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Family Matters (10/04/06)

Dear Zelda Readers,

This week I'm sorry to report that my owner, Carol, got injured and is currently recuperating in the hospital. She's okay, and she wanted me to tell everyone not to worry. But with all the fuss, and with taking care of her, I just haven't had the time to answer questions this week. So instead, we're sending out one of our old favorite columns, dealing with family matters. I hope you enjoy it, and I promise that by next week I'll be back to my old doggy-diva self. Thanks for reading, and hope you enjoy another classic from the archives!

Dear Zelda,

My teenage son is making me crazy... do they make MIDOL for boys?   He has more mood swings than most pregnant women.   I would say he is possessed, but nobody else would want to live with him in that body.

At the End of Her Rope Mom

Dear Mom,

Survival is hanging on after others let go.   Mood swings, easy anger and frustration resulting from large hormonal productions are common during adolescence.   It’s not just a “girl thing.”   Until his emotional swings subside, there are a few helpful things you can do for your son (short of exorcism) that will also ensure your own survival.   Make sure he is getting enough rest (being tired can lead to sadness and irritability), and is getting regular exercise (being active produces the hormone beta-endorphin that improves mood and controls stress).   Encourage him to put his thoughts down on paper, stay busy, and keep talking with you and his friends.   He may tell you to go to hell, but open communication is important.   I’m sure he knows just where your nuclear button is, but remain a patient, loving, supportive parent, and know where your nearest masseuse is.   In their worth-its-weight-in-gold book, Parent/Teen Breakthrough, Kirshenbaum and Foster suggest, “When he acts moody and cold, you can simply and wordlessly back off and leave him alone”. Another great book for you would be Get Out of My Life, But First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl To The Mall? by Anthony Wolf.

If his moods swing from “feeling great” to feeling suicidal, consult a mental health professional or call the suicide hotline (1-800-suicide).   By the way, Madelyn Gould, a researcher at New York Psychiatric Institute, says that a new study has shown that asking teenagers about suicide won’t make them more likely to contemplate it, as some parents fear.   If there is a history of bi-polar disorder in your family, and since there is a strong genetic component involved, it would be wise to talk to your doctor about the warning signs.   At , you can read answers to teenagers’ questions regarding their mood swings.   While you’re waiting for your son’s hormones to stabilize, don’t suffer from insanity… enjoy every minute of it.   Your son may think, at times, that you are ten minutes away from being institutionalized, but keep smiling... learn to laugh… and HANG ON!   You will both survive.


Dear Zelda,

My dad just died on March 20th.   He has been fighting an illness for 11 years.

Although I am happy he is no longer suffering, I am sad that he is gone and I don't get to have conversations with him anymore.   My question is this, why do I feel guilt for being happy for him.   Shouldn't I be mourning and crying a lot?   How do we really know how to grieve?

Feeling Guilty

Dear Feeling Guilty,

To read of the loss of your father was very saddening.   Just like you, however, I am heartened to know he is no longer suffering.   You might feel responsible for either violating some unwritten rule of society, or failing to meet your own expectations of shedding a lot of tears.   Keep in mind there is neither a “right” nor "wrong” way to experience any loss, nor a standard dictating how we should display feelings after the passing of a loved one.   As you move through the loss of your father, go at your own pace, with the emotions that you feel, and in the order they come.   Live each feeling; accept them.   Feeling happy and relieved that he no longer suffers is only a reflection of your compassion and deep love for him.   Letting go of your guilt wouldn’t mean you miss him any less.   Your good-bye has been a long one, and your anticipatory grief understandably very painful.   If you choose to live a full and meaningful life now, it’s the best memorial you could ever give your father.   Write in a journal, share stories about him, connect with people who knew him and discuss every aspect of your feeling with someone you trust.   Stay busy, read books that feed your mind and soul, volunteer for something and help others.   Hug friends and family.   It’s okay to laugh.   Find comfort in knowing your father lives on in your heart.   If you ever do need face-to-face help, contact your local mental health association or hospital for a list of loss support groups in your area.   The National Grief Support Services can be reached at 818-347-8955 or online at   Your father’s passing puts me in mind of something Pope John Paul II said before he passed on: “I am happy.   You should be as well.”  


Dear Zelda,

I could not afford a bulldog, so I went out and got a pit-bull.   Her name is Peanut and she is 6 months old and is as sweet as can be, only she has one problem… she does this submissive urination thing.   Anytime I talk to her, even in a nice way, if she's not sure what I am saying, she urinates, and it's usually on my bed.   I love my pets and don’t mind if they are on the furniture but it gets me mad when she pees on the bed.   We are currently in obedience class, but that’s not helping this situation.   Am I wasting my time?
Zelda, what do I do?


Dear Peeved,

It’s never considered dawdling or diddling when dealing with piddling.  Just ask Carol, my owner.  Instead of pixie dust, your little Tinkle Bell is leaving “puddles of respect” on your bed.  Very submissive dogs, shy dogs lacking self-confidence and often pups will urinate when in the presence of humans or dogs that are more dominant. My friend and housemate, Zoe, was like this.   We used to call her “Little Piddle”.   It is a submissive dog’s instinctive, involuntary way of saying “You are the Master”.  (Dogs have masters; cats have staff.)  When Peanut faux-paws, it’s best just to ignore her.  If you try to reassure her, she will think you are praising her for urinating and will do it even more.  If you scold her, she might feel impelled to apologize by showing submission by urinating once again.  Before you start growling, there are things you can do to minimize Peanut’s problem.  Try to make her more confident by continuing to go through basic obedience drills.  Very gently praise her afterwards.  Take her outside often, and get out in public where she can familiarize herself with meeting new people and seeing new places.  Many things can frighten dogs that urinate submissively; even eye contact can be intimidating.  Make yourself seem less dominant by squatting down to her level and talk to her in a calm tone, followed by gentle pats.  The sooner Peanut comes out of her shell and changes her self-concept, the sooner you’ll stop changing the sheets so often.  In his book Dog Talk, author John Ross claims: “99% of all the female dogs I have known with this condition outgrew it by the time they were a year old.”  Start feeling glad instead of mad.  Peanut will get better.