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Caroline's Kids Pet Rescue
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Where will they go when you're gone?
as seen in the News Herald article written by Jenny May on June 25, 2006
Bridgette, an 8-year-old calico cat, grew up in a home with plenty of love and attention, sharing a special bond with her owner.
But when Bridgette's owner died last year, life as she knew it ended.
With no arrangements made for her in her owner's will, Bridgette was taken to Geauga Humane Society's Rescue Village.
She now spends her days in a cage there, her green eyes gazing out, waiting for someone to adopt her.
Although Bridgette is well cared for by staff and volunteers, the trauma of coming from a home to a shelter could have been avoided had her owner made prior arrangements, said Sharon Harvey, executive director of Rescue Village.
Harvey said the shelter takes in at least 100 animals each year after owners die or go into nursing homes.
"It's upsetting enough for an animal to have its owner gone, and then even more stressful to have to come to a shelter, no matter how nice or great the shelter is," Harvey said.
"If there's any way for pet owners to find someone they know who can take the animal, that's always best."
An ongoing problem
Owners not making future arrangements for their pets create a problem that affects pets and shelters nationwide.
In a cage at the Lake County Humane Society sits Jessie, an 8-year-old neutered tabby cat who was taken to the shelter in May, when his owner went into a nursing home.
Jessie is litter-box trained, good with dogs, children and cats, and is also front declawed, said Cheryl Weber, director of development for the Humane Society.
Due to the stress of being separated from his owner and surrendered to the shelter, Jessie came down with an upper respiratory infection.
He is currently in foster care and will soon be looking for a good home.
Under the care of the staff at Animal Hospital Inc. in Willoughby Hills is Boo, a dog whose owner moved to a nursing home.
Boo is a 7-year-old purebred black chow chow who is good with cats; older, calmer dogs; and older children.
Candace Hertzel, executive director of the Lake County Humane Society, reminds people that situations such as these are avoidable.
"Often times we feel that our pets are part of our families and just as you would make arrangements for human family members, you can make it part of your will to have your pets cared for," Hertzel said. "It's important to think ahead before these things happen."
"I also remind people that animal shelters are nonprofit and only run on donations so people might consider leaving an animal shelter in their wills."
What you can do
In response to the large number of cats being surrendered when their owners died or went into nursing homes, Caroline's Kids Pet Rescue, based in Mayfield Heights, started the "Love for Life" program in 2004.
Cat owners can pay in advance to have their cat live out its life in the organization's free-roam sanctuary in Newbury Township, should they no longer be able to care for it.
"We started the program because we get so many calls each and every day from people who say, 'My grandfather died or my aunt died, and we don't know what to do with his or her three cats,' " Brown said. "There is a very definite need for a retirement home for these animals who have nowhere to go when their person dies."
There are two options under the Love for Life program.
The first provides the guarantee that your pet will have a future home should you die or become unable to provide care due to incapacitation or a change such as moving to a nursing home.
The donation schedule is based on the owner's age, starting at $600 for someone age 39 or younger and ending at $1,800 for someone age 70 to 75.
The second option provides continuing care for the cat that is left behind when its owner dies or can no longer provide care, and the need is immediate.
That donation is a one-time payment of $2,500.
Irene Janusiewicz of Concord Township was relieved to hear of the program.
Fearing her cats would end up euthanized if something were to happen to her, Janusiewicz arranged for the future care of all 10 of her cats through the Love for Life program.
"I feel real good knowing they will be cared for," Janusiewicz said. "If I didn't have this program, I don't know what I would do. I always encourage people to make arrangements for their pets - even my kids and grandkids, because they have a lot of cats."
Putting money aside for pets is often easier than people think, said Mark Weaver, investment adviser for Ferris, Baker, Watts Inc., a brokerage firm with offices in Beachwood, Cleveland and Columbus.
Weaver said people often designate a caretaker for their animal in their wills, but don't leave the person any money to care for the pet.
"Even a friend or a family member with the best intentions might not have the means to take care of a pet," Weaver said. "They don't take into consideration that it can be costly to give the animal the kind of care it needs as it gets older."
"People often don't know that all they have to do is change a small part of the investments they already have. Many people have an annuity and never consider that they could take a percentage and designate it to someone to make sure their pets are cared for."
Weaver suggests people set up a consultation with a financial adviser to see how they can set aside some money for their pets' care.
Harvey hopes more people look into such options, which could prevent pets such as Kelsey from being surrendered to shelters in the future.
A cream-colored adult cat, Kelsey was brought to Rescue Village in April when her owner moved into a nursing home.
Kelsey continues to adjust to her new home, which is a cage with a sign posted outside that reads: "Lovely older lady waiting for my forever home. I'll be your loving lap cat and sleep buddy."
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