The benefits of owning a pet are truly incalculable—warm cuddles during the cold Michigan winter, wet kisses when pick-me-ups are running short, an exercise buddy to push you the extra mile your legs won't, and infinite, indiscriminate love to last a lifetime.
Unfortunately, pet ownership isn't always an option. For some, a current living situation enforces size restrictions or prohibits animals altogether; others may have pesky allergies that cannot withstand sharing a household twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year; even still, others are not at a place in their life—financially or otherwise—to provide the care a furry family member deserves.
Regardless of reasoning, not being able to own a pet of your own does not mean you can't get your fluff fix elsewhere. For those in West Michigan seeking an alternative to pet ownership, we've found your next best option.
Be a Pet Sitter.
A demanding career or hectic schedule severely diminishes the amount of time one can invest in a pet, however heartbreaking that reality may be. While different types of animals require different levels of care and attentiveness to stay happy and healthy, the unknown of long workdays or consistent business travel can make any routine difficult to maintain. The solution: Offer to look after the pet of a friend, family member, or co-worker during the peaceful downtime you do have. Most often, you will either stay at their house or stop by a few times a day to let the pet outside, make sure it has food and water, and squeeze in some much-needed kisses and cuddles.
Be a Pet Walker.
Six months out of every year, walking your dog is an opportunity to recharge and sneak in exercise you're both craving. And then Michigan's cold sneaks in and the kid's activities at school pick up and the weight of annual reports at work become heavier ... and then the holidays are here and your evening walk is on an indefinite hiatus. These are woes most pet owners have to deal with.
Unfortunately, not everyone has time to take his or her dog for a walk every day. Perfect for college students or professionals with a flexible schedule, dog walking is a great opportunity to bond with animals you otherwise wouldn't, get daily exercise, and make some extra cash. Especially in bigger cities, many pet owners hire help to ensure their furry family member gets the time outside they need. Dog walking usually lasts a couple of hours (dependent on your schedule and number of clients). Care.com shares opportunities like this based on your zip code. Other options include marketing your services at local pet stores, veterinary clinics, and animal shelters.
If your current situation does not allow for long-term pet ownership—or if you're simply not ready yet—we strongly urge you to consider becoming an HSWM Foster Friend. Through individuals willing to open their homes to a shelter pet in need, potentially adoptable animals are able to recover from illness, injury, gain weight, and/or mature. Two programs are currently available to those interested in fostering:
Weekends with Fido
Need a furry pal to love on for a few days? They need you, too! This program is for dogs that need a break from the day-to-day shelter life—a weekend getaway, if you will—that typically extends from Friday through Tuesday. It is also available during extended holidays, including Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Strategic Placement of Animals (SPA) Program
Unfortunately, not all dogs do well in a shelter setting. The SPA program helps give long-term or special needs dogs the little extra they require until placed in a forever home.
The following requirements exist for foster families:
- All owned pets must be current on vaccines and spayed or neutered.
- Rentals require landlord approval to foster.
- Must be willing to attend a foster family informational meeting.
- Fill out a foster application and bring to a meeting.
Volunteer at Your Local Animal Shelter.
West Michigan is home to a staggering number of animals without forever homes. Whether an animal becomes lost or his owner simply cannot take care of him anymore, too many pets end up in shelters. Typically, every county has at least one shelter. While the staff and volunteers do an amazing job caring for the animals residing at their shelter, it can be incredibly difficult for each animal to receive the attention and love they deserve. Because of this need, volunteers are always welcome at local animal shelters, such as the Humane Society of West Michigan and Kent County Animal Shelter. Sign up and share some extra love!
West Michigan Woman thanks our Fluffy Pals at Eastown Veterinary Clinic for this article.