Dear Abby: My 9-year-old son's friend "Isaac" was over for a visit. He was captivated by our Labrador retriever, "Layla," who is very loving. Isaac doesn't have a dog, so he wanted to play with Layla. At one point, I overheard him say to my son, "Look, I'm riding your dog!" I immediately intervened, but I was too late.
A day or so later, Layla was unable to descend our stairway and was clearly in pain. She has been on pain medication for three weeks and is growing progressively worse. The next step is to get X-rays and/or an MRI to see if she has a spinal injury, and then determine her treatment. It's possible the damage is irreversible.
My wife and I are extremely upset about this, but we're afraid to tell our son or Isaac and his parents for fear it will place undue guilt on a 9-year-old boy. On the flip side, I wouldn't want him to do this to anyone else's beloved pet. How do you recommend we proceed? —HEARTBROKEN IN NEW YORK
Dear Heartbroken: Children are not mind-readers. If you don't tell them when they make a mistake, they won't realize they have made one. Contact Isaac's parents and explain what happened. If your dog needs treatment, they should be responsible for whatever damage their son did.
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Dear Abby: My wife and I recently attended the funeral of a friend's father. During the sermon I noticed tears in our friend's eyes and offered her my handkerchief. On the way home, this sparked a conversation about the obligation of a person who receives a handkerchief. Should it be returned after the event, or should it first be laundered? Or is it considered a gift, not to be returned at all?
Later that evening at a movie, I noticed a woman hand someone her handkerchief saying, "It's monogrammed. It was my mother's." No mention was made of a request that it be returned. I'm sure most people wouldn't mind letting go of a standard handkerchief, but one with sentimental value would be different, wouldn't it? What do you suggest? —REAL MEN CARRY HANDKERCHIEFS
Dear Real Man: You were chivalrous to offer your handkerchief to the grieving daughter. Had it merely been used to dab away a tear, it could have been returned to you at the end of the service. If, however, there was makeup on it — or the dab was followed by a swipe of her nose — the woman should have held onto it, laundered it and returned it to you in the presumably pristine condition it was in when you gave it to her.
As to the monogrammed (heirloom) hanky you saw lent in the theater, when the woman explained its significance to her friend, that was the tip-off that she expected it to be returned.