Halloween Suggestions (10/31/07)

Dear Zelda,

Your newsletter said that the subject next week will be Halloween, and as a dog owner Halloween can be a scary night for dogs. I’d like to know what safety tips you have for us. My Schnauzer always barks when the doorbell rings and I don’t look forward to a noisy night of barking. Any hints Zelda?

Barking in the Dark

Dear Barking,

Howl-o-ween is supposed to be scary, but not downright terrifying, and often it can be just that for us pooches! Personally, I love the one time of year when I get to see everyone else dress as silly as I do, but some dogs snap and snarl, while others sulk and slide into the shadows, at even the sight of ghoulish guests. So know your dog! If your Fido favors dressing like a fairy, go for it, but if he gives you any hint that dressing up isn’t his favorite thing to swing, forget the costume and let your sleeping dog lie. Put him in a safe, quiet, and secure room, and let him spend the night snoozing. The only thing every pet should be required to wear on Halloween is identification just in case they happen to slip out the door.

It’s also a good idea not to leave your pet(s) outside on Halloween. I love trick-or-treating, but once in a while pets become the target of pranksters. Black cats are especially at risk. When in doubt, don’t leave your pet out! And speaking of tricks and treats, remember that while all dogs love treats, human treats are usually not meant for pets (I can’t believe I’m actually saying this). Chocolate can be especially harmful and if you find that your precious pet has nibbled through the candy wrappers, don’t just snicker, call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

When you are opening the door to trick-or-treaters, take extra care that your pooch is in a separate room or crated where he will be comfortable. Little monsters can look pretty menacing to us and there is no reason to surprise us with tikes posing as skeletons in the closets. I also wouldn’t advise letting your dog accompany children out trick-or-treating. Even the best of us can come unglued or become difficult at the strange sights and sounds of ghosts and goblins that confront us on Halloween night.

Lastly you mentioned that your Schnauzer barks whenever the doorbell rings. Since duct tape around his mouth is not an option, my suggestion is that you place your pet in a room far from the front door and turn on the television. I have a DVD that I’m particularly fond of called The Movie for Dogs (http://www.themoviefordogs.com). This movie entertains Zoe, ZeeZee and me for hours. Doorbells can ring, earthquakes can shake, but we’ll stay glued to the television watching dogs at the park, dogs in the water, agility competitions and dogs just having fun. Another trick that totally captures our attention is to be given Kongs filled with peanut butter and blue cheese. I know I mention using filled Kongs as a doggie distracter a lot, but that’s because it REALLY WORKS.

So this Howl-o-ween be smart and be safe where your canines are concerned. Licks-and-treats work best for us!


Dear Zelda,

My husband of two years is the sweetest man in the world, but his mother is a monster. She not only abused my husband as he was growing up by telling him he would never amount to anything, but she continues her abuse of him, and us, to this day. Twice she has told him she has cancer and is dying, only to confess later that she made it up. She writes us and tells him what his old girlfriend is up to, how beautiful she is, and then says things like, “too bad you didn’t marry HER.” My mother-in-law’s behavior is so toxic that she is even appearing as a witch in my nightmares. I have quit communicating with her, but my husband continues his relationship with her. I feel he is being disrespectful of me. I’m at my wit’s end. What’s your advice?

Wife with a Monster-in-Law

Dear Wife,

Whoa honey, you and your hubby need to get off the porch, out of your haunted house, and high-tail it to a marriage counselor ASAP! A third party can point out the perils of his mother’s pernicious behavior, and may help him realize just how out-of-line her conduct really is. You can’t do it alone, but with the help of a trained counselor, together you can all begin to work through these incredibly complex issues. Of course, there isn’t going to be a quick solution to these problems. His mother, however awful, is still his mother, and she is likely to be a part of his life in some way for a while. Asking him to cut off ties immediately and altogether may simply be asking too much. Growing up with emotionally abusive parents creates unhealthy but surprisingly obdurate bonds, and he will undoubtedly have a hard time breaking or diminishing these ties. But with therapy and some added support from you, your husband may be able to begin the process of moving toward a more distant and functional relationship with this clearly troubled woman.

Incidentally, there is a good book by Dr. Susan Forward, Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life. Your husband may have reached adulthood feeling inadequate, unloved and perhaps even worthless because of his mother’s abuse; however, as an adult, he is now responsible for his own actions and choices. It may be really hard for your husband to put some distance between himself and his mother, but with some help from a good therapist, you and your husband have it in your control to rewrite the script. Who knows… soon your Monster-In-Law may be Gone with the Wind, and the good news is that she won’t be a hard act to follow.

Still, you need to be supportive and understanding of your husband throughout this process; move beyond the blame-game and live happily ever after.


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