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Stevenson Center Offers Peace of Mind For Pet Owners

30 November 2015

US - Although it’s never pleasant to make final arrangements for the end of one’s life, perhaps the toughest aspect of such planning is realizing there will be those left behind that still require care. Wills are made, endowments are established, guardians are appointed—but what if those who remain are not children or spouses, but cherished pets that have been loyal companions?

Kaye and Steve Horn of Houston have peace of mind knowing that their daughter, Marcella, and their three other “children,” Winston, Buffett, and Diego—officially dogs (all pictured above), but also beloved members of the family, will be cared for in the event of their passing.

If something happens to the Horns, their pets will live out their days at Texas A&M’s Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center, the privately funded, state-of-the-art animal care program that provides personalized, compassionate care in an environment that is very similar to the homes the animals must leave.

“I remember we were about to have our wills done. We have only one daughter, Marcella, and she was still a little girl then. We’ve always had at least three dogs, and we’ve had as many as four.We’re what’s known as ‘dog crazy,’ because they are like members of our family. It troubled me to think that we could be on a trip and be in a plane crash or whatever happens, and we have this little girl who would be left with four dogs to take care of—which is a lot for a little person!” said Kaye.

Marcella would live with her godmother, Mary Sue, in Omaha, Nebraska, but no one seemed to know what would happen with “the pups.” “Mary Sue doesn’t care for dogs,” Kaye said, since she had been bitten in the face as a girl. “She tolerates our dogs, but she doesn’t like them.”

One day the Horns read about the Stevenson Center in Texas Aggie Magazine, a Texas A&M University former students publication, and were charmed and impressed when they visited the center. “We actually dropped in unannounced on [Aggie football] game day several years ago and banged on the door,” Kaye continued. “A vet student came to let us in. The dogs and cats were all very happy, and no one knew we were coming. That tells you something.”

“The most appealing [thing to me] was that the animals live in a home, a very nice brick home, similar to where they live with us. I love the fact that the veterinary students live with them at night, because a lot of the animals there are elderly, and they need special care.”

That special care is important to the Horns, because some of their animals have needs that might not be respected in a less caring setting. “We take very good care of our pets,” Kaye said. “It makes me feel guilty sometimes, because Winston gets allergy shots every week. I mean, he gets better medical care then most humans. My pets are members of our family and we have to take good care of them.”

Kaye was drawn to the obvious love the students and staff at the Stevenson Center have for their four-legged friends, noting that whenever a pet does die, they post a notice in the magazine or other publication, expressing their grief. “They’re genuinely sad the pet has passed away because they get attached just like we get attached to any pet that we love,” Kaye said. “That’s what I like about Stevenson: they do care about who lives there.”

She noted the center is far enough away from the busiest part of College Station that the animals have land on which to run, that the whole facility is extremely clean, and all the food is kept separately, catering to the specific needs of each kind of animal and each individual pet.

Kaye is relieved she doesn’t have to rely on loved ones to continue her pets’ care. In some cases, those inheriting an estate may not be as dedicated to animals as the deceased owners. “It can be a burden just to say, ‘Oh, you’re my best friend…here, take care of my kitty cats.’ It’s better to go ahead and provide for them to go to Stevenson Center, because, as I tell my friends, it’s just a problem solved, and you don’t have to worry about it.”

Paying it back, forward

The Horns were both academically excellent students. Steve is a 1979 summa cum laude petroleum engineering graduate from Texas A&M and Kaye received her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Texas Christian University. Even though she is not an Aggie graduate, Kaye has a great love of Aggie traditions, and they share a special affinity for Aggie football.

“We both went to college on scholarship,” Kaye said. “I think now we’re paying it back, but also paying it forward. Anything we give to the Texas A&M Foundation helps all classes of Texans get an education.”

She noted that, although requirements for admission to Texas A&M are getting increasingly stringent, students do get accepted, graduate, and pursue careers in veterinary medicine. She also noted the strong and large Aggie alumni base in Houston.

“Aggie former students in Houston take care of each other, and so we hope to sponsor more students in the next 20 to 25 years. And we’ll always be involved with the Stevenson Center.”

Easily arranged peace of mind

Kaye found making arrangements with the Stevenson Center extremely stress free. The Texas A&M Foundation coordinated and provided the necessary forms to their estate-planning lawyer. The completed forms were attached to their will, providing peace of mind that, no matter who manages the estate, the animals’ care is predetermined. Their attorneys will contact the Stevenson Center, and help the dogs make “a very easy transition.”

The Horns know the quality of their pets’ lives will continue to be top notch. “The Stevenson Center is like home, and that’s where they deserve to live if something happens to us,” Kaye said.

About the Stevenson Center

The Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center was established by the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine in 1993 at the suggestion of Dr. E.W. “Ned” Ellett, former head of the Small Animal Clinic at Texas A&M. Dr. Ellett’s dream was realized due to generous donations from the Luse Foundation and Mrs. Madlin Stevenson. Mrs. Stevenson said she chose to support the center because animals are especially important to the elderly. She died in September 2000, leaving behind four cats, seven dogs, a pony, and a llama, all of which were re-homed at the center.

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