Long Distance Relationships (01/17/07)

Dear Zelda,

I have a beagle that is close to being seven years old. She sleeps right next to me and we are very close. I adopted her from the Humane Society a long time ago and we've basically grown up together being best friends. But next year I graduate from high school and I'm wanting to go away for college. I know my Dad will take care of Bailey really well, but I don't know what to do without her. I can't even sleep by myself because I am so used to her laying near me. Any suggestions? Thank you,
 
High School Grad

Dear High School Grad,

I can feel your pain! But to use an old saying, no pain, no gain. You certainly have a lot to gain from your college education, and a lot of growing up still to do (don't we all?). One important part of that growing up process, and one of the hardest parts, is learning how to say goodbye to those you care about. Change is a part of life, and this experience with Bailey gives you a wonderful opportunity to practice letting go without having to really say goodbye... because she'll still be there when you come home for breaks, waiting to snuggle up! Still, this gives you the chance to learn how to deal with those feelings of loss and longing, and how to go out and make a life for yourself on your own.

But what about Bailey, your beloved beagle? I'm trying to think like Bailey and I keep ending up feeling sad, but for both your sakes you should start preparing for your departure early. That said, you still have over a year, so I wouldn't get too preoccupied with fear of the departure yet. This won't be easy for either of you, but we dogs are pretty adjustable, and it turns out most college-bound folks are pretty resilient too.

When my owner was in an accident and was hospitalized for a long block of time, we canines missed her very much, but we found that when other people were there loving us, her absence wasn't so bad. What I'm suggesting is that you begin by spending some time away from home, say staying over with girlfriends or planning to spend a few weeks away from home this summer. When you aren't at home, move Bailey's dog bed into your Dad's room and let her get used to Dad being your stand-in. One way your Dad can win Bailey's heart is if you leave him with some treats and new toys. If he shows Bailey that he cares just like you do, trust me, Bailey will adjust to your absence.

The adjustment sounds like it might be even harder for you. Start by putting together a Bailey scrapbook. Take advantage of this time and take lots of photos of you and Bailey. Put a couple of the photos in frames. You also can look for a stuffed toy beagle you could take to college. Let Bailey chew on it before you leave and it will be an even better reminder. When the time comes, don't be afraid to let yourself feel sad, but remind yourself that this, too, is a normal part of life, and an important part of growing up.

The good news is that when you head off to college there will be something wonderful to come home to, namely your beloved Bailey (not to mention those other family members).  Believe me, she will be there waiting at the door every time! Licks and love,

Zelda

Dear Zelda,

I've met a man on-line and he lives in Florida while I live in Nebraska. We have a lot in common. We are both in our 50's, retired, like pizza and Italian food and love going to old movies and the horse races. We both watch the same reality shows on TV and are both Democrats. He wants me to come meet him in Florida but I don't want to pay for the entire plane ticket.  He says he'd help with the ticket, but says he's short of money because he owes the IRS right now. What's your advice? By the way we've been e-mailing each other several times a day for about a month.

Go or No Go?

Dear Go or No Go,

Let's keep this simple...NO GO!!! You may both like the horse races, but I wouldn't bet on this Florida dark horse. Look at what you've told me: he lives in Florida and you live in Nebraska. He wants you to come visit him, but he isn't suggesting that he might come see you in Nebraska. The big red flag though, obviously, is that he wants you to pay for the plane ticket entirely yourself because he says he owes money to the IRS! He may be telling the truth about this, or he may just be making up an excuse to not foot the bill. But the problem is, NEITHER option is good! If he's telling the truth, then he's in trouble with the government deep enough that he can't afford to even contribute something toward your ticket... that's pretty deep. Not exactly on top of the list of traits I'm seeking in a mate, especially from an internet romance. Don't get me wrong, it doesn't take money to have a happy relationship, but I'd also rather not spend my weekends shredding documents and running from federal agents. Alternatively, let's say he is just using it as an excuse. If so, then maybe he is financially stable and legally above board, but that also means he's either lying or not interested enough in you to want to do his part in supporting your visit.

Now I don't mean to be totally negative; you do both like pizza and reality TV shows, you share some hobbies and some political affiliation. But I have to say, those seem like traits that aren't impossible to find in someone who's closer to home and a little more stable. Of course there's always a chance that this guy's excuse is legitimate. If you really do feel a connection, you might try voicing your concerns to him and asking him to explain his situation more openly to you. If you find you really believe him and empathize with him, you should be open to exploring the situation further, but go slowly, be careful, and spend more time getting to know him before hopping on a plane, especially on your own dime.

Personally, I'd suggest you go back online and look for someone a little closer to home whose explanations raise a few less eyebrows and involve a few less federal agencies. I'd bet there's a pizza eatin', Casablanca-watchin', blue-votiní man out there in Nebraska who may not even be deeply indebted to the IRS, and who's just waiting to meet a lovely like-minded lady. Steer clear of your Florida fantasies. Your favorite reality show should begin at home.

Zelda

Dear Zelda,

My best friend from college (we graduated five years ago) has been living in Washington DC working for a congresswoman while I moved home to a job with my family's company in Shreveport Louisiana. We keep in constant contact. My friend loves DC, the political world and the social life. She is encouraging me to move to Washington DC because she says I'll never meet the right man in Shreveport. I'd like to move and meet more men than I do at home, but am afraid to tell my family. Also I like working with them and am afraid I won't find a job I enjoy as much. What do you think?

Alone in Louisiana

Dear Alone in Louisiana,

Before you pack your bags and head for the capitol, I think you need to take a good look at your present goals. Is finding Mr. Right your priority, and if so, what have you done there in Shreveport to find him? It sounds like you are enjoying a job and that it is making both you and your family happy. If your priority is finding Mr. Right, perhaps you ought to look around a little closer to home before you take flight. Try local internet sources, get involved in activities you enjoy, join a gym, let your friends and family know you'd like to meet a new man, and if you have a dog (preferably an irresist-a-bull bulldog), take him/her for walks in popular places. I've been "borrowed" on several occasions for just that purpose and believe me, it works wonders. The Mr. Rights of the world don't just go around knocking on doors. You have to get out and look for them.

However, if your friend's suggestion that you move to Washington DC still sounds tempting and you haven't encountered Mr. Right-Next-Door, why don't you plan a trip to visit her? Check out Craigslist and other sources for jobs in DC. Or find out if your family’s business has any contacts in the field in which you're interested. Set up interviews and see if there is a job that you'd really enjoy. Spend some time with your friend and see if the social and professional life in Washington appeals to you. Your best friend from college appears to have found a life that is making her happy, but is life in the shadow of the White House also going to make you happy? She works for a congresswoman, so I assume she is a political creature who enjoys the fast pace of politics in Washington. But what's good for her may not be good for you. You may not give a 'woof' about politics, or you may like the idea of it but hate the daily reality. Or, you may love it! A visit with your friend will give you an opportunity to check it out.  

Also I wouldn't worry about upsetting your family with thoughts of a move. In fact, share your ideas with them. Most parents just want their children to be happy, and if you include them in your decision-making, not only will they understand, but they'll be all the more involved and supportive. I sure am! In my book, taking action is a capital idea.

Zelda