Who Gets the Dog?
By Mary Grace Musuneggi
On Thanksgiving this year, our beloved dog, Watson, passed away. We were heartbroken.
Having always owned a dog, I know, like all pet parents know, that when we adopt a pet, we understand they will more than likely pass before we do; and we will feel the loss. But we do it anyway. Because we love them. And because of the unconditional love that they give us, that somehow makes us better humans.
So of course, over the weeks since Watson’s passing, the conversation has turned to should we adopt another. Again, all pet parents understand that adopting a pet is more than just a desire to have another companion in the house. It is a financial commitment for training, food, toys, and healthcare. Even major health care expenses. It is a commitment of time and money. And as may of our clients who volunteer as pet foster parents, or who spend their time at animal shelters can attest, many shelters are filled with pets whose owners found they did not have the time or financial resources to care for them.
Recently I have learned that pets are often abandoned when their elderly pet parent goes into a nursing home, long term care facility, or if the owner dies. Having recognized that there is always the possibility that as a pet owner we may be in one of these circumstances, we had made plans in our will for who would get our dog if something would happen to us. But how many people do this? Maybe everyone who owns a pet should make plans for “Who Gets the Dog.”
And as we age, should we consider the role of what pets play in our lives? Some studies show that dog-owning seniors have lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol than their pet-less peers. Having a dog also reduces the risk of heart attack — and boosts the chances of long-term survival if you have one. These advantages may outweigh the chances of dealing with the feeling of loss if the dog passes before the owner. In any case, owning a pet requires planning considerations.
Planning to get a pet for the new year? Take the time to consider the pros and cons of owning a living thing. Both the financial and emotional commitment. Understand that you will probably outlive them and the feeling that goes with that. Maybe a turtle would be a good pet. They can live for 125 years.