Downsizing With a Pet: Take Every Family Member With You

When the kids leave home and you’re planning for retirement, it often makes sense to scale down from that big family house to something a little easier to take care of. But have you thought about every family member that still lives with you? If you have pets, you’ll need to cater to them in the planning process.

Put Care Into Staging Your Home

You love your pets, but not everyone out there feels the same way. When you’re selling your home you need to make it appealing to all kinds of prospective buyers. This means staging your property in a way that lets everyone who walks through the door imagine they could move in right now and be happy there.

Some useful staging tips for people with pets include:

  • Ventilate the property to remove any pet smells
  • Have furniture cleaned, or cover it to hide stains
  • Vacuum the floors daily to pick up hairs, fluff, or dander
  • Put away any photos of the pets before viewings
  • Clean your air vents
  • Hide pet toys and bowls before viewings

Plan The Move and Your Mortgage

Decide what area you’d like to move to, then find out how much you can afford. Talk to your bank and a mortgage broker and get preapproval for a mortgage. This helps you work out how much you can afford to borrow, so you’ll know what homes are accessible to you. Then, when you find the perfect property you can act quickly without stressing about the mortgage.

Help Your Pet Feel Comfortable With the Move

Moving to an unfamiliar area is scary for humans and pets too. You can help your pet feel more comfortable with the move by taking them to see the area where the new house is a few times before moving day. Go for regular walks and get them used to being in that area.

Dogs are creatures of routine, and they might feel confused if a lot of things about their routine change all at once. If you normally feed your pet in a big kitchen, and the new place has a very different layout, try to get them used to taking meals elsewhere before you move. Make new routines gradually so they don’t get too much of a shock at the change.

Confirm Your New Place Is Pet Friendly

If you’re moving to a rental property rather than buying, make sure the new house is pet-friendly and get confirmation of that in writing. If you’re buying, check what furniture comes with the property and make sure that everything is as pet-safe as possible. You may have some decorating work to do to bring things up to scratch, so if necessary ask someone to pet sit for a couple of days while you fix the place up.

Take Care of Your Four-Legged Family Members

Plan carefully before downsizing by staging your home properly and making sure you have mortgage pre-approval, as well as helping your pet adapt to the new environment and change in routine. Remember that not everyone is a pet lover, so take a look at the Animal Rights Channel to learn about keeping cats, dogs, and other animals safe and healthy.

By Jessica Brody

Photo by Dominika Roseclay on Pexels.com

Pet rescues drove me to shop for my dog

I’m sixty. But I have a baby. A twelve-week-old Siberian husky named Finn. He’s the last baby I’ll ever have.

“When we’re seventy, we’re going to adopt old dogs,” I told my husband. “The ones that people dump at the pound because they’re too old.”

My vet wants to know where I got Finn. This story always starts with the words, “Don’t judge me.”

That’s because I bought a dog from a family in my neighborhood who bred their pet husky.

Yes, I failed to adopt from a rescue.

Not for lack of trying. I filled out no fewer than five rescue organization applications. And this is what I found: Most rescue organizations are rather poorly run. What follows is the reader’s digest condensed version of my experience.

Pawsibilities–not recommended

I saw a dog on Petfinder.com that looked cute and ticked every box I was looking for: puppy, good with other dogs, good with cats, good temperament. The $850 price tag gave me some sticker shock, but, for a temperament-tested dog, it seemed worth it.

What was never disclosed to me in the application process was that this four-pound dog  would never get any bigger.

On Petfinder, the Pawsibilities pup was represented as an Australian shepherd/poodle mix. Based on this information, I expected a dog in the 25-40 pound range.

Nowhere on Petfinder did it say he was a miniature mini. And this was also not mentioned when I visited with the dog. It was finally revealed at the vet’s office.

Animal Care Society–not recommended

Animal Care Society is nationwide. They have an impossibly long application, and they respond to applications when they damn well please. They accepted twenty-five applications for the puppy I wanted.

Animal Care Society wants your veterinary records from the past ten years. They also want three character references IN ADDITION to your veterinarian’s reference. Animal Care Society’s buzzword is “Thank you for adopting, not shopping.”

But they are driving people to shop.

When I questioned these practices, they threw out my application.

Woodstock Animal Rescue–tentatively recommended

I almost adopted a puppy from Woodstock Animal Rescue. They were fostering a super-cute pointer puppy. But my eight year old dog introduced herself too aggressively. Then a so-called behaviorist on site said it would never work.

