DEAR ABBY: I know a young newlywed couple who just had their first baby. The baby is weeks old and isn't crawling yet. My concern is that they have a box turtle for a pet in their small apartment. They've had the turtle for probably a year and, while it has a cage, they often let it loose in the kitchen. I don't know if it has reign over other parts of the home.
This turtle is at least 8 inches across its shell, and its head is more than an inch long with a half-inch bite. The baby will be crawling this year. I feel the turtle is a threat, and the baby will no doubt be attracted to it and likely try to crawl over and touch it. The turtle's bites are notoriously sharp and likely contaminated, and I'm concerned about the baby losing a finger. Is this a reasonable concern? -- PROTECTOR IN NEVADA
DEAR PROTECTOR: Yes, it is. There is more than one reason for not exposing an infant or toddler (or anyone with a weakened immune system) to a turtle. The risk of a bite isn't the major one. The problem is, turtles (among other reptiles) carry salmonella bacteria that can infect the intestinal tract and cause nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea and sickness for as long as a week.
Because young children -- whose immune systems are not fully developed -- are at increased risk for salmonella infection, the Centers for Disease Control has recommended reptiles (including turtles) not be kept in preschools and homes with day-care centers if the children are under the age of 5. This is why the turtle should not be let loose in the kitchen where food is prepared or any area in which a baby will be crawling.
While most box turtles will not bite a human, they don't make good pets for young children because they don't like being handled. Share this information with the couple, but ultimately, the decision about whether to keep the "pet" or not is theirs.
DEAR ABBY: I loaned my granddaughter my car because she got a job and didn't have convenient transportation. After she'd had it for two months, I told her she needed to get the oil changed. She became very disrespectful and said I could have the car back because she didn't have the money to pay for it. She got even angrier when I said she should return it with a full tank of gas since that's how she took it.
What is wrong with her mentality? She feels I screwed her over instead of being grateful for all the time she had it?! I don't even know how to respond to her. What would you do? -- SHOCKED IN THE MIDWEST
DEAR SHOCKED: Your granddaughter's "mentality" is one of entitlement. Having been given the car, she expected you to maintain it for her. That you told her if she returned the car the tank should be full was something she wasn't expecting to hear because -- forgive me for repeating this -- she felt entitled to use it without assuming responsibility for it. What I would do would be to "allow" her to learn to be responsible on her own and curtail your generous impulses where she is concerned.
Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)