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Pets Large & Small

Planning for the worst

Jennifer Vanderau
Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter

(5/2015) Iím not much for making plans. I like to fly by the seat of my pants for most things in life. I sometimes find that being open to whatever happens makes life not only fun, but really, really interesting.

Additionally, on those rare days that I do make plans, often times they never come to fruition. Something invariably makes them go quite astray.

This is what I try to explain to my mother when I am late for dinner some nights. Not sure sheís buying it yet.

Whether youíre a planner or not, one part of life that definitely requires some preparation and forward thinking is our pets.

Animals need us as much as we need them and sometimes we have to think ahead in order to make sure theyíre cared for.

As an example, we had a cattledog mix come into the shelter a few months ago because his owner had passed away and none of the family members were willing to take him. The poor pup was completely petrified. He slowly came around with time, but the family said he was "dadís dog" and with dad being gone, no one could do anything with the pup.

Itís sad and Iím fairly certain that if dad had his way, his best friend wouldnít have ended up in an animal shelter Ė but without any kind of plan or contingency, these kinds of situations happen a lot.

Thatís why itís so important to figure out Ė before the time comes Ė what will happen to your four-legged friends. If you know family isnít an option, talk to friends or maybe even neighbors and see if they would be willing to help.

I know people who write their pets into their wills. Amazing. And incredibly thoughtful.

The good news is the cattledog did end up getting adopted, but it was a shame he had to be so scared in a shelter at all.

Two of my biggest fears in life are fire and some kind of natural disaster. Ever since I was little, Iíve had a recurring dream about walking into my parentsí back yard, straight into a tornado. Sitting here typing these words right now, I can see the vision of it in my mindís eye and it freaks me out.

The Wizard of Oz always did frighten me back in the day. *shivers*

Just a few years ago, we had a tornado touch down outside the old shelter and I gotta tell you, it was only through sheer force of will that I was able to maintain any kind of composure. Looking outside the windows was nothing but white. We couldnít even see the porch, no joke.

If anything like that would happen at home and I would have to evacuate quickly, I worry about my cats. Having eight felines in the house makes preparations for something like that a little daunting, but itís really critical.

Disaster preparedness always makes me think of September 11th and the stories I heard of so many people going back toward ground zero to save animals that were trapped in apartments. I know a whole lot of animal lovers who would have done the exact same thing, regardless of the threats to themselves.

I know no one likes to think about these things, but they can happen Ė and itís important to have a plan for our pets if they do.

I also know thinking about the end of our lives is not necessarily a comforting prospect, but it, like taxes, is pretty inevitable, and it only makes sense to be sure our four-legged friends are cared for in the event of our passing.

So, in an emergency situation, do you have enough carriers? Can you get to your leashes? What about tags? Thereís a good chance youíre going to be pretty frantic and if, heaven forbid, your pet would get away from you, youíd want to get him home again.

What about information on each pet? A friend of mine created a very detailed folder system for each animal she had that included vaccination records, any medications and food allergies. She kept it all in a binder that was easily accessible and quick to grab.

She also had a kit that included bowls and blankets and towels. Itís almost like preparing for the birth of a baby Ė you need to be ready to head out quickly and having everything already put together before hand may seem silly, but youíll be incredibly grateful if you ever need it.

Planning for your pets in the event of your passing is definitely not a fun conversation to have, but you really should consider it. You love your babies and you would want them cared for even if you werenít around.

I canít help but think about the brown eyes of that cattledog when he came into the shelter. I know he was wondering what was going on and when dad would come back for him.

And Iím pretty sure his dad would never have wanted that to happen to him.

So think about who could take your babies should the worst occur and make sure you talk with him or her about it and have a plan in place.

Iím not much of a planner, but when it comes to having pets, planning for the worst times sure can give you a sense of comfort and peace-of-mind during the best times.


Jennifer Vanderau is the Director of Communications for the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter in Chambersburg, Pa., and can be reached at The shelter accepts both monetary and pet supply donations. For more information, call the shelter at (717) 263-5791 or visit the website

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