Last Thursday night, I got two urgent calls from hospice staff regarding a patient's pet. We had just admitted a 33 year old woman with heart disease a few days before. Most patients with terminal heart disease are on hospice for at least a few weeks to months, so it was a shock to everyone when she died without warning on Thursday. There was no opportunity to say goodbye, to work out the details of her life and her relationships, no chance to make amends or face her death unafraid. Her family was reeling and in shock as well. Caught in the middle of this difficult situation was her beloved cat, a 10 year old female that has been with her for its entire life.
The reason for the urgent calls from my staff was that the family had already made it clear to them after the patient's death that they didn't want the cat. The patient had doted on this animal, but her family didn't like it or want to take care of it. Because of the suddenness of the patient's death, we had no opportunity to plan ahead for a foster home or assist the patient in deciding where to place her beloved pet. We are working on placement for her as I write this.
The reason I pass this story along to you is to plead with you...please, please, don't let your pets find themselves looking through the door of a shelter cage, grieving for you and wondering what happened to their home. Plan ahead. Talk to the people you love and make sure they are willing to care for your pets. Don't take it for granted that they will. Sometimes families will say anything to take a burden off of someone who is close to the end of their lives and then do something different later. If you can provide for their care financially, do so. Just make sure you have the conversation now or it may be too late.