DEAR HARRIETTE: My friend, "Jack," has a very old dog who he takes everywhere. Jack's defense for this is that his dog is dying, and he wants him to experience as much as possible. I understand the love one has for a furry companion, but I can't imagine taking my dogs anywhere while their health is failing. His dog has thrown up in my home on multiple occasions. Should I say something to Jack about how upsetting and inappropriate it is for him to take his dog everywhere? -- Thumbs Preferred, Bethpage, New York
DEAR THUMBS PREFERRED: Many pet owners treat their pets as if they are their children. Appeal to Jack in this way. Tell him how sorry you are that his dog is ill and that you know how hard this must be on him to handle. Listen to the litany of ills that Jack's dog inevitably is experiencing at that moment with true compassion and interest. Just like people, dogs can have a range of illnesses that can slowly deteriorate their bodies. My sister has two old dogs who have diabetes and have become blind, for example. It is so difficult for her to see their demise, and so expensive for her to care for them properly.
Express your compassion, followed by asking if you can share an observation with Jack. With his permission, tell him you know he considers his dog as family, and as such you think he should not be taking him out and about during this fragile time. Remind him of the times when the dog has gotten sick in your home. Admit that being in the company of this sick dog is awkward for you. If you know that it bothers other friends, tell him that, too. Suggest that he leave the dog at home during his social interactions, even if he needs to hire someone to watch the dog, much like one hires a baby sitter or nurse when a family member is ill. That, by the way, is what my sister does.
DEAR HARRIETTE: When I was in a tight spot financially, my parents offered to match my savings and get me a used car. I did not ask them for this money, and they said it was a gift. I am still making ends meet, but I feel like I should be thinking about repaying my family's financial gift. How should I bring this up with my parents? I'd feel like a dead weight if I never gave them back the money. -- Driving Me Crazy, Memphis, Tennessee
DEAR DRIVING ME CRAZY: You should believe your parents. If they said the match was a gift, I'm sure it was. Gifts are easier for the giver to manage because there are no strings attached. Rather than focusing on paying back money that is not officially on your debt list, review your current bills and work on paying them down. When you are liquid, start building a fund for your parents. When it meets the amount they gave you, present it as a gift of gratitude to them for their loving support.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)