Pets: Your pet’s bucket list

Pets: Your pet’s bucket list
Kim Gilliam’s 9-year-old Portuguese water dog received a wonderful send off after he was diagnosed with a late form of cancer. (Photo Credit: Kim Gilliam)

By Kim Gilliam

Do you have an aging pet? Take a moment to think about the experiences you would love to have with them, the places you have always planned to take them, the things you have been meaning to get for them and write them down – this is their bucket list.

Bucket lists have become very popular in recent years, with the help of social media, and are a wonderful way to embrace the time you have left together. Best not to wait until they are too old or sick to try new things, though. Why not get started now?

Be sure to consider not only what you are interested in trying, but what your pet would most enjoy. If they have physical limitations or pain, outings with lots of activity might not make sense. Maybe base it on what their favorite things in life have been – things they have eaten, places they have been, best friends they have made – and incorporate those. Some ideas include:

Family photo shoot

It may seem odd to want professional photos of your pet in their final days, but these will become treasured memories down the road. Cuddle time Whatever form of physical contact your pet likes best, be it brushing, belly rubs or cuddling, make time for it each and every day.

Favorite places

Pick a destination you have always wanted to visit with your pet and make plans to go. Maybe they have never smelled the ocean air or would love to explore the woods. If your pet has medical issues, always check with your vet to make sure they are up for the trip. You may need to bring along medications to manage pain or symptoms, so plan in advance.

Food delicacies

Does your pet love to eat? Maybe their bucket list should include some unique pet-safe treats that you think they’d love to try. Just remember that some diseases may make them less tolerant, so take this into consideration.

Favorite things

Does your pet love to shred paper, chase balls or chew up old shoes? Get them some of their favorite things and let them go crazy.

Going-away party

Have the people who love you and your pet come by to say goodbye. Otherwise, after a pet is gone, friends and family members might express regret that they didn’t get that chance.

We were recently given a cancer diagnosis for our 9- year-old Portuguese water dog. It unfortunately progressed to the point that he only had a few days left, but we were determined to make the most of them. He got to play fetch to his heart’s content, enjoy a steak dinner on the patio at Glory Days and a Starbucks puppuccino, pick up our daughter at school each day, see all his neighborhood friends, take pictures with family and get his favorite toys and treats on multiple trips to the pet store. We were so sad to see him go, but we took solace in giving him a wonderful send off.

The writer co-owns Frolick Dogs, an indoor dog gym in Alexandria, with her husband, Kevin Gilliam.