DEAR ABBY: My daughter and son-in-law's dog, "Zeke," is a poor houseguest. We have kept him several times while they were vacationing. This last time, a long weekend, was very stressful.
Zeke is a hound dog (58 pounds) and stubborn. He jumps on furniture, jumps up to the kitchen counter and dining table trying to steal food, urinates in the house (not all the time, but often enough), doesn't want to stay outside in the backyard unless someone is out there with him and, when he is outside alone, he constantly howls. He also chases our cats.
Whenever it's muddy in our fenced backyard, he must be taken out to the front yard on a leash or he will catch a scent and run off. There are also potential sparring matches with our own dog that must be monitored, and at feeding time, they have to be separated.
Our daughter's last trip was to be for 12 days. We said we didn't want to keep him for that long, but we would continue to keep him for short stays. This has been a sore spot with her ever since. She feels Zeke is our "granddog," and we should keep him anyway. I do not know how to handle this without causing any more bad feelings. Please advise. -- ABOVE AND BEYOND IN TEXAS
DEAR ABOVE AND BEYOND: Your daughter's dog is too much dog for you to handle and, in addition, poorly trained. He isn't your "grand" anything. Stand your ground and quit trying to placate your entitled daughter. She should be grateful that you're willing to take responsibility for the dog even for a short time. If that isn't enough for her, "bow-wow" out by refusing to take Zeke at all. He's her dog, and the problem should be hers, not yours.
DEAR ABBY: I am an empathetic person, and because of it, most of my friends and family members share things with me that they are going through in their lives. I feel pain with and for them, and have shed many tears with these people.
Most of the time, this is something I am happy to offer. I understand that not everyone has the same level of empathy or the skills to "be there" when people are going through a rough patch. But right now, I thought it might be good to share some things I have noticed when the roles were reversed and I found myself needing to share with others:
1. It's not a competition! Now is not the time to share your similar experience. Let the person sharing just talk and resist the urge to relate your own stories.
2. Don't try to offer solutions unless they are asked for. The majority of the time, the person just needs to say it out loud to someone, and then they are able to get their head or heart around it and figure things out.
3. Just listen. That's all any of us want. We want to feel heard and important and that we matter. Listening can provide that to the person who is in pain.
Abby, thanks for letting me be heard. Even the strongest friends sometimes need someone. -- LEARNED FROM EXPERIENCE
DEAR LEARNED: AMEN! Life is about learning and growing. There is much wisdom in your letter and a practical lesson for those who sometimes put their foot in their mouths because they only want to help. Thank you for sharing.
DEAR ABBY: I cut off contact with a friend I'll call "Mick" after my wife and I had our first child. He was a gambling addict, an alcoholic and a serial abuser of women. He was violent when he drank and once broke my nose because of some perceived slight.
Mick had a troubled childhood and then served in the Army in Afghanistan and Iraq. By the time he returned home, his mental health was extremely compromised, and I believe this is what led to most, if not all, of his issues and shortcomings.
I have always believed that, at heart, Mick is a good person. As someone who suffers from mental illness myself, I feel I can understand his issues on some level. I would like to reconnect with him, but I need to protect myself and my family, both emotionally and physically. How might I approach rekindling a relationship with Mick in a safe and reasonable way? -- MISSING A FRIEND
DEAR MISSING: Drop that idea. You are not a therapist, and you can't "fix" what's wrong with Mick. The man is a violent abuser, and you have no proof that he has sought counseling for his issues. Offering the hand of friendship to someone who broke your nose because he had been drinking could be dangerous for you and your family. Your first responsibility is their safety.
DEAR ABBY: My friend and I befriended the most adorable older couple. They invite us over and they love lunching together. They are terrific company, and we always enjoy our time with them.
During our last visit, they were cooking lunch, and it was apparent that they don't wash their hands when preparing food. Because of the coronavirus, we aren't comfortable eating at their house anymore. We would be happy to bring something over, but they are set in their ways and like to prepare their own food. We tried saying we can't stay for lunch, but once we are with them, they start putting out the food. What advice can you give us? -- STAYING SAFE IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR STAYING SAFE: Go online and check to see whether you can pick up the coronavirus from food. One would think that if the food is hot, the virus wouldn't survive the cooking process. Have you considered inviting them to your place instead?
If you think this charming couple's food puts you at risk of catching something unpleasant -- like salmonella -- the next time you are invited, lower your risk by bringing food for all of you. If they argue, tell them you are reciprocating their hospitality, which may have been one-sided if you have eaten there often. However, if they question you further, tell them the truth. While it may cool the relationship, it will increase your chances of staying healthy.
DEAR ABBY: My brother passed away recently. I bought a small life insurance policy 24 years ago to provide for his final expenses and to help his widow at the time of death. After paying for expenses, I plan to leave what's left to his widow. My husband is nudging me to deduct the premium I paid for the policy, but I don't feel comfortable about it. I'm not sure what I should do. Any suggestions? -- WONDERING IN THE MIDWEST
DEAR WONDERING: This was your brother and this is your sister-in-law. Tune your "helpful" husband out and follow your conscience.
DEAR ABBY: My husband's best friend lives with us, and I love him like a brother. The problem is, he has no degree and no car and aspires to nothing more than work in fast food part time. We took him in to help him get through a bad divorce, and now it seems like he'll never be able to leave.
He doesn't make enough money to support himself and has no ambition for completing his education. My husband is convinced there is no path for him to better himself. Since I'm supporting all three of us, this has become a serious bone of contention. How can I improve this situation? -- FRUSTRATED IN FLORIDA
DEAR FRUSTRATED: You should not be supporting all three of you. Be prepared to be the "bad guy" and stop the gravy train now. Your husband's best friend's career limitations should not be your problem, so give him a deadline to leave and insist upon it, with the help of your husband. If that doesn't solve your problem, you may need the help of a lawyer for guidance.