Painting by Numbers –

I am an artist, and a colleague recently asked me to make her a painting. It will be an arduous process, and I’m charging her my usual freelance rate. In the next few months I must give a wedding gift to the same colleague, who is not a close friend. Am I right to charge her for this painting and subsequently buy a wedding gift of lesser value? I feel that the value of the painting is too high for me to give away to someone I am not close with. S.L., CHICAGO

The proximity of two unrelated events is causing your confusion. When your colleague commissioned you as a painter, it was a business transaction (you might want to give her a slight rebate as an extension of your familiarity, but your usual rate is expected and acceptable). The wedding gift is an expression of your casual friendship (and should reflect the depth of that relationship). If the wedding weren’t scheduled until 2014, you would not conflate the business transaction with the obligation of the wedding. The two exchanges have very little to do with each other.


While walking my dog on a country lane, I encountered a chicken that had escaped from a neighbor’s property. I looked for the owners but could not see them (I have a nodding acquaintance with them). Several hours later, while walking on the same lane with my friend and her dog, we encountered the same chicken. Her dog attacked the chicken, killing it. Both of us were horrified, but we continued walking. Should I have stopped the first time and searched for the owners? Should my friend have gone immediately to their house to report the incident? I don’t think she did anything, because this morning she suggested we take an alternate route on our walk. Should I press her to take responsibility for what her dog did? J. ROOSE, DARNIUS, SPAIN

In the first encounter, I think you made the right move: you looked around for the owners and moved on when they could not be located. You’re not the pollo police. You can’t report every renegade chicken you stumble upon, and you didn’t do any damage to the one you saw. Those responsibilities change, however, when a chicken is ripped asunder. I don’t blame your friend’s dog (because it’s a dog), and I vaguely appreciate the hound’s take-no-prisoners style — but its owner is partly liable for the bird’s destruction. The owners of the chicken are not without fault (they allowed the creature to strut free for several hours, knowing that dogs were present in the area), so your neighbor’s fiscal responsibility (if any) would need to be negotiated. I’m not sure what the street value of a live Spanish chicken is. But the dog’s owner must tell the chicken’s owner that her dog was the murderer, simply for the sake of social honesty. Her transparent attempts at avoidance are proof of her guilt.

Painting by Numbers –

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