I cannot urge people enough to sit down with family and friends and discuss not only their financial wishes after they depart life, but also what they want to see as their disposition of holdings. In other words, let people know, preferably in legal, written form, how you want your property parceled out and to whom.

Not only will this give folks peace of mind while living, it will also avoid contention and upset among family and friends after one is gone.

Although this has been a constant mantra of mine in my advocacy of wills and sentiments, what brought it to my attention yet again were two animal-related situations which came to my attention recently, one of which was a pretty immediate one.

If “9/11” has taught us nothing else other than that there are no guarantees in life and life is fragile, we need to keep in mind that things can change quickly in our circumstances.

My Scottish terrier, Molly McDoo, will be 13 in May, pretty much getting to the high end of scottie life. I was looking for another, younger scottie to join the family to make sure that if anything happened to Molly, my beagle Peggy Sue would not go into a funk.

And so, I alerted Scottie Rescue, an organization which finds homes for impounded or otherwise unwanted scotties. This has been going on for almost a year, but last week the call came, and it was a sad one.

A young woman in southern Illinois had throat cancer and could no longer take care of her 12-year-old West Highland Terrier nor her 6-year-old scottie. Surprisingly enough, she was able to find a home for a Westie in spite of its advanced age.

The scottie was a tad tougher. Rescue asked if I would take the dog to give the owner one less sad situation to deal with as she fought off a potentially terminal situation. And so, Fiona, a tiny 16-pound and bounding mass of black fur moved into the Topinka household.

Her owner had never made a provision that she would have to give her up. After all, she was only 33. At that age, who would have thought that a serious cancer would strike. I asked Rescue if I should contact her to keep her posted on Fiona’s new household and life, but was told that she did not want to know where Fiona had wound up. Just knowing that it was a good home would be all for her. I can only imagine her sadness in no longer having her dogs to keep her company at this sad time.

Fiona, by the way, has taken a bit of time to adjust to the fact that there is sharing now to deal with. She will not run the house, she will not bully the other dogs and she will start learning her place in the pecking order. It is all coming out well and ought to have a happy ending here in Topinkaland.

While writing to my high school girlfriend, now in our correspondence’s 45th year, I learned that she was having a reoccurrence of breast cancer. We don’t know where this will all lead, but she has written a will in which she specifies how her beloved beagle, Lulu, will be provided for should something happen to her.

We have made a pact. The last one standing of the two of us takes the other’s beagle. It has put her mind at rest to know that Lulu is covered, and I that Peggy Sue always has a home if it comes to that.

And, if we think that this is a good way to deal with beloved pets, just think of what would become of our children should anything happen to us.

Riverside Township has many young families with lots and lots of kids. I know that my block has many young children growing up here. We cannot assume that our families will just automatically volunteer to take care of our children should anything happen to us.

Which brings me back to my original point that everyone should have a will and a disposition of assets. We need to know and agree to, ahead of time, just who we would want to raise our children should we die or become unable to care for them. This may not automatically be parents or grandparents or other family members, but may extend to friends as well.

It takes a little thought, but it is the best insurance we could ever have that our children would be provided for, not to mention our pets.