Dear Annie: My sister owns seven cats, three dogs, two turtles and a lizard.
They are overrunning her house. There are random bits of garbage all over the floor, along with used dishes — both human and pet. When the dogs do their business in the house, she lets it stay there for hours while she gets other work done. The last time I was there, I wiped some food off of the wall, and she said I was being rude.
Two months ago, one of her dogs died. A week later, she bought a new one for $750. I happen to know she now has less than $100 in her bank account. And I worry she might lose her job. Her co-workers have complained that her clothing is sloppy and covered in dog hair.
I’ve told her many times that she has too many pets. She replies that it’s not my business and storms off. I suggested she give me one of her dogs or cats, and she told me she would simply buy more. I believe her.
How can I make her see the light? — Concerned Sister
Dear Concerned: To some extent, your sister is right: This isn’t your business. A messy home and dog-haired clothing may not be your preference, but they aren’t necessarily a health risk. She is depleting her bank balance in order to purchase animals, but then, some people do that with shoes.
There can be a fine line between eccentric behaviour that is within acceptable boundaries and behaviour that indicates mental illness. We don’t think your sister has crossed that line, but she bears watching. So stop criticizing her choices, but keep an eye on whether her appearance and the condition of her house substantially deteriorate, whether she goes into debt and whether the animals are well treated. And let her know you will be a sympathetic shoulder if she ever needs help managing.
Dear Annie: Our neighbour, “Harvey,” is a homosexual and frequently has various men stay at his house overnight — sometimes more than one at a time.
Here’s the problem: We have an 11-year-old son, and though Harvey is nice to him and a good neighbour to us, should we keep our son from any association with Harvey? My husband doesn’t seem to think there’s any problem, but one can never be too safe when it comes to protecting your children. — Sleepless in Seattle
Dear Seattle: Harvey should be treated no differently than any adult neighbour who has frequent overnight guests, male or female, presumably for intimate purposes. You wouldn’t want his casual promiscuity (if that’s what it is) to be something your son emulates in his own life, but we assume you would discuss such things with your child as a normal part of transmitting your values and morals. It has nothing to do with Harvey’s sexual orientation, nor does it make him a greater risk to your son’s welfare. And if your real worry is whether association with Harvey will make your son gay, the answer is no.
Dear Annie: This is for “Not a Mommy,” the woman who doesn’t care to hold someone’s infant.
I, too, am not fond of babies (except for my grandchildren), but I have found myself in the same awkward situation when an employee brings her baby to visit the office.
Two tips that work for me: Never go alone into the room where the baby is on display. And don’t put yourself in the front tier. Touch the baby so the parent doesn’t think you are a complete ogre, but when asked, “Don’t you want to hold him?” reply, “Oh, let So-and-So. I can see that she’s dying to.” Then quietly make your exit. — Chris from Maine
Dear Chris: Good advice for the baby-averse. Thanks.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to email@example.com, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.