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Miss Manners: My sister wants to host a family party, but her dog is out of control

Dear Miss Manners: Three years ago, my sister bought a puppy for her husband. I won’t go into the myriad reasons this was an epic mistake, but let’s just say that neither of them is a good dog owner.

I’ve had a number of dogs, and they have never had the issues this poor dog exhibits. The poor animal is confused and has severe fear aggression, lunging at people with all teeth bared, for example.

Several months ago, it bit me, an injury that required a trip to the emergency room. I have indicated that my children and I will no longer visit them, and I have encouraged them to look for a new home for the dog, as it is clear that this dog needs to be with people who understand dog psychology. But a dog trainer she has occasionally worked with encourages her to keep the dog.

The complication comes with other family members. My aunt and uncle don’t know about the dog biting me. However, when I indicated my concern that my sister and her husband would lose everything if the dog bit a stranger — or worse — they responded that my sister has a responsibility to keep the dog and shouldn’t “abandon” it!

I am furious at my aunt and uncle for putting this type of pressure on my sister. I am also furious at my sister for endangering other people and being an irresponsible dog owner.

We are supposed to have a family reunion next summer in my sister’s area of the country. In the past, my kids and I would have stayed at her house, but that is out of the question. However, my sister and her husband want to host one party at their house for the whole family. How can I gently express my concerns that she could be putting other family members at risk?

When you and your sister were growing up, did she always take your advice?

Miss Manners suspects not, and it seems clear that she has made up her mind in this instance, rendering further expressions of concern futile.

Of course, this does not preclude you from telling your aunt and uncle how very sorry you are to miss the party, but after your emergency room trip two months ago, you will not be attending. Such a less-is-more approach to the story will elicit their curiosity — and therefore be more effective.

Dear Miss Manners: I am unsure when to serve guests at an informal dinner party. When we are fixing plates in the kitchen and then bringing them to the dining room, it seems polite to serve a guest first. But then the guest sits at the table, food getting cold, until everyone else is served and ready. What is the best move here?

You can reduce the cooling time somewhat by telling guests to start before you do. Beyond that, Miss Manners wonders how cold the house is, and how hot you need the food to be, that a few minutes to give the guest first pick will make any difference.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

©2022, by Judith Martin