Dear Readers,

Today’s first Ask Carolyn addresses aging pet owners who must give up a pet. Just a reminder – as the summer heats up, do not leave pets or children in automobiles.


Dear Carolyn,

My mother is now 90, has beginning dementia and is moving into a senior care facility. She has a 9-year-old cat named Angel. She is worried about Angel, but she cannot take a cat with her to the senior retirement community. She wants me to take Angel. I travel a lot in my lifestyle, but I want Angel to be safe and comfortable. Plus, as a son, I want to make sure my mother doesn’t worry about Angel. What are your thoughts?


Carolyn Answers …

Pets are bonded family members. Your mother is right to be concerned about her family member Angel. Pets provide comfort and a reason to get up in the morning. There are lots of opportunities and ways for re-adoption of pets. Here are some suggestions.

Find a new owner for your pet: Discuss Angel with your entire extended family. There likely is a solution among your family. If not, then ask the veterinarian, who may kinow someone looking for a pet. Someone told me last week that she had placed a pet adoption through Craig’s List. The vet should at least know where there is a “no kill shelter,” which obviously is your last resort. Euthanizing is not an option for Angel, as that would depress your mother greatly in all likelihood. I could not bear the thought of this for Angel.

Transition to the new owner: Ideally, the new owner is close to you and your Mother, and the new owner can spend some time with Angel together before Angel goes to live with the new owner. The new owner might house it for your mother for a few hours or even an over night so that Angel becomes familiar with the new owner.   Other pointers include: Get a copy of Angel’s medical records from her veterinarian and transfer these vital papers to the new owner. Find out about Angel’s favorite foods and treats.

Your Mother could also set up a small trust for Angel to pay for her care.

After the transition, it would be nice if your mother could still have visitation with Angel and receive pictures. This would be a comfort to your mother.

Pets are important and a way of life. Baker Medical Research in Australia did a three year study on the effects of pets on human wellbeing. The study concluded that persons with pets had lower blood pressure, lower triglyercides and lower chloresterol than those without pets. The difference could not be accounted for because of diet, weight, smoking or other socio-economic factors.

Good luck as you deal with your mother and Angel’s adoption. You might send me a picture.



Dear Carolyn,

My niece is going through a divorce from her husband of 20 years. This has been going on for four years. When will it end? My concern is that she is not getting on with her life. She seems to be living in the past. She is having to sell her residence where she, her ex and the two children lived together. She also is looking for a job, even though she has not worked for at least 15 years. She is living in the past. What’s going on?


Carolyn Answers …

Reinventing yourself after change is not easy for most people. We get set in our ways. At least your niece should be applauded for moving forward with the sale of the home and getting a job, if those things are economic mandates in her case. I cannot comment here on whether the sale of the home and the job search are reasonable, as I would need to know all the circumstances surrounding the divorce.

I will address the point about “getting on with her life.” I have watched this process of change in thousands of cases. Let’s face it, divorce is change. What you do with that change is critical to your life success.

One cause of failure to get on with your life in divorce is that the divorcee is stuck in the past and thus in denial regarding the present circumstances. Divorce is a grieving process, and denial is the first step of the grieving process. Can a person get stuck in denial? Absolutely. If one is stuck in denial, then the change of moving forward seems not to happen.

While psychological counseling is key, I think that you as the aunt should be aware of the elements of the process of change. The first element of change is “pre-contemplation,” as described by Prochaska in the transtheoretical model of behavior change. It you cannot see the need for change, then change is unlikely to happen. I doubt that those in denial are seeing the need for change and the need to move forward, as sad as this is. Showing someone this need for change and moving forward is frequently as difficult as dealing with an addict.


Send your questions on family law and divorce mattter to, or P.O. Box 9023, Greensboro 27427 or at Ask Carolyn’s comment section at Please do not put identifying information in your questions. “Like” Ask Carolyn on Facebook and follow on Instagram and Twitter at Ask_Carolyn.

Note that answers are intended to provide general legal information and are not specific legal advice for your situation. The column also uses hypothetical questions. A subtle fact in your unique case may determine the legal advice you need. Also, please note that you are not creating an attorney-client relationship with Carolyn J. Woodruff by writing or having your question answered by Ask Carolyn.