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May 17, 2022, 5:00 a.m. EDT

What will happen to your pets when you die?

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By Michele C. Hollow

This article is reprinted by permission from  .

When the ambulance arrived to remove the body of an older New York City resident, a woman in her 80s, they found Tina, an 11-year-old Chihuahua, standing guard. Emergency service workers took Tina to the city’s animal shelter. Fortunately, a volunteer dog walker stopped by to walk Tina. When she heard where Tina was, she contacted  Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS) NY .

“Tina’s owner was a client of ours,” said Carrie Nydick Finch, deputy director of Programs and Strategy for PAWS NY, a nonprofit that provides services to vulnerable New Yorkers who need support caring for their pets due to physical and financial obstacles. “The volunteer dog walker knew Tina and her owner, a woman with mobility issues. She’s been a client of ours for seven years.”

“When pet owners die, move into a nursing home that doesn’t allow pets, or become too ill to care for their pets, we step in,” Nydick Finch said. “These are our clients who we’ve come to know. We’ve built a relationship with them and their pets.”

The nonprofit works closely with Animal Care Centers of NYC, the city’s animal shelter.

“They know us,” said Nydick Finch, “which means we can go in, take the pet out of the shelter, and place the animal in foster care until we find a loving home.”

Another benefit of knowing the pet allows PAWS NY to place the pet in an appropriate home. In Tina’s case, she needed to be in a household with no other dogs, cats or kids.

Like Tina, Ruby, a 7-year-old Abyssinian cat, needed to be a solo pet. She found a new home through PAWS NY when her owner, a 90-year-old New Yorker with cognitive issues, moved into a nursing home.

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Have a plan in place to care for your pet

As Ruby’s owner started to decline a few years prior, a family member contacted PAWS NY; volunteers came to the apartment four times a week to clean the litter box, feed, and care for Ruby.

“In this case, we were able to take Ruby when her owner moved into the nursing home,” said Nydick Finch. “She didn’t wind up in a shelter. She was fostered until we found a permanent home for her.”

Tina’s and Ruby’s stories have happy endings. “Emergencies happen all the time,” said Dianne McGill, founder and president of  Pet Peace of Mind . “We’re in 44 states and we help pets find suitable homes when they become orphaned.”

McGill recommends having an advance directive or living will for your pets.

“And talk to your family about the type of care you want for your pets,” McGill added. “That discussion should be made early on before you’re sick and can’t care for your pet. It’s the best thing you can do for [them].”

Like PAWS NY, Pet Peace of Mind doesn’t charge for its services. They also find homes for a variety of animals. One client, a man in his 70s with three horses, wished to die at his Idaho ranch. When his cancer progressed and he could no longer care for his horses, Pet Peace of Mind stepped in with food, hay, and volunteers. The horses were rehomed right after the man died.

Finding the right home for a cat, dog or even a horse has its challenges. Try rehoming a snake.

“Not everyone wants to care for one,” McGill said. “This is a dying wish. People love their pets and worry about leaving them behind. I’ve seen some people hang on and pass peacefully once they know their pet is properly cared for.”

See : Which pet makes better financial sense, a cat or a dog?

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