MAAP—Address the needs of your pet by Debra A. Vey Voda-Hamilton

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The previous article introduced you to the concept of making a plan for the care of your pet. In that article you were encouraged to:
 
Address your pet’s uniqueness. List their identifying characteristics including color, sex, age, and microchip number, if applicable. This information will be invaluable to those left to care for your family companions. The MAAP outline (Make a plan, Address needs, Appoint caregivers, Publish plan) you create should cover their eating habits and personality traits. By creating this document you enable the person caring for your pet to know its common behavior. It seamlessly allows someone to step into your shoes.

It seems intuitive to address the needs of your pet, but have you done it in a way that will enable someone to “step into your shoes?” If not, this article will give you the template for crafting the shoes your surrogate pet caregiver needs. The 6 Topics to Address the Needs of Your Pet will assure that your pet is cared for in the way you want, especially if you are unable to care for them yourself, short or long term.

Things to consider when you are addressing the needs of each of your pets:

            Medication

            Temperament

            Play

            Grooming

            Unique things the caregiver needs to know

            End of life

These are some of the areas you should cover in your plan to address the needs of your family companion. They are the most important pieces of the puzzle that make your pet your pet! Outlining the care you want your pet to receive will allow others to properly address your pet in your presence or elsewhere while you recover.

Medication

If your pet takes heartworm and/or tick and flea preventative when are they due? What kind do you use? If they take stomach or bowel medication, what do they take, how much, and when? Do they need eye drops? Do they take pills easily or is it tricky?

If you are unavailable to give medication don’t rely on the directions on the bottle.  It often takes so much more to assure that your pet gets their medications correctly. It is up to you to take a minute and write down the steps you take to give a pill or put drops in their eyes. As owners we have tricks that work. Share them so your pet knows what is coming. They will be less apprehensive receiving care from a family member or a less familiar caregiver if it is administered in the same way.      

Temperament

It is imperative for you to write down the idiosyncrasies of your pet. Do they hate the mailman? Are they sensitive about their feet being touched? If they are afraid of thunder what do you do to help them weather the storm?  Having a caregiver bitten because they unknowingly trigger a negative response is avoidable. Their unfamiliarity with your pet and lack of direction from you on the finer points of grooming your dog or cutting its nails can land your pet in a shelter. It is up to you to assure that all of those cute things you know about your pet are written down. Then, after you write them down, share them with those you ask to care for your pet. It will keep pet and person safe and secure.

Play

Does your dog play catch or retrieve? Does your cat play nicely with other cats? Are they toy lovers or destroyers? Do they like to hike or lie around on the couch?  Climbing units are great for indoor exercise; does your cat like them? Classes in agility or rally may take the edge off a bored dog. If your colleagues who train in performance events with you cannot take your dog in maybe they will be able to bring him/her to class once a month just to let off steam. This will not happen if you do not leave a list of names and numbers of people willing to keep your dog fit. Listing how your dog enjoys play is key to keeping his/her brain screwed on while adjusting to life without mom/dad or awaiting your recovery.

Grooming

Do you have a pet that needs grooming? Do you like your pet groomed regularly? This will not happen if you fail to tell your long- or short-term caregiver to do it and leave the funds to have it done. They may not be as adept as you are at grooming your pet. Leave directions and money to keep your pet in the kind of physical shape to which they have become accustomed. Leaving directions on HOW you do it or with whom you groom will enable your pet to have continuity in the middle of an uncertain time. Isn’t that what you’d like to have happen for them?

Unique things the caregiver needs to know

This is probably the most important information you need to share in writing for the benefit of your pet’s caregiver. Riding in the car is scary unless they are in a crate or seatbelt. The cat hates the vet, so when you put her in her carrier make sure you give her some catnip. Your dog does very well with a front catch harness or it hinders him and gives him bruises. Your dog is afraid of rain because it may lead to thunder—leave her in a crate when you leave for work.  The cat loves olives; the dog is thrilled to chew on ice cubes. Sleeping in the pink puppy cup next to the bed or sleeping next to your head is preferred. The cat does not like dogs; the dog is afraid of people in hats. These things are intuitive for you but are so important to share in writing with potential caregivers to make the short-term care or long-term transition more likely to succeed.

End of life

End-of-life choices are an intricate piece of the puzzle involving pets. Yet people never think to share what they would like someone to do with their pet if health questions arose. Do you want them to undergo surgery to treat cancer or choose the less-invasive treatment keeping them comfortable? If they are older and you are very ill, should they be put down with you? Interestingly, a number of people have this in their will. It is not the best place to have the end-of-life plan for your pet, yet that is a topic for a future article. Addressing how you would choose to care for your pet when end-of-life decisions have to be made helps your caregiver make difficult decisions with confidence that they are following your preferences.

Addressing the needs of your pet(s), their unique personality, likes and dislikes, medical and grooming needs, as well as how you would care for them when end-of-life questions arise, helps the people caring for your pet follow your desires completely. These written directives give your pet security in your absence. Somehow this person caring for them knows how their owner held them when their nails were cut, used the same clipper, placed their bed in the same place it was at home, and gave them their pill in the same pill pocket they love. It all shows your family companion that this person, who isn’t their mom or dad, knows what makes them feel at home and safe while their person recovers. It takes only a little time but can mean so much to the future care and comfort of your pet.

MAAPing the journey your pet takes when you cannot care for them, short or long term, requires planning. One of the important parts includes addressing the needs of your pet. It will give you peace of mind. It will also make the short- or long-term transition care of your pet easier on your pet and the caregiver.

About the Contributor: Debra Vey Voda-Hamilton is the principal at Hamilton Law and Mediation, PLLC—the nation’s first solo mediation practice dedicated to helping people resolve conflicts over animals—Debra uses alternative dispute resolution to help address disagreements over the family pet during divorce, neighbors’ arguments over a barking dog, and confrontations between clients and veterinarians and other professionals who work with animals. HLM also looks forward to helping animal rights and welfare advocates see the benefit of having a conversation about the best interests of all parties—especially the animals—to resolve animal-related disputes. She works both nationwide and internationally. She has presented at veterinary schools, the American Kennel Club, the American Veterinary Medical Law Association, the Society of Animal Welfare Administrators, the Living With Animals conference, state bar association Animal Law Committee meetings, and animal interest group meetings. Debra has been featured in Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, US News and World Report, and the New York Times.