DEAR HARRIETTE: My neighbor is going to the funeral of one of her family members, and it's out of town. She came to me the other day to ask if I would watch her cat while she is away. I am allergic to cats, so I told her no. But even if I were not allergic, I think that is a whole lot to ask. I know that there are kennels for animals when people have to go away. Why wouldn't she have just gone there? I have never played with her cat. I don't even go over her house because I know the cat will make me sneeze. Anyhow, now my neighbor is mad at me. She said I was being uncaring because I did not help her out in her time of need. I told her I would keep an eye out on her house, but that I just can't watch her cat. What else could I have done? She is my neighbor, and I would like to support her, but we aren't close at all. -- Which Way to Turn, Boston
DEAR WHICH WAY TO TURN: You were smart not to accept watching the cat when you are allergic. Without hearing you, I cannot attest as to how you let her know you couldn't do it, but tone is everything. You may have hurt her already-fragile feelings by summarily rejecting her need.
You may have tried to be more helpful, saying you cannot take the cat but suggesting others who might be able to do it or even recommending a kennel. Sometimes when people are grieving, they don't think straight. She may not have thought of the kennel.