pet that is not only “allowed” to
stay with its owner, but also welcomed into the new
environment bears a special feeling toward those who
have included it. Caregivers, too, have long
memories, and must strive to make those memories happy
If you must surrender a pet to a shelter, you will often
be asked if you have tried every option. Consider
interviewing the individuals administering the shelter
(versus simply talking to volunteers who do intake
processing). There may be options you have not
considered, and it is important that you have all
information available. Surrendering a pet is a
final decision, and you release any hold you have on the
animal permanently. You will not be told if the
animal was adopted out, and checking online status is no
guarantee of adoption.
NEVER give the pet to anyone outside of any shelter,
even if they promise they will take care of it.
This is generally posted outside of any animal shelter,
but if it isn’t, you must remember that not everyone has
the animal’s best interest at heart.
Investigate more than one service before you surrender
any pet. Specialty breed rescues should be able to
tell you enough information to help you decide how
reputable they are.
Remember that not all shelters are “no kill.” Even
shelters that advertise that they are may have to
euthanize animals that have health conditions, are
severely depressed by being surrendered, or who are
returned for behavioral reasons. While not all
shelters will sell animals for medical testing, some can
and do. Don’t give yourself something to second