When Robideere's owner died suddenly last month, the scruffy dog and his seven feline siblings were left without a caretaker.
The owner's 83-year-old mother, who shared her daughter's Cobb Street home with the animals, was too frail to attend to the cats or Robideere, a 9-year-old mutt resembling the canine movie star Benji.
Because the owner had no relatives in the area, the pets seemed destined for impoundment.
Luckily, two of the woman's friends, Barbara Stenstrom, 74, and Steven Hall, 45, stepped in to find homes for the pets.
The incident has inspired both to designate someone to care for their own pets after they die, they said.
"It's just a tremendous concern when there's living critters left behind, when they have not been designated to go someplace or put in the care of some guardian," said Ms. Stenstrom, who has four cats.
According to a 2003 survey from the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, about 142.6 million dogs and cats are owned as pets in the United States.
Some of these pets will have nowhere to go when their primary caregiver dies.
Richmond County Deputy Coroner Charlena Graham attempts to contact family or friends if a deceased person has left behind pets.
"Some say they can't take them, so we'll contact animal control," Ms. Graham said.
Augusta Animal Services Director Randy Teasley said the shelter takes in perhaps four animals a year because their owners have died. The shelter tries to find homes for these animals because they are typically healthy and well-cared for, he said.
To ensure that pets are taken care of, Mr. Teasley suggested designating a specific caregiver in a will.
A local attorney agreed.
"If you have a pet that you care deeply about, it's very important to let your wishes be known," Shawn Hammond said.
Otherwise, the animal, many times considered a family member, may be neglected, he said.
But, sometimes, owners realize their pets won't be able to adapt to a new home or even find a home because of poor health or advanced age.
Dr. T.L. Walker, a veterinarian at Highland Animal Hospital, said one client has asked that her two older dogs be euthanized and cremated upon her death. The woman wants her ashes scattered with her pets, he said.
Curt Garner, of St. Francis Animal Hospital, said his practice strives to find homes for animals whose owners die.
"We hate to think that just because the owner's life is over, the pets' have to be as well," Dr. Garner said.
Reach Kate Lewis at (706) 823-3215 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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