Dear Zelda Wisdom Fear Factor bulldog humor advice therapy dog advice column

Trouble (3/29/06)

Dear Zelda,

My mother-in-law is driving me crazy. She is always telling me better ways to do everything: how to make a better meatloaf, what color looks best on me, which wine to serve, how I might lose a little weight, etc. My husband and I have only been married two years, but I want to tell her to zip her lip, and I know that isn't respectful. What would you do?


Dear Mother-in-loathe,

You mean when you were standing at the altar, it wasn't his mother who said "I do?" Take comfort in the fact that by facing the harsh scrutiny of your in-laws, you are joining a long and proud legacy that stretches back as far as people have been getting hitched. Some of the earliest cave paintings were apparently just nasty cartoons of mothers-in-law! The truth is, when you marry your husband, you marry his family. Without realizing it, you accepted this woman as part of your family during your wedding vows...for better or, in this case, for WORSE!

But just because she's family doesn't mean you have to take her abuse. Of course, she thinks that she's just trying to help (yeah right), and that her words of wisdom are only meant to better your life and help your marriage (she's sooooo thoughtful). You married her baby, and her baby deserves the best. What she doesn't understand is that he picked you because he thought YOU were the best. That's the one thing know-it-all mothers-in-law never seem to "know."

The good news is "I've got it covered!" Coincidentally, that's also my advice to you: When you need to make a better meatloaf..."OH, no thanks, I've got it covered." When she suggests a different wine..."OH, no thanks...I've got it covered." Chartreuse is really your color (absolutely untrue unless you're a snow pea)...again...Hmmm, "no thanks, I've got it covered." It really can be that easy. A simple "thanks" followed by the fact that you appreciate the advice, but you've "got it covered," is a polite way of letting her know that you are a grown woman capable of making your own decisions.

The only challenge is that she obviously wants to be a part of your life, and "having it covered" about everything she brings up is bound to make her feel shut out. Of course, you don't want her nosing into all your business, so instead, try to redirect her energies and attentions in more positive directions. For example, if you know she loves to garden, go out of your way to ask her for recommendations on plantings for this spring. If you build a positive relationship where she is able to have input into some parts of your life, it may then be easier to get her to keep her nose out of other parts.

I've always said, "If it's not one's your mother (in-law)."


Dear Zelda,

I'm a sophomore in high school and I've been invited to our school's spring dance by two different boys. I said "yes" to both of them and the dance is only two weeks a way. I've never felt so popular and so horrible and the thing is, I really don't know who to tell that I can't go with him. I like them both the same and they're both really cool guys and really cute. I feel like I'm either going to look like such a fool or a complete *&$#@ (female dog - no offense).

I feel so guilty. I wish I could just roll over and play dead! Help Zelda!

In Big Trou-bull

Dear Big Trou-bull,

No offense taken. And for the record, that whole roll-over-and-play-dead thing gets you nothing but a dog treat, and you're gonna need a whole lot more than dog treats to get you outta this mess.

Now, going to a spring dance escorted by two cute guys would be great, AND you'd be the envy of just about every girl at your school, AND you'd have a constant dancing partner throughout the night. Unfortunately... it's never going to happen. Boys at that age (or any age!) are full of pride and hormones, and the odds of both of them agreeing to escort you to the same dance are pretty much non-existent. You've bitten off more than you can chew (trust me, I know the feeling), and you need to face facts. It takes a lot of courage to ask a pretty girl to a dance, and if you continue to wait and string them both along until the last minute, I'm afraid you'll find yourself dancing only with disaster. I know it's hard, but you need to act now. Slow-dancing your way around a decision means you're robbing one of them of the opportunity to find someone else to invite. And let's not forget that they do go to the same school, and you're risking that they will find out about each other, in which case their egos will have them both dropping you like a hot potato. You need to take care of this sooner rather than later.

So my advice to you is this... pick one. If you really do like both of them, and you feel that you can have a great time with either one, you need to cut your losses and choose a winner. Let the other one down easy by telling him that you're sorry, but someone else had asked you first, and when you got asked again you just got flustered, and were flattered, and didn't want to say "no" even though you had already committed to someone else. After making a short, simple apology, let him know you really do like him, and you hope he has enough time to find someone else to ask to the dance. This won't be an easy talk, but trust me, it's the best way out of this situation for everybody.

Who knows, maybe you two can attend the next dance, and you could even take the initiative and ask him (and ONLY him).

Good Luck!


Dear Zelda,

How can I keep my dog, Barney, from digging in our garden? Do you know of any tricks to break him of this bad habit? He dug up all of my daffodil bulbs last spring and I'd like to have some flowers around this year.

The Constant Gardener

Dear Constant Gardener,

You could always take the Mafioso approach... threaten Barney that he'll be lying with the daffodils if he doesn't stop digging 'em up. If it turns out that you made him an offer he actually could refuse and if you just think the Godfather allusions might be a little lost on ol' Barney, you can start the longer (and less fun) process of conditioning him to break his dastardly daffodil digging desires.

Unfortunately, for a lot of dogs digging is a basic instinct (not the Sharon Stone kind), and Barney is just doing what comes naturally. A luscious garden is the perfect place for him to unleash his natural urges, and your delicate daffodils are the unfortunate victims. If you think about what's in your garden, it only seems natural for your pet to want to play there: dirt (dogs will roll in it, at least SOME dogs will), rodents and insects (fluffy and squirmy, fun to chase, fun to pummel), and little sprouting plants that are just begging to be chewed to pieces. Is it just me, or is all this garden talk making everyone else itchin' to get outside?

One simple deterrent is a quick hose spray. You see him dig...he gets a squirt. While these owner-inflicted punishments aren't the best way to train your dog, a little hose squirt is a pretty non-invasive way of telling Barney to keep his nose out of your affairs. Repetition is the key to getting the point across, so you'll really have to watch and be ready. He could also just be digging from boredom. Try taking him for a nice long walk before letting him into the garden, and you might even cap it off with a chew toy filled with goodies to ensure he'll stay busy. Lets see...chew toy with goodies, or mouth full of dirt. I say that's a no-brainer! A third option, while it may sound a little gross, is to place Barney's own poop in the holes that he's dug around the flowers. I know, I know, it sounds gross (and who am I kiddin', it is), but just like everyone else, we dogs don't generally like to play where we poop (if this one doesn't work pretty quickly though, you might try other options... if you catch my whiff). Let me know how it turns out!

Here's hoping your Spring stays in full bloom!