After going through a recent divorce after twenty plus years of marriage to my wife, do you have any suggestions for my twelve-year-old daughter and me to get through these tough times? I have also recently recovered from a successful back surgery, so I'm very happy for that. How is your Mommy's neck doing? My daughter and I have four cats and a bunny. We love you!
Looking for Happiness
Dear Looking for Happiness,
I believe that the most important part of overcoming an obstacle is deciding to do it. No one's saying it's going to be easy, but you will BOTH get through your tough times just fine if you choose to. The best thing you can do for your daughter, other than being the loving, supporting Dad you always have been, is to continue to be supportive of and positive about your family relationships, past, present, and future. You need to send a clear message to your former wife, grandparents, siblings, etc. that you're in this to do what's best for your daughter, and you will expect them to do the same, even if you and they still have some personal matters to work out. Divorce is a strain on everyone in the family, so try to work together. Trust me, I know a thing or two about dog fights, and the truth is, everyone comes out hurt in the end.
At the same time that you're shoring up the family support system for your daughter, you also need to remember to be PART of that support system. Those pre-teen years can be tough for girls, especially with a divorce thrown in. The best way to help her is to be yourself and be available to listen. Be sure you let her know that the divorce was not, in any way, her fault. Reassure her of this and try to minimize the changes she will have to go through following the divorce. If possible, keep her in the same school where she has friends to talk to. If you have to move, make sure nothing of hers is left behind and that includes her favorite fluffy pink slippers. Try to keep her involved in the other activities she is accustomed to doing. You might even find an activity that the two of you could do together like hiking, biking, or just watching television shows you both enjoy like episodes on my favorite channel, Animal Planet!
While you're doing all this good parenting you also need to remember to take care of yourself. Find activities to do with your daughter, but also go out and find something nice that's fun for you. Take a weekend away to go visit an old friend. Go on a fishing trip or join a gym. Don't worry if it doesn't sound fun right now, if you're nervous about it, or if you'd rather just stay home. Being proactive and positive will work wonders, even if it feels strange at first. Your four cats and your bunny will also certainly help. Pets are great for sharing lots of love, and we enjoy being hugged and held. We are definitely comfort creatures, and nothing makes us happier than spending some snuggle time with you.
Believe me, hang in there and happiness will happen. You may have to deal with the bad, but concentrate on going for the good. You have a great daughter, some wonderful pets, a full life, and it sounds like after this surgery you've got your health too! You have lots to be thankful for. Licks and love to you too!
P.S. Thanks for asking about Carol's neck. The halo has been removed and replaced by a stiff collar (I can relate to that!). In just a couple of weeks she will be released from her collar for good, and will once again be free to run with her wild bulldogs.
I love your common-sense advice and would like to ask about a situation that is embarrassing and personal. My husband and I have been married for six and a half years and have been together for over ten years. It's not that my feelings for him have changed, but I would like to change some of his behaviors that I find to be unattractive. It seems that he feels comfortable enough around me now to not cover up such bodily noise as burps and farts. He has also gained weight and I would like him to slim down, not only to improve his looks, but also for his health. Help, Zelda! I don't know how to approach my husband about these things without hurting his feelings!
Dear Sensitive Spouse,
When it comes to questions about gas, I tend to pass. Bad puns aside, my breed does know a lot about farts and burps. So I knew I couldn't let this question go unanswered. Unfortunately, like your husband, sometimes we bulldogs don't know when it's right or wrong to let'er rip. I've cleared a few rooms in my day, I'm ashamed to say. But even old dogs can learn new tricks. I also have some experience with weight gain and tend to fiddle with my middle more than most, I think I know a few good ways to get through to your husband without hurting his feelings.
Becoming uncomfortably comfortable with your spouse is an occupational hazard of marriage. So let's deal with your husband's chemical warfare first. You said that since you've been together for ten years your husband feels comfortable enough around you now "to not cover up" his bodily noises and that this bothers you. But if he is comfortable enough to make those bodily noises around you, you should be comfortable enough to make some noise of your own...namely telling him that you find his burping and farting unattractive. Just let him know that when he's constantly firing on all cylinders, it takes some of the magic out of your marriage. Perhaps if the two of you try to put a little of that magic back in your marriage (dressing up for dinner and a romantic night on the town for example) it would benefit one and all. You need to let your husband know that you're worried that you’re letting things get too relaxed. I guarantee he'll understand your message, even if he pretends to be nonchalant about it. Truthfully, we could all use a lesson in not taking our close relationships for granted.
As for your husband's weight gain you need to draw the line between encouragement and being the food police. Why don't you have a conversation about how the TWO of you can be healthier and how you can help each other achieve this goal? Before having this conversation, come up with specific plans for how you're going to achieve it... realistic things that he might actually do (with some nudging from you). Would healthier cooking and maintaining a more calorie-conscious kitchen help? Can you both join a health club or buy a treadmill, and plan on exercising together three times a week? Walking is a particularly good way to work out as a team and share some quality time, and the two of you could schedule bi-weekly walks together. Even better, of course, would be to invite a dog to join you.
I know your wedding vows probably said "through sickness and health" but I doubt they mentioned "through thickness and smells," but let me end by reminding you that your husband's weight wasn't the only factor in your original attraction to him. If your hubby can't lose the weight, then focus on the other physical traits you like about him... great eyes, sexy voice, broad shoulders, intelligence, or sense of humor. Physical fitness, while important and healthy, isn't the be-all and end-all. Your compatibility, as well as your mental and emotional attraction, can often be enough to sustain a healthy and passionate relationship. Keep working on being healthy and happy, try to steer him in the same direction, and hopefully with some better direct communication you'll soon be dealing with less skunk and more hunk.
My dog Daisy seems to have dry skin and is always scratching. I have taken her to the vet and she is not allergic to anything. I feed her a high-quality food but she still has dandruff. What do you do to keep your fur looking good?
Dandruff in Delaware
Dear Dandruff in Delaware,
When I was attending obedience class I had so much dandruff that the trainer threatened to cancel the class and call it a snow day. I know just what it feels like to suffer from dry flaky skin, and I actually have a solution that works for me. As I've mentioned in earlier columns, I use Selsun Blue shampoo with Aloe to keep my skin and fur soft, and this goes a long way toward keeping me flake-free. But since you asked nicely, I'll tell you my second secret, one my owner adds to my food and the one that helped put an end to my "dand-ruff" doldrums once and for all. The secret ingredient? Fish oil. Now this may sound like a pretty flaky dandruff solution, but just so you know, veterinarians first used fish oil to treat canine allergies but now recommend it for a wide variety of conditions ranging from kidney stones to arthritis to high cholesterol. Ever since we started adding fish oil to my food, my dandruff has just plain disappeared.
You can get fish oil supplements for your dog or cat from either Nordic Naturals or Animal Essentials, or you can find fish oil for humans in most drug and grocery stores. If you use fish oil that is intended for humans, you can give larger dogs a capsule or two depending on the dosage. For smaller pets, just puncture a capsule and squeeze some of it onto their food. However, before dosing your dog or cat I STRONGLY suggest you check with your vet, particularly with regard to dosage, compatibility, and any potential adverse reactions. You may not notice a difference for six or eight weeks, so be patient.
By adding a little fish oil to Daisy's diet, you can help her keep a good head on her shoulders, and shed some light on maintaining her dandruff-free fur coat! Let me know how it works for her.