Southern Indiana Rescue–not recommended

Southern Indiana Rescue posted a picture and description of a white pit bull named Ace on Petfinder. He was described as good with dogs and good with cats.

Responding to my application, the rescue volunteer emailed that Ace had not been “cat tested” but that they were going to do that.

Then they lost my application.

Several weeks of radio silence later, I made a phone call. SI rescue then said that Ace was not good with other dogs or people.

I expressed interest in another dog fostered by that rescue. When I arrived at PetSmart, my dog barked at the other dogs in the store. Because of that, the SI rescue director told me that I needed to make her an only dog.

But I knew my dog was good with other dogs! I was a puppy foster myself! Here’s a picture of the puppy I fostered in Statesboro, Georgia:

relatestodogs

And to the left is my lab mix who helped me raise this puppy

This was the moment when I gave myself permission to buy a puppy from someone’s back yard.

What you can do: 

If you are adopting a dog, adopt from the ASPCA or your municipal pound or animal shelter. They are arguably more efficient and less subjective than start-up rescues.

Do not trust Petfinder.com about the age or size of the pet or its ability to get along with other animals.

If you run a rescue

Keep Petfinder.com pet profiles accurate and up-to-date. If you don’t know how a dog is with cats, do NOT check that the dog is cat friendly. If a dog is more than four months old, do NOT claim it is a puppy.

If you have already received ten or more applications for a pet, remove the Petfinder profile until you get up to date on responding to applications.

If you run a rescue and you receive twenty-five applications for a single dog, review every application and respond to every application. Don’t just throw the dog or cat at the first applicant in the pile, who has a fence and a veterinarian. This practice is not fair to all the applicants who took forty minutes to an hour to fill our your application. 

If you run a rescue, and you don’t have time to respond to applications or you tend to lose applications, dissolve your rescue and, instead, volunteer at a rescue organization that has its shit together.

Do NOT start a new rescue unless you have approximately thirty hours a week to devote to it, and you have a good record keeping system. Do NOT start a new rescue on the assumption that you are the only good dog owner in the world.

 

Ace your rescue dog application: 15 tips

You want to rescue a dog that’s had a hard life. Maybe his first owners kept him lonely and chained up. Maybe he didn’t get good veterinary care. You are a generous person who wants to do the right thing. 

Then you take 45 minutes to fill out a dog rescue application and find you were declined because you don’t have specific “breed experience.” Or some other reason that feels wrong. Understanding the concerns behind pet rescue questionnaires can really help you navigate the process. 

Tip one: Understand rescue sites. 

A lot of people end up at Petfinder.com because of its search rankings. However, it is not the only, or even the best, platform to find a dog. Rescueme.org is a great, nationwide site. Also research specific breed rescues, like Husky Haven of Florida which specializes in the husky breed. There is a rescue for almost every breed of dog or cat you are interested in. 

Be aware that most of the dogs on these sites are already owned by rescues. And you will have to navigate their unique processes. Some dog owners get frustrated and put their own dogs on a rescue site, directly, instead of finding a rescue organization to take them. These ads read like, “I’m having a baby, and it kills me, but I have to give up my fur princess.” Or “I’m moving and can’t take my dog.” These listings may offer you an opportunity to adopt a dog without having to deal with a rescue. 

Tip two: Keep filling out applications

If you don’t receive a reply to your query or application within 48 hours, there’s a good chance the rescue has lost your application or they adopted out the dog while you were filling out your application. It’s likely they will not circle back around to the other people who applied and let them know that the dog now has a home. You should not waste time trying to figure out what happened. 

You do have the right to ask an adoption agency how many applications they already have for a specific dog. If they won’t tell you, there’s a good chance you are dealing with shady people. There are good rescues and bad rescues. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to separate them out when all you have is a name and website. 

Tip three: You must have a fenced yard for a big dog.

The rescue dog application may give you the impression that a fenced yard would be a nice thing to have.

Wrong. It is an absolute requirement.

The rescue dog application may ask how tall your fence is. If you are looking at any dog bigger than a mini, you need a fence of at least six feet in height. It’s a good idea to have your fence built before starting the rescue process. 

Tip four: You must have your other animal(s) up to date on shots.

