Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Rough Play Causes Painful Injury to Loving Family Pet

DEAR ABBY: My 9-year-old son's friend "Isaac" was over for a visit. He was captivated by our Labrador retriever, "Layla," who is very loving. Isaac doesn't have a dog, so he wanted to play with Layla. At one point, I overheard him say to my son, "Look, I'm riding your dog!" I immediately intervened, but I was too late.

A day or so later, Layla was unable to descend our stairway and was clearly in pain. She has been on pain medication for three weeks and is growing progressively worse. The next step is to get X-rays and/or an MRI to see if she has a spinal injury, and then determine her treatment. It's possible the damage is irreversible.

My wife and I are extremely upset about this, but we're afraid to tell our son or Isaac and his parents for fear it will place undue guilt on a 9-year-old boy. On the flip side, I wouldn't want him to do this to anyone else's beloved pet. How do you recommend we proceed? -- HEARTBROKEN IN NEW YORK

DEAR HEARTBROKEN: Children are not mind-readers. If you don't tell them when they make a mistake, they won't realize they have made one. Contact Isaac's parents and explain what happened. If your dog needs treatment, they should be responsible for whatever damage their son did.