My Pet World: Should you discourage a friend from adopting a pet?

My Pet World

Photo by Anna Shvets/Pexels

By Cathy M. Rosenthal
Tribune Content Agency

Dear Cathy,

I have an older friend of many years who lives alone after becoming widowed in 2020. She is currently having major health issues, which puts her in the hospital several times a year. She also uses oxygen tanks with tubes running throughout the house and is not very steady on her feet. She has two middle-aged cats and now wants a dog.

I think the dog is intended to give her company and entertainment. Both are good things, but I am not sure she can properly care for it. She said she could pay someone to walk the dog, which her finances would allow. She does have a small, fenced backyard, so the dog would be able to get some relief without being walked as well.

My other concern is that she has a very limited support system; basically, it’s just me and another friend who is not very accessible or responsive to her, but lives closer to her. So, I assume that if and when she goes into the hospital, I will need to step up and find care for the dog or care for it myself.

I expressed these feelings and told her I had doubts that she could take care of a dog. She simply asked if I would still love the dog if she got one and I said of course. She now has an application for a dog with a shelter. I understand that shelters do a phone interview due to COVID, so they won’t necessarily see her frailty. My question to you is, was I wrong to express my apprehension about the adoption, and should I just dummy up and support her decision?

– V, Baltimore, Maryland

Dear V,

One should be able to share concerns with a friend as long as you express those concerns respectfully. It sounds like you did, based on her response. She didn’t seem upset with you. In fact, she let you know she heard you and asked for your support regardless of her decision. You handled it beautifully.

We both know though, that it’s her decision – and ultimately, the shelter’s decision on whether she can adopt a dog. I assume that if she has the money to get the dog walked, she has the money to put the dog in a kennel or pay a pet sitter to stay at the house with her pets if she is hospitalized. The animal shelter also may recommend she adopt an older dog that has a few years of life left, but that won’t require as much exercise as a younger dog. If they refuse her for any of the reasons you mentioned, then she will have heard it from two places and may hold off on adopting a dog.

If she does get approved, you must again be honest with her and let her know you are not in a position to care of her pets.

Encourage her to find a pet sitter or kennel where the dog and/or cats can be taken if she is hospitalized, and to give someone (a child or family member) power of attorney, so they can decide what happens to her pets should she not return home for whatever reason.

That’s the next best advice you can give as her friend.

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to [email protected]. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.