The (Death) Back-Up Plan

Humans talk about a lot of things, sometimes rambling on for hours and hours about nonsense. One thing they don’t seem to talk about much is death. While this isn’t a fun topic to discuss, sometimes it’s necessary. When humans do talk about death it is usually because someone has died or they are putting a will together. Most are making sure that their house and bank account is properly taken care of when they die. You know what humans rarely (if ever) talk about, what will happen if they die before their dog(s)? What if you die in an accident or are permanently disabled? As awful as it is to think about, humans need to make plans for their dogs (or cat or lizard or any pet) in case something terrible like this happens. Your dog(s) won’t have a voice in this situation so you need to stand up for them now and make sure they are properly taken care of, regardless if a short-term or long-term situation arises. Dogs matter too!

Questions to ask yourself

Do family and friends know that you have dogs at home that need care? What if you end up in the hospital unconscious for a couple of days, will someone know to go care for your dog(s)?

Is there a family or friend available to adopt your dog(s) when you are gone? You don’t want your treasured family member to find its way into a shelter because there is no one willing and able to take them should you pass before they do.

If you have multiple dogs, can one person take them all? If not, what ones can be separated? Can they be separated at all? You want this transition to be the easiest for your dogs. No one will know their needs more than you do right now, so you need to have a specific plan in place for their care in case you aren’t around to decide it.

Do you have an informational card at home that explains the needs of your dogs? What food they eat, their medicines, special sleeping spots, potty break info, etc. These are all important things that a stranger won’t know about your dog. Every single detail of their daily life needs to be laid out for an emergency situation.

Is there money available to care for your dog(s) if you are gone? It’s possible for you to leave a certain portion of your money for the care of your dog. Care isn’t cheap and you are asking someone, who may or may not have their own animals, to now take on the care of your dog(s). Having money available for their care makes things a lot easier.

What should you do?

Create an Information Sheet

This is the very first thing to do because it can be used in any type of crisis situation.

Your info sheet should contain the following information:

• Name of vet, location, contact information
• Vaccination information (when they are due)
• Health issues (do they need regular vet care, are they currently getting care?)
• Type of food eaten (dry vs. canned) and include exact amounts (is there any food they CANNOT eat?)
• Feeding location (do all dogs eat together or separately?)
• Feeding times (some dogs eat once a day, some two. Some at 7am, some at 9am)
• Medications (type taken, how much and when. Also include what condition medicine is for. Include heartworm and flea preventatives)
• Water locations and use (where bowls are located and how frequently do they need to be refilled)
• Favorite toys
• Sleep locations (does your dog sleep in a crate, in the bed or on the floor?)
• Daily routine (do they eat, then go potty, then play, then sleep? Do they normally go to daycare? Give a timeline)
• Potty Breaks (does your dog potty as soon as they wake up, after eating? How often do they need to go out or take a poop break?)
• Where do dogs go when left alone (is your dog usually crated, do they wander the house, confined to a particular room?)
• Treats (include regularly fed ones, acceptable ones and ones that are off limits)
• Grooming (how does your dog get bathed? Do they need regular grooming? Who trims their nails?)
• Supply location (where do you buy food, treats, toys, medicines, etc.?)

Don’t forget to update this document anytime your dog changes food or medicine or has a new health issue! Have a copy on the computer for easy updating. Put the updated info sheet on the refrigerator, bulletin board or in clear view for easy reference.

PS: You should also have an emergency ID card in your wallet that states you have animals. This card should list an emergency contact that can be notified in case you are unable to care for your dog(s).

Put Together Action Plans

Come up with a plan for each situation that could arise. Does your dog need long-term or short-term care? What if you go into a care facility, do they accept dogs? Write up a detailed action plan for each situation you could be faced with.

Make sure that your friends and family know about these plans and where to find them in an emergency. You can even give copies out to people that would be assisting with your dogs’ care.

Talk with Friends and Family

Do you already have someone in mind that can take care of your dogs in an emergency situation? Will they care for your dogs at your home or theirs? You need to start asking around now to find a permanent caretaker in case of emergency. Someone you trust, who will love your dog(s) as much as you and take the best care of them possible.

The best situation for all involved is if your dog’s new parent(s) is already aware of their potential responsibilities. It isn’t a good idea to pass your dog onto to a person they have never met before. Your dog(s) will already be going through a traumatic experience by losing you; can you imagine also being forced to live with a stranger? While it might not always be possible for your dog(s) to be cared for by your closest friend or family member, at least try to find someone that your dog is a bit acquainted with.

Make sure the person you select is aware of what their responsibilities will be, financially and time wise. Let them know what your wishes are and that you have action plans available for different emergency situations. Discuss in detail how you want the transition to take place.

Have a will

Humans leave money and belongings to their biological children in a will, but they can also do the same for their 4-legged children! While it’s important to have conversations with the people who will be your dogs’ new parents, it’s also important to have all the finer details in a certified document, especially if you are leaving money for your dogs’ care.

If you are putting a will together for the first time, talk to you attorney about what information can be added to include your dog’s care. If you already have a will, think about getting information regarding your dog(s) added. I’m sure it can be done for a small fee… isn’t your dog(s) worth it?


It’s never too early to have a plan in place; it can only be too late. Sometimes humans are unable to predict their life path, but they can do the best by their dog(s) by having a plan in place for emergencies. Don’t wait, put a plan together today!

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