Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, is on Washingtonpost.com weekly to chat live with readers. An edited transcript of this week’s chat is below. (Sign up here to get Dear Prudence delivered to your inbox each week. Read Prudie’s Slate columns here. Send questions to Prudence at email@example.com.)
Emily Yoffe: Good afternoon, everyone. Valentine's Day questions are especially welcome.
Q. Friend Is Ditching Her Dog: My good friend and her husband have owned their dog, Riley, for Riley's entire eight-year life. Now that their children have gone off to college, they want to travel more, so they have decided to surrender Riley to the pound. I have tried to convince them to find a local group that fosters animals in private homes until they can be adopted instead of taking Riley to the pound. If they can't be bothered to find Riley another home, at least they can ensure he won't risk euthanasia. They don't want that hassle either; my husband and I live in an apartment that doesn't allow pets Riley's size, or I would take him until I could find him a home. Now I am trying to convince my friend to keep Riley until I can find him a home. She thinks it's overkill, and I think maybe we should end our 19-year friendship. I am overreacting? I think unless a person's circumstances change drastically in a short period of time, they owe it to their pet to find him/her a new home rather than surrender them to the pound.
A: I guess your friend should be grateful her husband didn't ditch her once she reached menopause. And the husband would be well advised to stay healthy, lest any medical problems interfere with her travel schedule. Your friends are abominable. Sometimes because of allergies, deployments, illness, or foreclosure, people are forced to give up a beloved pet. But to look at a dog who's been a devoted companion for eight years and decide it's time for the needle because you've got a long cruise coming up is repugnant. Let your friend know that pounds can only hold animals for a few days, and a surrendered 8-year-old dog is not going to be highly adoptable. Tell her you are willing to help find a group that will take Riley and find their dog a new home. (No, you shouldn't have to do this, but stepping in will help save this poor creature's life.) Your priority now should be to get Riley settled. But I agree that you've found out something so despicable about your friend that painful as it may be, her belief that her dog is disposable may mean that your friendship ends up in the Dumpster.
Dear Prudence: Barroom Cheapskate
Q. Valentine's Day Trouble: I somehow married the most unromantic man. He loves me dearly but does not participate in any romantic occasion, including Valentine's Day and our anniversary. I, however, love celebrating these things. I am not about to force him to buy me something, but do you think it would be OK for me to get him something? I just love buying him presents, and Valentine's Day is one of my favorite occasions. I hate to cancel it altogether because he is not the type to do anything about it.
A: I'm wondering if on the way home tomorrow my husband will see the other frantic male commuters and fight his way to one of the last subway bouquets. Your husband is a lucky man because instead of your writing in about how you wish to hammer him into shape and make a romantic out of him, you accept that he's a loving man who's not good about holidays. But his disinterest shouldn't ruin your Valentine's Day. So go ahead and do it up. If he seems embarrassed and abashed that he doesn't have anything for you, explain that while you know he's not a Valentine's person, you are, and his gift to you will be to enjoy your pleasure at celebrating how fortunate you both are.
Q. Adoptee: My parents adopted me as an infant in 1978. I do not know of any other home than with my parents, and they are absolutely wonderful parents. I never had any interest in meeting my birth mother. Recently, an attorney contacted me who is representing my biological mother. He told me that my biological mother would like to meet and get to know me. I have no desire to meet her. My husband and parents told me this decision is up to me and they would support whatever I decide. Am I a terrible person if I decline the offer to meet her?
A: Goodness, no. We are so inundated with stories of family reunions that people who have other desires when it comes to biological relatives get completely overlooked. I've known adopted people who have made contact with birth parents, and others who feel completely content with their adoptive parents and have no interest in finding out about their biological origins. It's wonderful that the people you love are not pressuring you and only want you to be true to your own heart. There are many legitimate reasons for not wishing to pursue a new, emotionally freighted relationship. It is good that your biological mother has gone through an intermediary and not just shown up at your door. You can tell the lawyer you've given this careful consideration and you want him to convey to your biological mother that you will always be grateful for the painful choice she made in 1978, that she allowed you to have wonderful parents and a great life, and that you hope she understands that you are going to respectfully decline her offer.
Q. An Aunt's Obligation: Recently my sister-in-law called to ask if she could put me and my husband down as legal guardians of her children in her will should anything happen to her and her husband. I told her no without even having to think about it. My only daughter is 20 and moved out awhile ago. I love her and I love being a parent, but there is no way in hell I want to have more kids. My sister-in-law became offended and my husband thinks I was harsh. My husband is the only sibling she has and my in-laws are elderly. I'm not sure who would be available and willing to take on the responsibility on my brother-in-law's side, but I am certainly not willing to do it. My husband also doesn't want any more children but if our nephews were orphaned he thinks we should raise them. I will not cope with more kids and I emphatically refuse to sacrifice my life to raise three more children I barely know. I don't even want to take care of pot plants, much less three young boys whom I've met five times. Am I heartless for refusing to even consider? I freely admit I will be a terrible, uncaring, resentful guardian.
A: Your sister-in-law shouldn't be offended, she should be relieved. Your crude, hard, instant dismissal of this serious and profound request is all she needs to know about the need to keep looking for a potential guardian. I hope your sister-in-law realizes that faced with untenable family members, many people turn to friends to fill this role. I'm sure she's got some decent ones who would be willing to provide her brood with a loving home. She should be reassured that while she is right to put a guardianship in place, the chances of it ever going into effect are infinitesimal. And you should be reassured that you have so needlessly damaged relations with your sister-in-law that they will never ask you for anything to do with their kids again.
Q. Poor Dog: You might want to point out to your friend that ditching the dog may damage her relationship with her children. I doubt they'd be too happy to know that mom & dad ditched the dog in such a cruel way. If Riley is a purebred, then you could try contacting a rescue society devoted to his breed.