John D. Spooner is an investment adviser, author and novelist. His most recent book is No One Ever Told Us That: Money and Life Lessons for Young Adults. Here, he responds to queries from advice seekers of all ages. Send your conundrums to thedance@improper.com.

My wife tells me to mind my own business, but this is something that’s been bothering me and I wonder if I can get an impartial opinion. We were visiting friends over the Fourth of July, and all through dinner our hosts kept feeding their dog scraps from the table. Now, I know that’s not good for the animal, but I didn’t say a thing. I have seen this happen before; they just don’t know any better. But this most recent visit really bothered me. After dinner they started feeding the dog chocolates and said how much he loved them. Of course he loves chocolates. Dogs love everything; they are dogs. Chocolate can be lethal to canines. Should I have said something or is my wife right that I’m just looking for trouble?

I’d never say that your friends are clueless. But many people buy pets without doing any research about how to care for them. I know. My wife and I had several dogs when our kids were young. Personally, I had enough problems with people and didn’t pay too much attention. Our first dog, a gorgeous Samoyed, used to re-create the Battle of the Marne every week in our yard, digging giant trenches. Our second dog used to visit next-door neighbors daily in the summers and pee through their sliding screens into their living room. Luckily, they loved all of God’s creatures.

You should speak up to your friends. Chocolate can indeed be toxic to canines— the darker the chocolate, the worse the toxicity. Please tell your friends about this. Don’t be shy. Tell them that they have to educate themselves about their friend. As in many things, love isn’t enough.

As an aside, grapes are much worse than chocolate for canines.


I’m a lesbian and I live with my girlfriend. When I was 15, I knew I was gay, so it’s been part of my life since then. For the past several months I’ve gotten friendly with a man in my office. He’s incredibly kind and smart. I admit I’m attracted to him. Am I crazy? I’m living with someone. The man has asked me to dinner, and I’m tempted to go. Am I cheating? 

Well, attraction has infinite definitions. If we’re honest, I think there’s a certain duality in everyone. My view is that you’re not married, and dinner with a colleague can be both fun and innocent. Your dinner will be just one more life adventure that teaches you about yourself. I believe that there are infinite definitions of love. And then one mixes in lust, curiosity, the thrill of the chase, and on and on. Of course, the real problem may come with a second dinner, and perhaps much more than that, which may produce another question from you. And I’ll be happy to answer if that happens.


I’ve just seen Hamilton, and it was the first time I’ve ever seen a live musical performance. Then I bought the soundtrack, which I just adore. What really grabbed me were the lyrics, which told stories and painted pictures. Can you recommend shows to see and soundtracks to listen to so I can expand my new discovery in music?

Good for you. You’re about to enter a world that will stimulate and uplift you for many years. Musicals can carry you away like few other mediums and have you leaving theaters humming tunes that can resonate with you forever. I can think of several dozen shows that take me back to moments in childhood, adolescence and more recent times (as with Hamilton). I relate songs to romances I’ve been in, insert lyrics into my consciousness and sometimes actually sing them out loud, as in the case of “Being Alive,” a Stephen Sondheim song from Company.

Boston’s theater scene these days is more vibrant than ever, and that extends to musicals, mostly in smaller houses, many that are intimate and wonderfully done. The Improper has biweekly listings you can reliably check, right here. The Emerson College station WERS has the only local program featuring show tunes, which airs on Saturdays and Sundays. As for sampling classic shows, starting with the ’50s and ’60s, dip into Oklahoma!, South Pacific, My Fair Lady and Cabaret. Later, there’s Cats, Les Miserables, Avenue Q and Sweeney Todd. And if you loved Hamilton, try Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first effort, In the Heights. Happy humming and singing along in the car and the shower. You’re in for a treat. ◆


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