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February 28-March 6, 2007

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Ask Sydney

This advice column is penned by a Sonoma County resident and our new weekly sage. Go ahead! Ask her anything.

Dear Sydney, I am having an issue because I want to get a puppy from my sister who breeds them, but my girlfriend has already made it pretty clear that she doesn't want another dog (we already have one). She says that she doesn't want to have a puppy again, and besides, we rent. But I really want this dog. It's very important to me. I am considering just bringing one home because I know that when she sees it, she will fall in love with it. I can't decide if I should just bring it home without asking and hope she's pleased, insist that we're getting it no matter what or vote by democracy.--Puppy Love

Dear Puppy Love: As I'm sure you already know, getting a new puppy is a huge obligation and it sounds as if your girlfriend has already made it pretty clear how she feels about it, so just bringing one home is probably not the best idea. True, sometimes this method can be effective, but even if she falls in love with those fuzzy little ears temporarily, no doubt the "cute" effect will soon wear off when the puppy has to be taken out at 5:30 in the morning to do his business. Then the resentment will begin to set in.

Avoid this scenario by sitting down with her and talking it through. Let her know what you are willing to do to make this happen. Find out what it is about getting a dog that most stresses her out, and come up with ways that you can prevent her fears from materializing. And if she still says no, then--worst-case scenario--you get the dog anyway, take on full responsibility, replace anything the puppy destroys, clean up after it when is pisses on the carpet and try to ignore her stink eye until she falls in love with it. But know this: If you have to move and can't find a place because you have two dogs, chances are she will, as least momentarily, blame you entirely.

Dear Sydney, I've been getting the feeling that my teenage son might be experimenting with smoking pot. In a moment of weakness, I decided to sort of innocently rifle through his desk. His desk and his room are very much off-limits; I've never opened his desk before, not even for a paper clip. Underneath a pile of papers, I found a pipe and a small bag of marijuana. I returned everything so that it looked untouched, and then I cried. I know that I shouldn't have been going through his desk. If I tell him, he won't forgive me, and the entire focus of the issue will be that I looked through his drawer, not that he's smoking pot and lying to me about it. On the other hand, I know I'm supposed to take this kind of thing seriously, and maybe if drugs are involved the normal rules no longer apply. By they way, he's a great kid, about to get his driver's license and does reasonably well in school.--Snooping Mom

Dear Snoopy: If you think that your son is doing something that could endanger his life, then look through his desk! Otherwise, stay out unless you have permission. But seeing as you have already looked, don't jeopardize your relationship with your son by freaking out and getting accusatory. You're probably right: he won't forgive you for going through his desk, and the focus will be all about how you betrayed his trust. Besides, once he realizes what you are capable of, surely he will begin to find more inventive places to hide his contraband than in his desk drawer.

If he's getting a driver's license soon, now is the time to have a serious talk about drugs, drinking and driving. Sure, he's heard it all before, but maybe not from the person who can deny him access to both a driver's license and anything even vaguely resembling a motorized vehicle. He may be old enough to make some decisions for himself, but you still control the essentials he needs in order for him to maintain a successful social life, with spending money. This means he has to talk to you or be denied services. So don't break down and tell him of your snoopy ways. Do sit down with him and tell him that your instincts are shouting a red alert on some possible pot smoking (which is the truth), and that he better talk to you about it or all he's getting for his birthday for the next two years is the transit bus schedule. Which, come to think of it, might not be such a bad idea in any case.

Dear Sydney, recently I was watching a comedy with my 12-year-old daughter. It was your typical comedy: couple gets married, couple misunderstands each other and has a falling out, man must convince wife to come back to him, they figure out that there has been a misunderstanding and get back together. As the couple was having their make-up embrace, I said, "And they lived happily ever after." Then my daughter snorted and said, "Yeah, right, more like, 'And two years later, they got divorced.'" Sydney, of course I laughed, but still her comment made me sad. She's at an age where many of her friends have parents who are splitting up or already have, how is she going to grow up believing in love if I, and most of the people around her, can't seem to set a good enough example?--Failed in Love

Dear FIL: Divorce is part of your daughter's culture, and from what you say here, it seems like she's astute enough to be able to see past the make-believe fairytale of love that gets thrown at us from Hollywood movies to the reality of life. She also has a great sense of humor! Her ability to ascertain the differences between fantasy and reality is a good thing, and it no way means that that she will grow up and not believe in love. Love is part of the fabric of our existence, and no amount of divorces will ever change that. We really have no way of knowing how the next generation will synthesize their experiences with divorce. Maybe they will grow up to be slightly damaged, afraid of intimacy and too quick to call it quits. Sound familiar? But I suspect that your daughter's generation will still attempt to make and define their relationships with as much love and kindness as they are capable of. Life can be a beautiful adventure, divorced or not. Try not to let your own feelings of failure color what, to your daughter, may not be such a bad thing at all.

No question too big, too small or too off-the-wall. Ask Sydney.