DEAR AMY: My close friend from childhood recently bought two guinea pigs for her children.
The kids enjoy them but seem a little afraid of them. Now the parents have decided that the guinea pigs smell bad and have relegated them to the porch, which is not heated.
I volunteer in an animal shelter and consider myself a champion of animal causes, but I'm stumbling over what to do with this one. Guinea pigs come from a warm climate and should not be out in the cold (last week it got into the low 40s)!
I've tried to gently suggest that the porch seems a little cold for them, but it's not working. The only fight I've ever had with this friend I came off as judging her. I want to respect her right to do what she wants but also do the right thing for the animals.
I hope you will print my letter as a warning to parents: Please don't purchase a pet that you will likely not want to take care of. That happy glimmer in your child's eye will probably fade with time, and then you'll be responsible for the animal's welfare.
— Animal Lover in Maryland
DEAR ANIMAL LOVER: With the holidays approaching, it is important to note that adults hoping to give animals to children must take full long-term responsibility for their choice.
You must attempt to advise these parents to take better care of these animals. Print some information about guinea pig care (available on aspca.org), and hand it over, saying, "These critters aren't cut out for the cold. Is there any warm place you can put them? If you don't want to keep them, let me know, and I can try to get them adopted for you." Guinea pigs require temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Your supervisor at the shelter might have some ideas for how to help these people become responsible animal stewards. If they can't make this transition, they should place the animals with people who can take care of them.
This is a friendship risk you will have to take to advocate for these defenseless animals.
DEAR AMY: I am in the eighth grade. Recently we switched seats, and now I sit next to my best friend in science class!
It has been really nice to sit next to her. However, this friend, "Annie," does not have the best performance in science. I have always been a straight-A student, and last year I helped Annie get her grade up in French by showing her some tricks that I use for verb conjugations.
It gets really uncomfortable when I get an A on assignments (and I'm not bragging here) and she gets B's or lower. We have known each other since preschool, and I know her parents aren't super sciency, so would it be OK to offer some help?
Her parents aren't happy with her grades, and I fear it's bringing down her self-esteem. I try to avoid talking to her about grades, but I really want to do something to help.
— A Helpful Friend
DEAR HELPFUL: Be brave and light, and offer to work together. I'm going to give you some words that might inspire you. You can say to your friend, "If you want to study for science together, it might be fun. We can help each other memorize the periodic table and quiz each other."
Smart college students often form study groups to work together. This is a great way to solidify your friendship and help each other out.
DEAR AMY: You really blew it in your response to "Frustrated." This poor guy is working 60 hours a week, while his wife is home with the kids. Poor Frustrated comes home to a house in complete chaos. And neither one of you mentioned the concept that his wife needs to step up and run the household better!
— Also Frustrated
DEAR ALSO: I agree! Because "Frustrated" didn't mention his wife's efforts (or lack thereof), I sidestepped this obvious answer. Consider me lashed with a wet dish towel.
Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.