While evaluating your rescue dog application, the rescue agency will call your vet and ask how many pets you have and whether they are up to date on all vaccines. If they are not, you will not get the pet.

It doesn’t matter if your indoor-only, twenty year old cat has not gone outside for eighteen years. If you want to adopt a rescue dog, you will have to take your cat to the vet and get her shots.

Tip five: Pets are not disposable.

If you have ever dumped an animal, you are not eligible for another pet. Dumping can be defined as: leaving your dog or cat behind when you move or opening the car door and letting your pet run off into the wilderness.

If you have taken an animal to the pound or given it away to another person, you should carefully think through your reasons for getting another pet. 

Think about what you would do to protect a child. If you won’t do almost as much to protect your pet, don’t get a pet.

  1. This means, for instance, if you have to evacuate for a storm, take ALL YOUR PETS.
  2. If you are moving from New York to California, TAKE YOUR PETS. Don’t give me this, “He’ll be happier with ….” bullshit. No he won’t. Just figure it out, people.
  3. If your fiance says, “me or the dog,” choose the dog. Talk about a bad trade.
  4. When you have a baby, keep the dog. If the dog ends up liking your four year old more than he likes you, keep the dog.

Tip six: The retractable leash question.

The correct answer is “No, I don’t believe in retractable leashes. I do not own and will never use a retractable leash.”

Yes, your rescue dog application will contain some items that are trick questions, designed to trap the unwary.

Truth: If you get a forty pound dog or a bigger one, you will quickly learn not to use a retractable leash. Especially after your dog has circled your legs three times with the leash and left you unable to walk.

I see people using retractable leashes and not breaking a hip. It’s always a tiny dog. It’s still a dumb idea, but not as dumb as walking a malamute on a retractable leash.

Tip seven: The crate question

The correct answer is: “Yes, I am familiar with crate training, and I will crate my dog for short periods of time in conjunction with house training. I will place treats and toys in the crate to make sure it is a positive experience for my dog, and I will never use a crate as a punishment.”

Truth: No matter how nice you make a crate, it’s a crate. Any dog who is crated every day comes to hate his crate. You really do need a fenced yard where your dog can go potty when you’re not up for walking him. 

If the rescue dog application specifically asks you how many hours a day you plan to crate your dog, waffle madly. “In general, not for long. I would appreciate your guidance on this matter,” might be the only safe answer. There is a wide range of opinion on how long you should crate a dog. 

Tip eight: The “How will you discipline your dog?” question.

The correct answer is: “I subscribe to positive dog training methodology. Dogs should be rewarded for good behaviors, but never hit or yelled at.” 

It might be a good idea to line up a dog trainer in advance, so that you can put her name on your application along with contact information. If you have a nice, long conversation with this trainer, you can even put her down as a reference. 

Note: If you plan to beat up your dog, don’t get a dog.

Unlike a child, your dog will not understand why you are punching or kicking. Don’t get a dog as a punching bag. And, if you need a punching bag, don’t have children either.

Tip eight: The “Do you plan to move any time within the next six months?” question

The correct answer is no. Just no, not maybe or “I don’t know.”

Truth: You can safely move with a dog or cat, so long as you use some common sense and advance planning. My dog has changed houses with me four times in the past eight years. She doesn’t like it, but she didn’t get lost or have a psychotic episode.

I would also note that dogs are often more resilient than people, and they don’t hold grudges like people. “I can’t believe you moved me to a place that doesn’t have a Forever 21!” is something you will never hear from your dog.

Tip nine: the “who is this animal for?” question

The correct answer is “me.”

If you are getting an animal primarily because you know that your husband will be devastated when your current dog dies, the correct answer is still “me.”

Your rescue dog application will be declined if you disclose that you are getting this animal as a gift or for your children or for your grandmother or for your other dog or cat who is lonely during the day while you are at work.

Tip ten: the “Where will this dog be during the day when you are not home?,” “How many hours a day will this dog be alone?” and “Where will this dog sleep?” questions.

The correct answers: Your dog will be in your house during the day when you are not home, and not in a crate and not in your back yard or front yard.

When calculating how long the dog will be alone, consider the other members of your family. Could your husband work at home? If so, add those hours to the hours your dog will have companionship. Similarly, if your daughter comes home for lunch, calculate that time.

If you live alone, you should really try to adopt two dogs, preferably litter mates. Sibling dogs love each other for ever, and they take the pressure off you to provide all the companionship your puppy needs.  

