DEAR ABBY: I just finished the letter from "Saturated in Atlanta," whose in-laws allow their dog, "Liebchen" (who, believe me, is NOT "darling," according to his description), to mark his territory in her house, causing damage in several places. Not only is this disgraceful, as you pointed out, but it's also illegal. The courts call it "failure to control your dog." "Saturated" may want to consider legal action. -- NEW HAMPSHIRE READER
DEAR READER: Hold your horses. Their familial relationship is supposed to last, one would hope, long after Liebchen has trotted off to doggie heaven. I would advise legal action only if there were no other alternative. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I don't get it. Did the in-laws allow their son to "wet" wherever he wanted when he was growing up? I doubt it. Then why should their dog be any different? I suggest that "Saturated" make reservations at a dog-friendly hotel for her husband's parents and let him pay for it. It may be the wake-up call they all need. -- MOTHER-IN-LAW IN HOUSTON
DEAR MOTHER-IN-LAW: That might be a workable solution. However, some other readers offered ideas that are more pet-friendly.
DEAR ABBY: As a dog trainer and former veterinary assistant, my first question to "Saturated" would have been, Is Liebchen neutered? If not, it would explain a lot. While male dogs do mark their territory sometimes after being neutered, it's far more common for them to do so when they're intact. Although "Saturated" and her mother-in-law may not know it, neutering can help. Their veterinarian can instruct the in-laws about other medical advantages to neutering, such as a reduced risk of prostate cancer and eliminating the risk of testicular cancer. -- SPAY 'EM AND TRAIN 'EM IN LA.
DEAR LOUISIANA: Good point. Thank you for the reminder about pet neutering. Not only does it curb behavior problems, as you pointed out, but it also has health benefits.
DEAR ABBY: A solution that might cause less of an uproar with the in-laws would be to offer "Doggy Depends." Male dogs that insist on marking their territory can wear a belly band with appropriate material tucked inside. They are easy to make, and also available for purchase in most doggy boutiques. (Some folks just take an old athletic sock, wrap it around the dog's middle and pin it at the top.) The belly band, although not a perfect solution for the behavior, can at least minimize damage to property -- in addition to lessening the chances of a family feud over the dog. -- DESS IN DUNCANVILLE, TEXAS
DEAR DESS: "Doggie Depends"? I love it!
DEAR ABBY: I have the perfect solution to protect that woman's furniture. The next time her mother-in-law comes over, she should be prepared with baby Pampers and duct tape. The size of the Pampers depends on the size of the dog. Wrap the Pampers around the dog just in front of his hind legs, and fasten over the back with duct tape. If the mother-in-law doesn't like it, she should be told her daughter-in-law can't afford to have her furniture professionally cleaned every time Liebchen comes to her home. Try it. It worked for me. Good luck! -- CHRISTINA IN GREAT FALLS, MONT.
DEAR CHRISTINA: Thank you for the suggestion. It's worth a try, and if it works, it'll keep Liebchen and his owners out of the doghouse.