DEAR MISS MANNERS: In this day of “pet parents,” I constantly find myself biting my tongue. A dog is a dog, and they follow a different set of rules than children.
I love my dog -- he has been my best friend for 14 years -- but he is a dog, and I will not treat him the same as I treat a human child. If he is driving me nuts, it is not abuse to put him outside for a while, as long as weather allows. It is not abuse to put him in a temperature-controlled garage when we are not home.
It is not unkind to not allow him on the furniture. If he is not listening or is generally misbehaving, I have no problem swatting his backside or grabbing him by the scruff of the neck, the same way his mother would have. As a result, I have an overwhelmingly well-behaved dog that I’ve never even had to have on a leash. Dogs respond to consistent discipline.
Pets are animals, NOT PEOPLE! What would you see as a proper response to someone who tells me that I should have my dog taken away for treating him like a dog? To be clear, I am never excessive in punishments and he has never been hurt -- he is a genuinely happy, fearless, active little guy.
GENTLE READER: We will assume that it is the dog who is happy, fearless and active, not the person trying to have him taken away.
Without disagreeing with your premise, you might consider accepting your assailant’s premise that there are some similarities between children and pets. As a Human Parent -- by which Miss Manners refers to “the parent of a child,” although not necessarily “a parent who has had a full night’s sleep” -- you would understand a stranger interceding in true cases of abuse. But you would be rightly indignant at strangers threatening to call the police because they disagree with benign parenting.
The next time you are criticized, try recoiling with a horrified, “Are you suggesting someone should take away my beloved Prince?” Then, while your critic recovers from the confusion, make a quick getaway.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My daughter is getting married on New Year’s Eve, and wants to list her father’s long-term girlfriend on the program as her stepmother.
I am against this, as they are not married. The wedding is being held in a church, and right off the bat, my daughter is lying in their first sacrament to God.
What is the proper-etiquette way to name a long-term girlfriend on the wedding program? Help. My daughter is upset and won’t talk to me.
GENTLE READER: Your daughter may be upset at having been accused of sacrilege. Whether or not your assessment is theologically accurate, it adds significantly to the emotional pressure of the conversation.
Etiquette recommends a gentler approach. As an enemy of wedding programs (a sacrament is not a theatrical performance), Miss Manners is willing to take the blame for recommending that the offending program be scrapped in its entirety.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)