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My Friend Offered to Dogsit, Then Backed Out When Her Mother Died. Now What?

I visited my family overseas for three weeks. It was our first Christmas together in 10 years. A close friend offered to take my dog while I was away. During the first week, my friend’s mother died. I offered to make other arrangements for my dog, but she said it wasn’t necessary. By the second week, she was struggling. She asked if she could return the dog to my house and visit twice a day. I asked another person to help her so my dog would get more visits and my friend could deal with her loss. Then, my neighbors complained that my dog was barking all night. I asked my close friend to spend one night at my house. She declined and insinuated that I was to blame for the situation. Her inability to commit has caused a rift with my neighbors. How can I remedy the problem with the neighbors? (I’m OK just moving on with my friend and not accepting offers of help from her again.)


I sympathize with the inconvenience of having to make new dogsitting arrangements and fielding complaints from neighbors while you were abroad. But I am surprised by your lack of perspective and passive-aggressive swipes at your close friend: The death of her mother is of a different order of magnitude than your workaday complaints, including her silly insinuation that you were to blame for the barking. (Grief can prompt us to say and do odd things.)

Now, I don’t belittle your feelings. Sometimes, it takes an outsider to help us see that our interpretation of events is too narrow. Let me be that outsider here: Your friend probably believed that she could handle the responsibility — and wanted to, for your sake — until grief overwhelmed her and she couldn’t. If she were simply a flake, you wouldn’t have left your dog in her care, right?

It doesn’t sound to me as if anyone did anything wrong here. It was a symphony of bad timing. Try to be compassionate to your friend. She is grieving. And apologize to your neighbors with a brief explanation of the circumstances. I’m sorry for the stress to you and to them, but I’m even sorrier for your friend’s loss over the holidays.

My daughter had a baby recently. She doesn’t know many people where she lives, so I started an online baby shower for her on a private, family Facebook page with over 100 members. Only two people sent gifts! I can’t tell you how disappointed I am. All she wanted was some warm clothes and simple things for a newborn, which I said in my post. I have attended special occasions for many group members that required travel, gifts and great expense. I didn’t do it to be paid back, but how do I handle my feelings?


First, congratulations on the new baby! You don’t say much about your post or how active this Facebook page is (or your own online fluency, for that matter), but it’s possible that many of the members didn’t even see your message. In my experience, friends and relatives are more responsive to events — a Zoom baby shower, for instance — than to a group post requesting gifts. I get that your feelings are hurt, but next time, make it an occasion, not a shopping list. Your relatives may respond better.

My mom has a tumultuous relationship with her family. She and her siblings suffered childhood trauma, which has led to her brother and sister speaking to her rarely. When they do, they often say spiteful things. I spend lots of time consoling my mother after these interactions. Having benefited from therapy myself, I suggested it to her after a recent episode with her sister. She asked, “Why do you think I need a therapist?” Did I overstep?


I have been helped by therapists in every decade of my life; the first two were arranged by my mother. Still, I ran into the same problem when I suggested that she might speak to one. Eventually, I discovered it’s all in the framing: “Mom, it really helped me when I talked to a therapist. Do you think you might get to the bottom of these hurtful episodes with your siblings if you talked to one, too?” It worked for me!

My boyfriend’s ex-wife is getting remarried, and I’d like to send her a congratulatory card. We’ve never met. (My boyfriend and I have been in a long-distance relationship for three years.) Their relationship is often contentious, usually because of scheduling conflicts in coparenting their teenage children. I wish her the best, but I don’t want my card to be an unwelcome interruption of a happy time for her. My boyfriend was surprised that I wanted to send her a card, but he didn’t object. Should I send one?


It’s a little odd to send cards to strangers, but your impulse seems sincere to me. So — as long as you didn’t play a part in her and your boyfriend’s breakup — why not? Keep it simple: Wish her the best on her happy day and in her new marriage and tell her you look forward to meeting her when the time is right.

For help with your awkward situation, send a question to [email protected], to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on the platform X.


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