DEAR HARRIETTE: I recently went away for four days. My next-door neighbor told me that she'd be able to come over once or twice a day to feed my cat and clean the litter box. When I got home from my trip, it was evident she didn't come to my home once. The litter boxes were full, there was no food or water, and none of my mail had been brought in.
I am very upset with my neighbor, and I don't plan on giving her the gift or compensation I got her on the island. Should I confront her and tell her why she won't be receiving anything from me, or just give her the cold shoulder? -- Horrible Cat Sitter, Jackson, Mississippi
DEAR HORRIBLE CAT SITTER: Your issue here is not about the gift you bought your neighbor. It is about the lack of humane care for your cat. You must speak to your neighbor at once to find out what happened. Let her know that you were shocked when you got home to see that what she had pledged to do hadn’t been fulfilled. Ask her what happened. Press until she gives you some sort of explanation for dropping the ball. Make it clear to her that your cat’s health was put in jeopardy by her not coming to feed it or give it water, let alone clean the litter box.
I will also say that I have heard from many pet owners over the years who have asked others to look out for their pets in their absence. Very often what the pet owner expects and what the person asked to watch the pet interprets as a responsibility is very different. In the future, it may be worth it to write out an agreement with a pet sitter so that all parties understand what’s expected.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a college student who has most of January off from school in between semesters. My parents have a convertible that they use for leisure in the summertime. The convertible isn't my car, but it's not in use during the winter at all -- yet I am not permitted to drive it. I have been butting heads with my parents because they complain that I am at home all day, but I have no means of getting anywhere in a town that lacks public transportation. How can I make a case for myself to make use of this car? -- In the Garage, Westchester, New York
DEAR IN THE GARAGE: Your parents must not want to expose their convertible to the elements. This could be a losing battle for you, even though it seems logical that they would allow you to use it. Try other tactics, such as asking to use one of their cars when they get home from work. If you have friends in your hometown, ask them to come over to visit you, or find out if anyone would pick you up to hang out. On occasion, you may also want to use Uber or a similar taxi service to move you around. Ask your parents if they might help you pay for that.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)