Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Is it Time to Make Pet Care Benefits a Standard?

Oscar and Lola in 2013
For 15 years Oscar and Lola were part of our family. We brought them into our home when Oscar was 8 weeks old and Lola, about 16 weeks old. Our two Lhasa Apso puppies quickly became a part of everything we planned including housing decisions, vacation destinations, and home entertaining.
Lola was diagnosed with diabetes about 18 months ago. She required insulin injections daily and continued to live comfortably until April of this year when constant seizures brought us to the heart breaking decision to euthanize her to end her suffering. 
It was hard to know if Oscar knew Lola was gone since he had been blind and deaf for a few years -- I think he knew. Oscar followed his nose to maneuver throughout the house so he had notice that Lola’s scent was missing at some point. He always knew where to find each family member at the appropriate time of day and would curl up on one his favorite blankets or behind a chair, or under a table or other odd places. 
Oscar had advanced renal failure. His age and overall condition made possible treatments unreliable for a positive outcome, but rather than euthanasia, we decided to keep him home and in familiar surroundings until the end. Oscar slept away on October 10, 2016 with my daughters and me next to him. My youngest daughter was visiting from Colorado and remarked that she was comforted as she fell asleep listening to his snoring the night before. Her sister decided to stop by to spend the day with her before her flight so they both had the opportunity to comfort Oscar. 
Both our beloved pets gone within 7 months of each other.
We are all sad, but honestly, I never expected to feel so distraught. If I feel this way surely others who have dealt with the death of a pet have experienced this sense of loss and subsequent grief. 
As a child, our family always had a dog, but the dog lived outside in a dog house built by my dad.The dog was not allowed inside our house. For the first three years we had Oscar and Lola they never ventured outside, they were litter box trained. They had their own room and went with us on vacations or vacationed at the Valley of Hounds if we couldn’t take them with us. 
Pets have become more integrated as family members and connection to them is more than cursory. Pets are central to our well-being and become part of our heart space. There are many reasons for this as pets often fill voids created by job mobility and military deployments that take people away from their families, friends and familiar surroundings. Socialization is also different as people delay, or forego marriage, delay or choose not to have children, or people that have children reach the point where they grow up and move on.
Since pets are integral in many employee’s lives, should employers provide bereavement benefits? Should benefit plans be expanded to include insurance provisions for regular care, care for chronic illness, or catastrophic illness? Perhaps flexible spending accounts and use of days reserved for personal use, sick time, or vacation time would meet the need. Some companies already recognize the benefit and need for these kind of programs. Is it time to make them a standard practice? 

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