Dear Miss Manners: When new acquaintances invite us to their homes for a visit, is there a kind way of asking in advance whether they have large, muscular, needy or excitable dogs — and if so, can they be excluded from the visit, at the very least until we have had the opportunity to "get to know" their pets?
Clearly, most dog owners are completely comfortable having their pets indoors, as are many of their guests. However, those of us who do not own dogs are usually not quite so at ease around them, especially at the first encounter.
I am not allergic to dogs. I have often thoroughly enjoyed the companionship of well-mannered dogs who display an even disposition. But I have had just about as much being yipped at, growled at, snapped at, slobbered on, sniffed, nuzzled, licked, nipped at and pawed by "the sweetest creatures in the world, who will be just fine once they get used to you" as I care to have!
Unfortunately, a guest can no more ask her host to lock the family pet away for the duration than she can ask the same for the resident toddler — even a toddler known for sticking his fingers into everything on the hors d’oeuvre tray.
Dog owners who were about to applaud Miss Manners for equating Rover and Robin should be warned that she was doing so to make her point, not to anthropomorphize whichever one was the dog in that example. She is willing to acknowledge that dog owners love their dogs very much without agreeing that good manners allows them to be inflicted on visitors.
What then, as a guest, can you do with the misbehaving host of a misbehaving animal? Dramatize your discomfort by squirming, backing away or moving your seat. Such overt actions will cause any reasonable hosts to reevaluate their actions — with luck, before you have to lock yourself in the bathroom or leave.
Dear Miss Manners: I was visiting a large city, staying at an inn where guests all gathered for breakfast. Each morning, someone invariably yelled across the room to me, "Where are you from?" followed by more questions, such as "Why are you here?" And then "Let me tell you about this city."
I am shy and introverted in the morning, and felt very uncomfortable announcing my life story to the breakfast room. Finally, I pretended I didn't hear and looked out the window. What to say?
Yours is the polite and practical solution: polite because venues with common tables expect the guests to introduce themselves and to mingle, and practical because cowering in one’s room over a boiled egg is not much fun.
Miss Manners does not suggest there is ever an excuse for yelling at someone over breakfast, unless, perhaps, the person who is being addressed is hard of hearing, which is what you are pretending to be. If necessary, you can pretend not to understand and reply that it is, indeed, a lovely day.