Dear Amy: I am the youngest first cousin in a very large family. I grew up in a different state, but visited the family frequently until my father’s death in 1986.

I intentionally strayed away from my relatives because our views drastically differ. Many of them are high school dropouts with multiple children from many different relationships. They also rely heavily on public assistance as a means of support. I do not condone this, especially when an individual is CAPABLE of employment. My spouse and I are married for 28 years with two grown children. They are both college graduates going on to pursue their master’s degrees.

The family is well aware of my own health issues and my mantra about life.

They have mocked me for completing a college degree as an adult student with the desire to attend law school in vmy mid-40s.

Four of the said relatives are in their 70s with various health issues, including stage four cancer.

I want to help out because I am the youngest, despite my distance in travel and my own personal health issues.

Overall, they do not call, write, or even ask how I am doing on any occasion when I have reached out to them.

My husband said to cut off ties like before. He sees how upset I become after talking to them. Overall, is it OK to break ties with a relative when they are terminally ill? – Fed Up Youngest Cousin

Dear Fed Up: I must ask the obvious: After so much time living far away from family and having (what seems like) minimal contact anyway, why bother to cut ties now - just before your relative’s death? Do you feel it is important to make a final punishing statement to this dying family member as you exit from your extended family?

You seem supremely conflicted. On the one hand, you are both judged and judgmental. On the other, you say you want to help. And yet you present practical reasons why helping (in person) would be impossible.

I think you might feel better about all of this if you both kept your distance and also offered some emotional and familial support.

Many of us are loosely encased in families comprised of some people we would not choose as friends. This presents both a huge challenge, but also the potential for being the decent, kind, expansive and emotionally generous person you might take pride in being.

I suggest writing a warmly worded letter to your dying family member. Enclose an old photo (if you have one), and share a happier/less-odious memory of time spent with that person (if you have one). If you can’t manage a shred of compassion toward a dying person, then you might not be the upstanding and ethical person you claim to be.

Dear Amy: Yesterday I was standing in line at a local ice cream place and a fake service dog attacked me.

It was a tiny dog. It didn’t bite through my pants, and the dog’s owner (an employee) came out and moved its rope to a different place.

This is in Marin County, California. Everyone here thinks their dogs are service dogs.

This one was wearing a vest, but it was tied to a tree, not helping a disabled person. People like this cause problems for people who really need service dogs.

I have also encountered so-called service dogs off-leash. How is this helpful? Why are people so self-centered around here? – Once Bitten

Dear Once Bitten: If the animal that bit your pants was a genuine service animal, then what was it doing being roped to a tree? Shouldn’t that little pup have been hard at work, servicing or comforting a human in need?

It would have been legitimate for you to ask the dog’s human: “Excuse me, but aside from biting customers, what service is this dog performing?” A word to the manager might have also been in order.

Many states are currently pushing legislation to try to curb the onslaught of faux service or “comfort” animals. Surely their presence undermines the important work legitimate service animals perform.

Dear Amy: I was upset by this phrase in your column: “The only perfect parents are people like you, who don’t have children.”

People who don’t have children have the right to weigh in when they see appalling behavior!– Upset

Dear Upset: Yes, anyone has the right to weigh in. But unless you’ve been in the parenting trenches, you should withhold overly harsh judgment of people who are.

You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: askamy@amydickinson.com. Readers may send postal mail to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or “like” her on Facebook.

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