DR. WALLACE: Both of my parents smoke and my grandmother, who lives with us, also smokes. Whenever they light up, I usually take my cat and go out on the porch because they all smoke in the house. Now I'm wondering if I should also take my pet canary out. Do you know if secondhand smoke will hurt our pets? My grandmother doesn't think so, but I want to make sure so I can rescue them when the rest of the family lights up. — Kiki, Mobile, Ala.
KIKI: Pets are extremely vulnerable to secondhand tobacco smoke and may suffer from a runny nose, throat irritations and sneezing. There is a chance that even a normal, healthy pet can become allergic to cigarette smoke, increasing its chances of getting lung cancer. Caged pets such as hamsters and birds are especially prone to respiratory trouble. Whenever possible, open the windows to ventilate your house so your pets can get plenty of fresh, smoke-free air.
I'VE RARELY UNBUCKLED A DEAD BODY
DR. WALLACE: If you ever need a succinct way to describe the effectiveness of seatbelts, you might consider what a 22-year veteran of the Florida Highway Patrol once said in a speech I went to hear. His words really stayed with me: "I've seen many dead bodies on the road at accident scenes, but I have rarely unbuckled a dead body."
Now I always make sure I wear my seatbelt! — Penny, Oakland, Fla.
PENNY: Thanks for the graphic reminder to buckle up! A veteran highway patrolman should know what he's talking about.
YOUR ADVICE IS EXCELLENT
DR. WALLACE: I just finished reading the letter from a girl in Iowa whose parents were divorced and she lived alone with her mother. The young girl had not seen or heard from her father for several months. Her mother felt that it was the father's job to make contact first and did not encourage her daughter to call her father.
I had a similar experience and some teens might benefit from hearing what happened when my parents divorced. I was only one year old when they divorced, but my father kept in contact with me regularly until I was 9 years old, and in the third grade when his visits became less frequent. I never contacted him because I felt it was his duty to keep in touch with me. My mother never really spoke about it so there was no encouragement for me to call him.
The last time I saw my father was 4 years ago when I was 12 years old. I'm 16 now and my mother remarried and I have a wonderful stepfather, but I still miss my dad. I sometimes feel that if I had made more of an effort to keep in touch with him we might be closer today.
So my advice to the young girl in Iowa is to contact your father immediately, by whatever means possible. And when you reach him, tell him you love him and have missed him a lot. I'm sure he would love to keep in touch.
My own father missed my first leading role in my school play, seeing me getting my driver's license, and most of all, he missed out on knowing a pretty nice girl. My stepfather is the greatest and I love him like a father, but I still wonder about the man who should be very close to me, but is only a stranger. — Sherry, Oklahoma City, Okla.
SHERRY: Thanks for sharing your experience with our teen readers. Your advice is excellent. Much too often we allow pride or some other silly hang-up to keep us from renewing friendships, or being close to loved ones. The one bearing the olive branch shows strength, not weakness.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. E-mail him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
Photo credit: Isabelle Blanchemain