Annie’s mailbox: Burned over the barbeque

Rats among the guests at cousin’s barbecue

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Q. Last year, my husband and I attended my cousin’s annual summer barbecue. After we arrived, I looked for a place to tie up our dog in the backyard and noticed a few dead rats. They appeared to have been there for some time. I made mention of this to my cousin’s husband, but he made no attempt to remove them even though they were only a few steps away from the barbeque pit.


I tied my dog several feet away from the dead rats. Later, when we returned home, our dog started scratching. This continued for several days until we noticed his fur was falling out. I believe he contracted mange from the dead rats.


We’ve been invited to their “last nice weather barbecue,” but I am reluctant to go. My husband says we should go regardless, but I feel that if they don’t care to get rid of the dead rats in their backyard, they shouldn’t expect to entertain guests there. And also, the guest bathroom is never clean when we visit. What do you think? – Disgusted in the Midwest


A. We think your cousin and her husband are not particularly meticulous about their cleaning and don’t care if you notice. And while your dog may have contracted mange from something in their yard, there’s no way to be certain now. You can contact the health department in your city and report the conditions (most municipalities like to know if there is an increased rat population). But that may not solve your problem, which is whether to attend another barbecue there. We say give them one last chance – but don’t bring your dog.


Q. My 55-year-old niece hasn’t held a job in more than five years. She is bipolar and on medication and is also dependent on painkillers. Her mother kept her husband’s ashes in a box for years, and after her mother died 13 years ago, my niece told me she “just couldn’t let him go.”


This man is not her biological father. But he was a Korean War veteran and deserves to be interred with full military honors at the Great Lakes National Cemetery along with his wife’s remains. It was his wife’s wish to be buried with her husband. Even the husband’s surviving brother and sister have expressed shock and disbelief that his cremains are still in a closet. They want him to be given a proper burial. The military cemetery will provide a niche, a plaque and a service, all of which would cost my niece nothing. Yet, she won’t do it.


Is this the behavior of a normal human being? Or is she being selfish and controlling? – Speaking for Another Lost Veteran


A. Well, if she is bipolar and on painkillers, she may not be entirely rational about this. We assume your niece inherited whatever belonged to her mother, including her stepfather’s ashes. And although he was not her biological father, she still may have been very attached to him.


Instead of being angry and demanding, consider being kind and understanding. Sympathize with her desire to keep the ashes. Explain how she would be honoring her stepfather by giving him a military burial, and that her mother would wish to be with her husband. You may not think she deserves such consideration, but you are more likely to get the result you want if she doesn’t feel obligated to defend herself.


Dear Annie: I laughed at the letter from “Wondering in Clinton Township,” whose sister gets all bent out of shape when she receives a letter addressed to “Aunt Frances” instead of “Mrs. Frances Smith.” Right now, I am holding a letter addressed to “Grandma Bobbie” and another addressed to “Aunt Grandma.” I really don’t care how it’s addressed, just as long as they write to me. – Fort Myers, Fla.



Email questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254


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