DEAR READERS: I've stepped away from the Ask Amy column for two weeks to work on a new writing project. I hope you enjoy these edited "best of" columns in my absence. All of these questions and answers were first published 10 years ago. Today's topic is "Red Flags."

DEAR AMY: A guy I'm interested in killed a raccoon in my yard because it was eating my cat's food. He seems to think he did a good deed. I, however, am horrified because it's not the animal's fault that it found food near my house. Should I run before becoming too involved with this person?


DEAR WONDERING: What this guy did is wrong on so many levels — but let's just start with the fact that he chose to do something quite serious on your property, and without your permission. Raccoons might be considered pests when they get into neighborhoods and pick through garbage or eat cat food, but there is a very sensible solution to this — and that is to bring the cat's food inside.

People who gratuitously kill animals are twisted. If he comes around, I'd suggest you treat him as the pest he is. Chase him off. (October 2009)

DEAR AMY: Recently, my parents hosted a family dinner. After dinner, my sister's boyfriend decided to light some fireworks. My boyfriend and I, my sister, her boyfriend and our parents stood in front of the house, watching. About 15 minutes in, a new neighbor approached my sister's boyfriend. The neighbor didn't even get to say hello before he started yelling. The neighbor began to say that his infant child had been sick and that she needed her sleep. My sister was pleading with her boyfriend to stop yelling, but that made him angrier. We stood there completely in shock. The boyfriend wouldn't come into the house, and the neighbor left. I feel horrible. This neighbor didn't do anything wrong. I live at home with my parents, but my sister lives with her boyfriend. I told my mother we should go over to the neighbor's house with flowers and explain that we don't condone that behavior. I also don't want my sister to feel embarrassed about her boyfriend's behavior when she's around us.

Exploding Embarrassed

DEAR EXPLODING: I don't like the idea of apologizing for other people's actions but, because this happened at your home and because the perpetrator was a guest of your family, your parents should apologize to the neighbor. Flowers from the garden would be a good start.

More important is the issue of your sister's situation. She is living with a hothead who seems out of control. I'm sure your parents are quite worried about this relationship — as they should be. You should all take this incident very seriously and urge your sister to reconsider her relationship with this volatile and angry guy. (July 2009)

DEAR AMY: I've been in a committed relationship for three years. It's my first stable relationship (compared with previous whirlwind dramas), but I feel his affection has dwindled. He was so passionate during the first six months, but after that we became more like best friends. I've told him numerous times how unhappy this makes me, and his response is always that it's just his personality. Every other aspect of our relationship is positive, so would it be irresponsible to end all that stability for passion? I feel that my emotional needs are unfulfilled.

Aching for Attention

DEAR ACHING: You have a history of drama in your relationships, and you may associate passion with drama. They are very different. Passion changes over the course of a relationship, because at some point people have to get up and go to work, but you say you are starved for affection — and though passion may wane, in a loving relationship affection does not.

Your guy is not likely to become more passionate — and he doesn't seem able or willing to behave more affectionately toward you, even though he knows this would make you very happy. Best friends are wonderful. But if you are going to continually miss the passion you feel you need, you probably should look elsewhere to find it. (September 2009)

DEAR READERS: Are you curious about my background and life outside of the confines of this space? Read my two memoirs: "The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter, and the Town that Raised Them," and "Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things," available wherever books are sold or borrowed.

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