Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: I am at my wits' end. There are two beautiful little girls in my family (ages 7 and 9), and their mother lets them adopt a puppy or kitten every six months or so. After a couple of months, she then decides she can't be bothered taking care of these animals anymore, so she takes them back to the shelter when the girls are at school. This has happened at least three times in the past two years. The last straw was this week when the 9-year-old told me through tears that she never got to say goodbye to her precious little kitten. She was inconsolable. The parents are divorced but the dad has custody every other week and is a great dad, but he doesn't know what to do about this problem. His ex got rid of him just like she did the animals when the girls were very young. We need help to know how to handle this problem, as it is very harmful to these beautiful little girls.
DEAR HEARTBROKEN: In addition to the pain caused to these children, who are forced to separate from pets they have become attached to, this is the very definition of irresponsible and unethical animal stewardship. I know that in order to protect pets from being abandoned and/or abused, shelters will accept returned pets, but no shelter should continue to let someone adopt who has a history of relinquishing animals back to the shelter.
Perhaps the father could adopt a pet to keep at his home so the girls can enjoy an ongoing attachment to an easygoing animal. There are so many benefits to children caring for and loving an animal. In this case, the girls would learn through time the joys and challenges of this extremely important commitment. If they don't learn this from their father, they could end up repeating their mother's pattern when they get older.
My own pitch is to adopt an older cat -- my own experience adopting older animals has been extremely positive and rewarding.
DEAR AMY: I think my mom is emotionally abusive. She calls me names and teases me, but swears she's joking and "actually loves me." She puts me down. I'm not allowed to make decisions for myself about anything. I've never felt like I could talk to her for fear of making her angry or getting punished. I haven't hugged her in over 10 years; physical contact with her makes me really uncomfortable. My dad is no help -- he just ignores her and tells me to do the same. Is she actually abusive or am I just extrapolating stuff that hurts my feelings? I don't know how to deal with her anymore. When I was younger it was easier, but over the years it's gotten worse. (I'm almost 18.) I feel worthless whenever she talks to me or about me. And I have younger sisters I need to protect, but if I go to college next year they'll be all alone and I don't know how to help them or myself. Any advice?
DEAR HURT: Don't let your mother's tyranny keep you from living out your own dreams. You can be a helpful and supportive sister by showing your younger sisters that your mother's treatment does not define you. The best thing you can do for them is to be a triumphant survivor, go to college and succeed.
I don't know how to classify your mother's treatment, but let's stipulate that at the very least you deserve much better.
While you are still living at home, I hope you can find a supportive and understanding adult to talk to. A sympathetic teacher or school counselor could help. And yes, if your mother continues to disrespect you, avoid and/or ignore her.
DEAR AMY: "Unhappy and Successful" is a young professional bemoaning the fact that he can't do everything else he wants to do. I have an answer for him: If you earn it, you can do it. Wanting to fulfill dreams is why a lot of us go to work every day.
Happy and Successful
DEAR HAPPY: Yes. Exactly.