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damage control

The question

I am a grandmother with three grown married daughters and seven grandchildren. At holidays, one of my daughters with three children always also brings a large dog that leaves fur everywhere and tracks mud all over the house. I normally have a spotless house and it takes me months to finally get all the dog hair out. I’ve tried to ask them not to bring the dog but they always prevail even though they know I resent the dog. They just don’t care. This situation makes me very angry and anxious. I feel mistreated and disrespected. Any advice other than “get a backbone”?

The answer

“Months to get the dog hair out”? From a dog that wasn’t even invited? That is so outrageously, egregiously annoying I have to fight to type these words calmly.

And it’s unfair. Especially during the holidays, which are already stressful enough.

And a complete breach of protocol.

Here’s the protocol when it comes to bringing a dog to another person’s house: Phone first. If you get an enthusiastic response – e.g. “Sure, that’d be terrific, we’d love to see Rufus, the kids love him, they’ll even walk him for you, please bring him” – then bring your dog.

If you get a lukewarm response – e.g. “I … guess that’d be OK”– then don’t bring dog. Make alternative arrangements.

And of course if they say something like “to be honest I’d rather you didn’t” or “maybe not this time” then for God’s sake don’t do it anyway.

Certainly don’t just show up with your dog unannounced. That is crossing a line.

Ding-dong! Hostess: “Hi, come on in.”

You: “Thanks. Here, I brought some wine.”

Dog: “Woof!”

Hostess: “Oh, I see you brought –“

Dog brushes past hostess, starts sniffing around.

Full disclosure: I have sinned in this department. When he was a puppy, I brought my mangy mutt Murphy, may he rest in peace, to my in-laws’ house – and I’m not entirely sure I cleared it with them first. He brushed past my mother-in-law, trotted into the living room, lifted a leg and took a whiz on their VCR.

My wife and I were mortified. Never again. As always: Do as I say, not as I do.

By the way, I say all this as a dog lover. I understand: People get a little tetched on the subject of their dogs, just as they do with their kids, and want to show them off. But the thing to do with both man and beast, when you bring them to someone else’s house, is: show them off, sure, but also rein them in.

And every creature of every species must be invited.

There does exist an even worse breach of protocol than just bringing over your dog unannounced, and that is bringing your dog over unannounced to a household that contains a cat, knowing they might tussle.

I have a cat-owning friend whose cousin brings over his dog then disappears in a cloud of effrontery to perform some errand, leaving her to deal with the ensuing snarling, hissing ball of claws, fangs and fur.

There’s a special circle in hell for people who do that.

But showing up with three kids and a shedding dog is almost on par. Hey, I like having people over as much as anyone, but at the same time any organism that penetrates the perimeter of my domicile is a ball of unmet needs I have to deal with: snacks, drinks, where’s the washroom, in this case kibble …

Three kids and a dog could turn you into a one-person band of unmet-need fulfilment.

Now I get why you don’t want to press your daughter about her uninvited dog. You need to work up the guts. You don’t want to be rude.

But consider this: She’s really the one being rude and inconsiderate. Use that thought (warning: mixed metaphor approaching) as a springboard to putting your foot down about the dog.

Of course, remain polite. But next time she brings her shedding, flea-bitten mongrel over uninvited, just take her aside and say: “Listen, it’s okay you brought your dog this time, but you can’t do it any more. It’s not fair to me. I have to spend months getting the fur out of everything and I’ve got enough on my plate.”

Be firm. Don’t take no for an answer. Don’t let her use you as a “We Welcome Dogs” doormat.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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