Your dog will sleep in a dog bed. If you are applying for a puppy, your puppy will sleep in a dog bed which has been placed inside your bedroom.

Truth: If you actually get a puppy, he may cry all night long, allowing no one to sleep, unless you put him on your bed or in a crate with another dog.

Tip eleven: “How much does it cost to own and care for a dog?”

The correct answer is: “Between $1000 and $5000 a year, depending on the size of the dog, its age, and health issues. However, I have also set up an emergency fund of $2000 to cover teeth cleaning, emergency care, and treatment for any chronic health issues that might come up.”

Truth: If you don’t have are struggling financially, it is not a good time to get a dog. If, however, you are financially stable, if you own your home, if you have savings and a paid off car, it is a good idea to mention those things, whether the application asks for them or not. Rescues do, legitimately, want assurance that their dog is going to a secure home where financial problems will not endanger her veterinary care or stability. 

Tip twelve: “In the past ten years, have you owned any pets that are not on your list of current pets? What happened to them?”

The correct answer is “Princess died in the vet’s office after a heroic struggle with cancer.” It is okay to have euthanized your animal, if he or she had a fatal illness.

If you reveal, on your rescue dog application, that you ever lost a pet, you will not get another animal from a rescue. Even breeders have a problem with lost pets.

Truth: If you plan to lose your dog or let your dog run wild in the neighborhood, don’t get a dog.  The good people on Nextdoor.com will crucify you if they have to go looking for your dog more than once.

Similarly, if you disclose that any animal of yours was killed in traffic, you will probably be disqualified by the rescue organization.

Tip thirteen: “How old are you?”

The correct answer is: Under sixty and over twenty.

Age discrimination continues unchecked at rescue organizations. Their reasoning is that your adopted dog may live to be twelve and your adopted cat may live to be twenty. It is true that, as we age, we need to have plans in place for our pets, should they outlive us. However, many rescues don’t actually “sell” you a dog. They adopt it out to you in return for a donation. If that item is in your adoption paperwork, your orders are clear. If you have a terminal illness, you take your animal back to the rescue organization. 

Truth: If you are getting a puppy or a high-energy dog, this dog will need a LOT of attention and exercise. Retirees can be great adopters if they have the energy to walk a dog every day and get him to the dog park for six or more hours a week. You can also put agility equipment in your back yard and teach him to run up and down the ramp, through the tunnel, etc. The issue is: Are you still fit and energetic enough for a fit and energetic dog? If the answer is “no,” you will want to adopt an older dog, at least six years old, with a resume of couch surfing. 

Older dogs and cats need homes, and rescues can do a good job of matching your needs if you say you want a low-energy dog.  

Tip fourteen: “Under what circumstances would you surrender this animal?”

The correct answer is something like, “Only death will part us” or, “If I am diagnosed with a terminal illness.” 

The main thing is not to say that you would dump your dog at a shelter if he pees the rug or if you get married or have a baby or get a new job or move to California.

See tip five, and don’t make me get on my soapbox, again.

Tip fifteen: “What will you do when the puppy pees the house?”

Correct answer: I will clean up the pee without scolding the puppy. I understand that house training a puppy involves praising the puppy for peeing outside, and making sure the puppy has adequate opportunities to go outside. I will be patient and understanding. And pee does not freak me out.

Okay, the puppy IS GOING to pee the house. A LOT. Puppies and inappropriate peeing go hand in hand. You don’t get the cuteness without the responsibility. Honestly, many of those You tubes about cute puppies need to be replaced with films of puppies peeing the house. Over and over and over again. There’s a good chance it will take six months or more before your puppy does not pee the house at least three times a week. If you are not prepared for this, do not get a puppy.

Similarly, if cleaning up urine is absolutely the worst thing you can think of, do not get a puppy. or a dog. Or a cat. And please don’t have children. They pee too.

In conclusion, there are good rescues and bad rescues. The good ones respond to questions, read applications, make phone calls, and start a dialog with applicants. Unfortunately, you cannot always identify the bad rescues right away. If they don’t get back to you after you have asked a question, that’s a sign of an irresponsible rescue. Also look at their application. If it’s more than two pages, and you can’t fill it out on line, they don’t respect your time. If they ask for an unreasonable number of references, in addition to your veterinarian and dog trainer, they don’t respect your time or your relationship with your peers.