Dear Amy: I have a severe general allergy to poison ivy. If the tiniest amount of the poison ivy urushiol oil touches any part of me I will break out with hundreds of small, but itchy, blisters. These blisters cover my body (not just where I’ve come in contact). Without a steroid prescription from my doctor it can take months for a breakout to clear up.
My problem is that I like to hike on trails that have been cleared of poison ivy, but frequently the areas off the side have poison ivy. I stay on the trail, so this isn’t a problem, but people love to bring their dogs, and if their dogs go off the trail, come in contact with poison ivy, and then touch me, it results in hundreds of blisters, doctors appointments, costs, medication and misery. Because of this, I try to be proactive.
I’ll say: "Please, don’t let your dog touch me, I have allergies."
They say: "Oh, don’t worry he is friendly."
I say: "I don’t care. I can’t touch your dog."
Then the person gets mad or acts insulted — or worse, they let the dog jump all over me.
I don’t hate dogs. I just don’t want dogs (or any animal) touching me unless I absolutely know they haven’t had any contact with the common substance that makes me so sick. How would you address this issue? — Allergic
Dear Allergic: I definitely enjoy dogs, but I also wonder why some dog owners don’t seem to realize that their beloved family members are actually animals. Dogs are sometimes unpredictable (this is understandable because they are animals), and dogs can pose a risk to humans.
Just as no parent should assume that every stranger will find their children charming, no dog owner should assume that everyone will want to interact with their dog.
"Oh don’t worry, he is friendly" is not an appropriate answer to a human who can’t have contact with a dog without experiencing extreme consequences. The dog’s friendly nature is not in question.
You should say, "I have extreme allergies and could land in the hospital if I have contact with your dog. I’m going to stay on this side of the trail while you pass by."
Dear Amy: I have three boxes of old love letters that must go.
Box A is from my high school sweetheart and first love, now deceased.
Box B is from my torrid college affair (no longer in contact).
Box C contains letters from my dear husband of many years, written before we were married.
I have not opened nor read any of these for at least 30 years, and revisiting these would be very emotional for me.
Should I read them privately, then dispose?
Should I share some of them with my husband?
Should I revisit only my husband’s letters with him (we have no secrets)? Or should I just shred them all immediately and be done with it? — Three Boxes in Phoenix
Dear Three Boxes: Ah, COVID-cleaning. Many of us are confronting bits and bobs (and sometimes, actual "Bobs") from our past.
You should review all of these letters, privately. Tell yourself that you will at least open the envelopes and visually scan them. This job might pair well with a hearty merlot.
The letters from your high school sweetheart might contain nuggets from his youth that his family would appreciate. Because he is deceased, consider sharing some of this (descriptive, wise, or humorous) material with them.
Box B: Review and make the same determination. Would these letters be of value to anyone else?
Box C: Boom. You have your next anniversary present for your husband. Put these letters into a binder and save them.
Dear Amy: I have enjoyed the testimonials in your column from people who have successfully quit smoking.
After smoking for decades, I managed to kick the habit, permanently, a few years ago. I tried everything, and would be successful for a few weeks and a few months, even at one point for over a year. But I always relapsed, and I always felt terrible about myself when I fell off the wagon, which made everything worse.
I finally realized that — for me — quitting smoking would be a lifetime project. Truly a one-day-at-a-time proposition. Once I started focusing more on my successes than my failures, I was able to build on them. — Smoke Free
Dear Smoke Free: Testimonials from people who have "been there" are inspiring to people who are still struggling. Thank you.