Dear Miss Manners: We've taken care of our friends' cats when they've been away, going daily to their house. It's easy, as cats are pretty self-reliant, and we're happy to do it. We're treated to a nice dinner afterward, and everyone's happy.

The issue is that they've just gotten a cute new puppy, and we're concerned that we'll be asked to take care of it. We'd have to have the puppy in our home, and though we've had many dogs ourselves in past years, we're not willing to start up again.

Should we say so before they ask, or wait to see if they ask at all? A boarding kennel would be the answer, and they can afford it. But how would you frame a polite response if this question comes up?

Not by telling them what they can or cannot afford. Miss Manners assures you, however, that you are under no obligation to take this puppy into your home. She suggests that you tell your friends (if the question comes up) that your home is ill-equipped for dogs and that you therefore fear for this one’s safety. That your true concern is for the well-being of your crystal vases and upholstered furniture need not be disclosed.

Dear Miss Manners: I am writing on behalf of several co-workers. What is the point at which etiquette allows us to refuse to indulge another person's eccentricity?

We have a female co-worker who is afraid to be near men. We don't know if she had a bad experience with men or if she is just strange, but at any rate, she will walk all the way to the other end of the office to avoid passing a male co-worker.

At staff meetings, she insists that no men be allowed to sit next to her, and she has demanded that men wait for the next elevator so she won't have to share it with them. (One refused, told her he was there first and boarded the elevator; she spent the rest of the day in a cold fury.)

She is otherwise a competent employee who does her job well. Management has tried to reasonably accommodate her, but it's a small office and the gender ratio is about 50/50, so her peculiarity is impacting the efficiency of the rest of the staff.

There are some who think she has mental health issues and should be left alone; there are others who think she needs to be told — politely, of course — to grow up. And, of course, allowing her to act this way could be seen as creating a hostile work environment for men.

What does Miss Manners think?

That your HR department should get involved. The long-term resolution of this may require more legal or psychological attention than Miss Manners can provide.

Where etiquette gets involved, however, is in how you and your co-workers handle this person in the meantime — and that is with guarded sympathy: “I understand your concerns, but we all have to find a way to work together. Surely, you cannot disagree with that.”

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.

2021, by Judith Martin