DEAR HARRIETTE: I am in New York City every day, and I see many homeless people. Some of these people have dogs, and, being an animal lover, I want to help them have a better life. I would never tell someone to surrender their dog to a shelter, but I'm wondering if is acceptable to give them dog food. I feel sympathy for the homeless, but feel even worse for the animals that are enduring the weather without a say. Is it completely insensitive to give a homeless dog owner food for his animal? -- Doggy Bag, Yonkers, New York
DEAR DOGGY BAG: Sadly, as rich as the United States is, we remain in a divided culture where many people and their pets are homeless. There are many ways that people can and do support the homeless, from giving to shelters and other organizations that work to give these people homes to making in-person donations of money or food when they encounter people in need. Your idea to give food to a homeless animal is very kind and thoughtful. Out of respect for the owner, you should ask for permission to give the animal food before buying it. If the person asks you for money or food for him or herself, you certainly have the right to say that your contribution to the person's family today is to the animal only. Then wish the person well and move on.