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by Abigail Van Buren

Man's Career Is Two Year Detour on Road to Marriage

DEAR ABBY: Our neighbors are taking advantage of us. They go on five vacations a year and expect us to watch their cat and house -- for no pay. This includes shoveling snow, watering plants and flowers, mowing their lawn, getting their mail and feeding their cat, along with litter box duty. They insist that "Princess" be checked on twice a day.

My husband and I work full-time and have three small children. We have told our neighbors how busy we are, but they still expect it of us. They don't even ask nicely. They'll say, "We're going to be gone for a week and will need you to take care of our place."

They're an older couple and generally good neighbors, but we feel that if they can afford to take all these trips, they can also afford to pay us. They do bring us trinkets from their travels, but we could really use the money. They have no children or other close neighbors.

What should we do? Please hurry because they have another trip coming up. -- POOPED-OUT PET SITTERS

DEAR POOPED OUT: Start checking around to see what professional house and pet sitters are charging for their services in your area. Then have a frank chat with these neighbors and inform them what the going rate is, and that rather than trinkets you could use the money. If they're smart, they'll compensate you because you have already proven that you are honest and reliable as well as close by.