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What If Your Dogs Outlive You?
Tragedy leaves four dogs grieving and homeless.
The late couple's beloved dogs Anacortes, Cedonia, Tacoma and Everett.

This past Labor Day, suburban Chicago couple Mike and Sue Kelm went for a motorcycle ride. Sue had been battling cancer and was scheduled for surgery later that week. She usually didn't ride with her husband, but it seemed like a nice way to enjoy some time together on a beautiful, warm day. Tragically, a car pulling out of a gas station hit and killed them, leaving behind their beloved pack of dogs. The Kelms did not have children of their own; their niece, Kim Mayer, said her aunt and uncle's four dogs--Lab mixes Anacortes, Tacoma and Everett, and Husky mix Cedonia--"were their children."


In the event of their death, it was the Kelms' wish that all four dogs be kept together. Unfortunately, none of their relatives or friends are in a position to do so and they are seeking help from the dog lover community. The dogs are currently in the care of Chicago Canine Club, a doggie daycare facility in Burr Ridge, IL. If you or someone you know would be interested in helping the Kelm pack stay together, please contact Kathy Deets at the Chicago Canine Club at (708) 542-8969 or Kathy@chicagocanineclub.com. Or contact Kim Mayer at (815) 272-4583 or mayerdnk72@hotmail.com.


I always tell my husband that we need to make plans for our five dogs and two cats should something ever happen to us. But we never do; we make excuses, saying that we're only in our 30s or assume that our family members will take in our zoo, so why bother with paperwork? I know we need to do it. What provisions have you made for your animals in case you can no longer care for them? What is your advice for people (like me!) who have not done the same? 


Julia Kamysz Lane, owner of Spot On K9 Sports and contributing editor at The Bark, is the author of multiple New Orleans travel guides, including Frommer’s New Orleans Day by Day (3rd Edition). Her work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Poets and Writers and Publishers Weekly.


Photo from the Chicago Canine Club.

CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Linda C | September 19 2009 |

The Number One activity we can all do for our pets, in case they should outlive us BUT also for today, is to work to reduce the tragedy of pet overpopulation. In PA where I live, the holding period for a stray dog, when euthanasia is legal, is only 48 hours; for all cats (stray and owner surrender) is Zero hours. All cats can be killed on arrival.

If there were fewer pets, each pet would have more "value"; currently there are too many for each to have a good, natural life.

I beg you to not donate to any organization if you have unspayed~unneutered pets in your care. Instead spend your money fixing those pets. Then donate to local, ALL volunteer spay/neuter organizations. That way you know your money will do good, immediately, to reduce the suffering by reducing the overpopulation in your community. We cannot build shelters or find homes for pets as fast as pets can breed.

Submitted by Anonymous | September 20 2009 |

First, I am so sad to hear about these 4 dogs not having their owners/parents anymore and now looking for a new home! They are adorable and I WISH we could take them but our association only allows 2 dogs and we have 3! I never thought about writing up a will for the care of our dogs should we die until reading your article. Why? I have no idea other than the same reason you haven't written anything up. My husband and I are in our early 30's and have never assumed that we would pass away at the same time and/or together despite the romantic notion brought out by movies like "The Notebook." Additionally, I am pretty sure we don't even want to think about it especially considering both of us get misty at the sight of an ASPCA or Humane Society commercial. But you are right to bring up the topic! I have some thinking to do to ensure the furry kids are just as well taken care of as the NON-furry kid (our 8 month old daughter) we also have in the house. Thanks for the thought provoking article.

Submitted by Anonymous | September 21 2009 |

This is such a sad story but soooo important to read. I recently talked to my sister about taking my dogs, and she told me not to count on her. It made me feel like crap, but, honestly, I'm really glad she told me. Now I know I have to make plans for my dogs. My lesson: Don't assume. I owe it two my babies to be sure they never have to return to the shelters from whence they came.

Submitted by Carolyn | September 24 2009 |

We have a DIY will that is legal in our state, through Quicken Willmaker. In it we set aside $1000/yr. for our dog's care. My brother and sister-in-law are our first candidates to care for our sweet girl. If the times comes and they can't care for her, they can find a loving home for her with funds for her care.

Submitted by Rachel | September 27 2009 |

I am a paralegal and work in the field of estate planning and probate. My husband and I don't have human children - we have three fur children. Even though I do this for a living, we didn't actually write up our wills until last year (silly, I know, but I put it off for the same reasons everyone else does - who wants to think about this?!).

We now have Wills in place that have a pet trust established in them. We have set aside a specific dollar amount to create the trust, named a caretaker for the dogs and trustee to administer the trust. If neither of the caretakers can keep our dogs, we have instructed they be surrendered to the rescue where one of ours originally came from. At least I can sleep at night knowing that I've made arrangements for the care of my babies if something happens to my husband and me. I know someone will take them and i know I have enough money set aside to care for them for the rest of their lives.

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