I am a terrible person. It’s been over a week since I last put my Nintendogs cartridge into my Nintendo DS and payed any attention to Woofer; now I’m afraid to go back and check up on him. If you neglect your pet for long enough, it will “run away,” but there’s no lasting damage to your relationship. At least that’s what they tell me.

I’m not really worried about losing Woofer’s love, though: A Nintendog is the platonic ideal of a dog, as unrelentingly loyal as it is unbearably cute. No, it’s not that I’m afraid of being rejected by a virtual pet; I just don’t want to turn the machine on and see a starving, dirty, neglected symbol of my inability to take care of another living thing. Even when that thing isn’t actually alive.

Thankfully, Animal Crossing: Wild World is a little less fraught with looming guilt trips. Like Nintendogs, there’s a real-time aspect to it, seasons shifting and neighbors coming and going even when the DS is turned off. And unlike the ever-cheerful Woofer, the denizens of Bobourg are a touchy, capricious lot, with egos that need careful stroking. Blaire’s mood swings and Tom Nook’s unrelenting greed, however, are kind of a relief after the unconditional, Old Yeller-like love of Woofer; even if I get distracted by other things, I feel like the Animal Crossing folks can take care of themselves.