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What happens if our pets outlive us? PG non-profit has an answer

Krista Almanzan
Credit Krista Almanzan
Carie Broecker with senior rescue poodle Alfie. Broecker is co-founder of Peace of Mind Dog Rescue in Pacific Grove.

David Burbidge and Sandy Schachter say they spoil their two dogs, Juno and Argus, and they’d like the dogs to continue to live comfortable lives even if the dogs outlive them.   That’s why the Carmel Valley couple created a pet trust where they set aside some money for each dog to pay for their continued care after they pass away.  And since leaving the dogs with family is not an option, they’re leaving them to Peace of Mind Dog Rescue.

Peace of Mind is a Pacific Grove non-profit that specializes in rescuing older dogs from shelters, and taking in dogs after their owners pass away or are too sick to care for them.  Dogs who come to Peace of Mind live in foster homes until they are adopted.

Carie Broecker co-founded the organization about five years ago after the death of a close friend.  “She actually considered having her dog euthanized because she didn’t want her to end up in a shelter.  She didn’t want her to feel abandoned.  And I said don’t worry, I will make sure that Savannah finds a good home,” remembered Broecker.  Today, that’s what Peace of Mind aims to do for all the dogs that come through its doors even if the dog does not have a trust.

When a dog does have a trust Broecker says the person who adopts it won’t know until after the adoption sticks. “Then we let people know that this dog actually has a pet trust that came with him, so the people would send us invoices for veterinary care or whatever is listed in that pet trust as far as the expenses that the trust is to cover,” said Broecker.

She says trusts can range from $5,000 to more than $100,000.  And what they cover really depends on what kind of life the owner hoped for the dog. “If your dog as they gets if they have arthritis, do you want them to go for chiropractic adjustments?  Do you want acupuncture?  What vet do want us to use?  So we get as much information as much detail as possible, so we know whatever money is left for that dog is being spent hopefully as close to how they would’ve spent the money on the dogs themselves,” said Broecker.

But the vast majority of dogs that come to Peace of Mind don’t have a trust.  Often the dogs come from pet owners who didn’t plan ahead and their grieving families are left overwhelmed.  “The grief, the legal or estate stuff, the memorial service and all of that then the dog gets sort of low on the list of priorities, so when they can bring that animal to us and know that it is going to be taken care of, it’s just a huge weight off or our shoulders,” said Broecker.

Planning ahead is the most important thing a pet owner can do, according to Amy Shever with 2nd Chance 4 Pets.  The organization has volunteers across the country who advocate for pet owners to be prepared for the possibility that their pets might outlive them.  “There’s about 500,000 animals that end up surrendered to shelters across the country every year simply because they’ve outlived their pet owners,” said Shever. 

She says at the very least, pet owners need to identify someone who is absolutely committed to taking care of the pet.  “The most important thing is to have a committed caregiver because there’s many, many instances where people do have a will or trust and they have people listed as back up caregivers, and those people have not committed to taking the pet. So you can’t force somebody to take over the care of the pet,” said Shever.

Peace of Mind has committed to taking on that role locally, and has even taken in dogs from as far away as Los Angeles.  “It’s grown bigger than we ever had dreamt,” said Broecker.  As Peace of Mind nears its 5th  anniversary, it’s also nearing its 600th dog rescue.   

Krista joined KAZU in 2007. She is an award winning journalist with more than a decade of broadcast experience. Her stories have won regional Edward R. Murrow Awards and honors from the Northern California Radio and Television News Directors Association. Prior to working at KAZU, Krista reported in Sacramento for Capital Public Radio and at television stations in Iowa. Like KAZU listeners, Krista appreciates the in-depth, long form stories that are unique to public radio. She's pleased to continue that tradition in the Monterey Bay Area.