Dear Amy:

I have lived in my home for 20 years.

We have had some fabulous neighbors in the past, but now we are confronted with a million-dollar rehab and neighbors who are not that considerate.

I had four dogs, one of which was a German shepherd. He was an aggressive dog, and I was always careful with him.

My daughter let the dogs out of the house, and our dog bit the neighbors' dog very badly.

I was very upset and decided to put my dog to sleep.

I told my neighbor that I would take care of her vet bill. Well, she brought the bill over yesterday, and it was a whopping $400! I was shocked and asked my vet if he thought the bill seemed right. He said it was very high. To tell you the truth, I really can't afford to pay the bill. I have two daughters in college and another in high school, and I am trying to find a job to help supplement my husband's teaching salary, just so we can get by.

I feel as if these neighbors are using us. I also feel very overwhelmed by this and just don't know what to do. What's your perspective?

Dog Tired

Let me get this straight. Your aggressive dog severely injured their dog, and now you are somehow the injured party and they are the bad neighbors.

It would be one thing if your neighbors hadn't given you the bill directly from their vet, but they did. So your gripe should be with their vet, who you seem to think overcharged them.

Though I'm not a dog owner, I've rarely left the vet's office with a sick or injured cat for less than several hundred dollars. Anesthesia, stitches, dressings, rehab and prescription medicines are all very costly.

I will give you the same method to use that I used when my pet was severely ill and needed extensive treatment. In my case, the animal hospital was willing to take monthly payments. Perhaps your neighbors would do the same.

Obviously, you are grieving the loss of your own dog. You should face that, deal with your sadness and not blame your neighbors for this very unfortunate turn of events.

Dear Amy:

My husband has a good friend who has moved to the only two neighborhoods that we've ever bought homes in. Now he lives next door to us. Not only does he live next door, but also in the exact same style home as us. He continually makes changes to make his decor look exactly like ours.

Don't tell me that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" because he can't stand me, and he drives me crazy!

We have a lot of mutual friends who ask me, "Did Bert have that first, or did you?"

Every time he is over at our home, he scrutinizes everything we have or have done and then goes home and mimics it. It probably wouldn't get on my nerves as much if he didn't live in the same model house, right next door.

We have some mutual friends who see both of our homes. I've tried to distance myself from him and his family. I've asked my husband to move, but this is our dream house.

I would do anything to get away from him and his obsession with us. His wife and I were getting close, but this copycat business is driving me crazy. How can I deal with this -- or better yet, get him to stop?

Copycat's Neighbor

Don't you know that imitation is the sincerest form of fla . . .

Oh, no. You took my cliche away!

The thing about cliches is that they're occasionally true. Take this cliche (please!) and use it to your benefit.

Here's how: "Bert! Wendell and I are so flattered that we inspire you so much! You know, I've been thinking about it and it's just like that old cliche -- how does it go? Oh, you know -- the one about copycatting being so flattering. Well, message received. Color us flattered!"

Here's another old saw: It's a free country. Bert can do whatever he wants to do to his house, including copy yours.

But because this is driving you so crazy, your husband should back you up.

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