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Respite care for pet parents

Q: John is a friend whose dog has a chronic medical condition that requires lots of attention. John has pulled back from friends and his usual activities to care for his dog, whom he adores. What can I do to help John through this challenge?

A: It’s important to support our friends who are caring for their family members, whether human or pet. Caregivers can feel isolated, overwhelmed and frightened.

Be specific when you offer help. For example, suggest to John that you join him for appointments to provide an extra set of ears, shop for groceries, run errands, shovel snow or mow his lawn.

When John and his dog have a long appointment with the veterinarian, take him dinner so he won’t have to cook when he’s tired.

Help John get some respite by offering to take over some of his dog’s care. Tell him you’ll show up one evening each week to walk his dog and give medications, so he can spend time with his other friends and family.

Most of all, give John the gift of your time and emotional support. Write a note on a greeting card and pop it in the mail. Invite him out for coffee or a meal. Listen more than you speak. Don’t offer advice unless he asks for it. This is a crucial time in John’s life, and you can help him most just by being present.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at

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