Help! My 4-Year-Old Is Terrified of Our Close Relatives' Huge, Wild Puppy.

Advice on manners and morals.
Oct. 21 2013 5:08 PM

Sit, Stay, Go Away

In a live chat, Prudie counsels a man whose daughter is terrified of their close relatives’ large, undisciplined puppy.

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A: This is one of those situations that causes everyone involved to examine what they thought were bedrock principles of their life. Your boyfriend, who never wanted to be a father, is stepping up to rescue these orphaned children, and good for him. You have examined your heart, and discovered there is no place in there for these children. That won't win you any humanitarian awards, but that is the truth and absolutely your prerogative. It is better for you to know this about yourself and act upon it, rather than be a resentful, angry presence in the lives of these vulnerable children. Your boyfriend and these children need counseling to get them through this trauma. That would be a good place for you and he (not with the kids) to talk through your feelings and to figure out how to exit in the least disruptive way. It could be possible that you could transition into a friendship, so that you could help your boyfriend and continue to have some role in the lives of these children. But maybe you don't want even that, and you need to make a clean break.

Q. Re: Fear of dogs: The dad should contact his local kennel club about a visit with a certified therapy or companion dog. Those dogs are trained to be particularly calm and gentle and could help his daughter get over her fear.

A: Good advice. And the handlers of these dogs should have an understanding of how to deal gently with a terrified little girl.

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Q. Raped by My Best Friend: I am 17 years old and I have had the same best guy friend since I was 13. He has been going through a lot recently—both of his parents have been diagnosed with fatal illnesses, so he wanted to have a couple of people over to keep his mind off of everything. By the time I got to his house he was really drunk and the others who were there were intoxicated as well. I immediately took over the role of caretaker. I got everyone else to go to sleep on the couch so they wouldn't drive drunk. And then I had to take care of my best friend. I finally got him to lay down in bed and watch a movie. I fell asleep during the movie and woke up at about 5 a.m. and he was on top of me holding me down and touching me. Ever since he has been texting me like nothing happened. I haven't been responding so he is getting angry at me as if I did something wrong. I don't know how to proceed from here. He has been my best friend for years and was basically family to me. I am ashamed to tell anyone that it happened and I am terrified to face him at school. Please help me, I don’t have any clue what to do or how to react to this.

A: [Update: I originally read the text of the letter without noticing the subject line, which I often skip over in my chat window. I focused solely on the description of what happened, which was obviously terrible and a sexual assault, but from a lack of specific details in the description and without the benefit of the subject line, it wasn’t clear exactly what took place, and I apologize for missing the important subject line in this case. She must get support and counseling. She may want to bring charges. This is a dreadful situation that needs qualified adults who can help guide her through.]

This is one of those situations in which as an adult I wish I could wave a magic wand so you kids would only have to deal with problems like writing your college essays, not such overwhelming problems as terminal illness and sexual assault. First of all, I hope you can talk to your parents about this. You know if they will be able to listen sympathetically and give you good advice, or if they will just react punitively. Depending on the support you find in your family, you could consider calling the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. They have a hotline and you can talk confidentially to someone there and get help on figuring out how to proceed. Being able to tell someone what happened will itself be a great relief to you. You are in a difficult and complicated situation. As I've noted often, heavy drinking is so destructive, especially to young people. It is possible that your friend is acting as if nothing happened because he can't remember what happened. Consuming a large volume of alcohol can knock out one's working memory. So people act as if they are in control of their actions, but their brain is not recording any of it, and in the morning they have no idea what they did.

What your friend did is horrible and inexcusable. But it sounds as if you think this is wholely out of character. It could be a combination of despair and booze had him doing things he never would normally do. But you also can't act as if it didn't happen. He needs to know what he did, acknowledge it, and apologize. The school counseling office is a possible resource, but I'm concerned about a counselor feeling this must be reported, and you might not want that to happen to your friend. Again, I'm not excusing what he did, but he is in the middle of an unfolding tragedy. He himself needs serious counseling. It could be that your parents can intervene for both of you. They must have warm feelings toward this boy, so they could talk to someone to help make sure your friend is getting help. If you feel you need it, they could get you a counselor so that you have an objective person to help you sort through what happened and figure out whether you can continue your friendship. Your friend did something awful to you, but he is a young person whose life is falling apart. [Update, continued: To be clear, reading the letter with the subject line in mind renders the friend’s own issues completely secondary to what the letter writer must first work through and make decisions about.]

Q. Overly Generous but With Strings Attached: My boyfriend is well off and very generous. He is always the first to pick up a check or treat friends to events. The trouble is, most of these generous offerings are actually "tests." If a bill comes for dinner and a fight ensues over who wants to pay and he wins, he later complains that the other party should have not let that happen. I have told him that he should stop expecting others to pay because he set the precedent already. Obviously, he disagrees. I guess he thinks other people should read his mind. Of course every one of our friends thinks he is awesome, but they don't know what is REALLY behind his generosity. Any thoughts?

A: Usually someone this passive-aggressive does not limit it to a single circumstance. The next time this little game happens and he complains to you later tell him, "Harry, if you don't want to pick up the check, don't do it. When you reach for it and insist it's yours, other people aren't supposed to knock you in the head with the wine bottle in order to pay it. You're being unfair to make this a test. Let's just split the check from now on." Be prepared, however, for your boyfriend to find you are failing his little internal test of whether you're a supportive girlfriend.

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Emily Yoffe is a regular Slate contributor. She writes the Dear Prudence column.