Recently, I was approached by a strange dog in the early morning hours in the Planet Fitness parking lot. She was a sweet, younger Huskie, and was clearly lost. She had a collar with a tag and was clearly well-groomed, so I was sure she has a family that care for her and she wasn’t a stray. After checking her collar, I saw her name was Sasha… but aside from the area code and the last three digits of the phone number, the phone number was scratched off. I tried getting help from the gym employee, but I was told it wasn’t their problem. I tried Animal Control, and I was told they don’t pick up stray dogs anymore… which is strange since that was their job, right?

A few gym-goers were helpful, including a great guy named Ryan and an off-duty Planet Fitness employee named Erin I recognized who was just there to workout. Ryan put a message out through the NextDoor app, and Erin offered to take Sasha to a vet’s office if I wasn’t going to. One gym-goer was just a jerk complaining that the dog should be on a leash, and when I mentioned the dog was lost he just huffed and walked inside the gym.

After a quick call to my wife Kathy, she arrived at the gym with a leash, and we took Sasha back to my office to start texting and calling likely numbers. I posted to social media about the situation, including a photo of the partially scratched dog tag to try to get their best guesses at the number. Some texts bounced, some were landlines so we tried calling, but nothing was coming up. A quick trip to Banfield Pet Hospital at the local PetSmart had a veterinary technician come outside, a full hour before PetSmart opened, to check to see if Sasha had a chip. Unfortunately, she didn’t.

We went back to the office, tried a few more numbers, and then we finally got a text back from someone who was, indeed, missing their dog. Apparently, Sasha is quite the escape artist and distance hiker because she ended up several miles away from home. Sasha’s owner was extremely grateful, and informed us that he already calendared getting Sasha microchipped, and in the meantime he was going to get a new tag with the visible phone number.

Sasha occupied the better part of usual my pre-appointment hours, and I’m not complaining because she was actually a very a good dog. This is an article from an attorney who does estate planning, so I need to tie that in with a few lessons:

  • It would have been so much easier and quicker to get Sasha home if the phone number on the tag was clear, and that translates to estate planning in that your directions and wishes also need to be crystal clear.
  • There are helpful people along the way as well as people who don’t care, so it’s best to keep hassles to a minimum so you and your loved ones don’t have a lot of hassles.
  • I would be willing to wager that most people put more time and effort into protecting and caring for their pets than they do on their own estate plans.

In all, finding Sasha was a pleasant distraction from the usual Thursday morning, but at the same time my work schedule backed up a bit. That was only one morning. If you don’t handle putting together your estate plan, and keep it organized with current and clear information, then it could cost your loved ones months or years of time and a lot of money.