Dear Annie: Over the course of the pandemic, my husband and I have found ourselves drinking more than we used to. We used to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner most nights, that became a second glass with dinner, and a third glass after dinner. Neither of us gets noticeably drunk. We don’t drive anywhere. We don’t have hangovers the next day. But I do feel like it’s something I’ve come to look forward to each day. I am a little worried by that. Should I be? We do tend to drink on weekends, and a bit more than we do on weeknights. Sometimes, we get tipsy then, but like I said, we are safe about it and don’t drive. I’m hesitant to give up our nightly ritual. What do you think? — Sipping

Dear Sipping: Your concern is reason enough to take a break from drinking, at the very least. If this was never a problem for you and your husband before the pandemic, then a respite might be enough to reset you back into healthy routines. But if you find your alcohol consumption creeping up again, you might want to quit drinking for good. Alcoholism is a progressive disease, and it’s far easier to nip problematic drinking in the bud today than it will be in one year, five years or 10 years. To ignore the issue just because things aren’t too bad right now would be akin to refusing treatment because you only have stage 1 cancer. Heed your intuition.

Dear Annie: My husband and I have a beautiful house. We love to entertain. But a constant headache for us and our guests is the fact that my neighbor has several small dogs who are constantly yapping. We cannot go out for the mail without them barking. Forget spending time outside on our patio.

Is this something we have to live with? I wonder if the neighbors are even aware of it: It seems to be an issue of the parents’ not hearing the kid screaming in the restaurant while everyone around does. — Canine Cacophony

Dear CC: You’ve got the right attitude: Start by assuming that your neighbors aren’t even aware of the issue. Drop by their house for a friendly chat to enlighten them. If this is your first time really speaking with them, introduce yourself and spend a few minutes getting to know them.

Then segue toward the bark of the matter: “It seems that most times we go into our yard, it starts your dogs up. This is making it difficult for us to spend time outside. Would you consider keeping them inside more often — or are there any other solutions we can help with?”

If they still need to leave their dogs outside for part of the day, propose jointly planting some privacy hedges along your property line to block the dogs’ line of vision. Befriending the dogs is another good option, if they aren’t physically aggressive. Ask your neighbors if you can spend some time visiting with the pups in their backyard, so they get accustomed to your scent and learn you’re not a threat.

If the issue still persists and your neighbors don’t seem eager to resolve it, it might be time to file a formal noise complaint with the relevant body — a homeowner’s association, landlord, animal control or the police if you live in a rural area. Because the status quo isn’t just stressing out you and your husband; it’s stressing out the dogs.

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