Desperate Dog Sitter: How to Tell Family you Can’t Watch Their Animals

Q: My brother in law and his wife do not have any children, but they have three large dogs. They like to travel a lot, and they expect my husband and I to feed their dogs when they are away. My husband has no problem with doing this, but, my husband travels a lot and I have been made to take over. They are planning another trip soon and my husband is going with them, leaving me as the person to take care of their animals, again. My problem is this, I have many animals, horses, dogs etc., and I would not ask them to watch them and have always made arrangements for a farm sitter or I don’t travel. I told my husband I thought they should board the dogs or hire a pet sitter. These are large dogs and they like to jump. I feel that as much as they like to travel, they should not rely on us every time. I feel put out having to drive over every day when I have things to do as well. My husband says thats what family is for and I’m being mean. This is getting ugly! Am I wrong?

A: It all depends on the give and take of your relationship with your brother-in-law and his wife. If they do other things for you and this is a way you can help, it is great. If you are doing all the giving and it is a burden, then you have to speak up, not in the ugly place, but in a real place that you just can’t take on the responsibility because you have your own big things to deal with, so you are willing to help but can’t do it all. Maybe by starting with a shared responsibility – you and a pet sitter, for example, you can “wean” them into a place where part of their travels include pet care that doesn’t involve you, especially when it is you by yourself and your husband isn’t helping.

Dear Santa: When is someone “Too Old” for a Christmas Wish List?

Q: My sister-in-law, who is in her late 20’s, works and lives on her own, and sends out Christmas Wish Lists for herself each year. In my opinion, Christmas Wish Lists are left for children, not adults. Am I correct in thinking that she is out of line?

A: It depends entirely on your family custom regarding Christmas gifts. If everyone continues to exchange gifts, and the family tradition is to let people know what you would really like, then this can go on until everyone is in his or her eighties! There is nothing wrong with this, assuming it is a tradition in the family.

Religious Requests: Are Guests Expected to Attend Services when Staying with a Religious Host?

Q: My son and his girlfriend came to visit the family. On Saturday I mentioned that we would be attending church services the next day when my sons girlfriend informed me that she was not religious. I thought it would have been correct that as our guest, she would attend with us. Am I wrong?

A: It is fine to offer the opportunity – “We will be going to church tomorrow if anyone would like to come. . . .” but not to expect or assume your guests, even your son, will attend. Your son’s girlfriend, however, needed only to say that she would not be attending but would be fine entertaining herself while you were gone. Your son obviously needs to work out his religious beliefs between family and girlfriend and to find a way to respect everyone’s belief system. He might have said, for example, “Mom, we won’t be going with you, but you go right ahead and we can have brunch when you get back, ” or words to that effect. By the same token, you wouldn’t insist that your adult son accompany you.  When you next speak with him you can tell him that you weren’t trying to impose your agenda on him but had no idea that the thought of church would offend him so simply offered it up. Even if you are concerned, he needs to draw his own conclusions and work them out for himself.

Reason for Response: Do I need to RSVP even if I am able to attend?

Q: What is the proper etiquette when receiving an invitation (bridal shower, wedding, birthday, etc) and the issue of RSVP. Some people say you only respond when NOT attending, others state that you respond when you ARE. Could you clarify this issue for me?

A: R.S.V.P. means please respond, whether you are attending or not. It is an obligation to reply promptly.  Only when an invitation reads “regrets only” (which is never a good idea) you do not have to reply if you are attending.

Continued Condolences: Should I Send Flowers or a Card on a One Year Death Anniversary?

Q: Do you suggest sending a card/flowers to a friend on the first anniversary of one of their loved one’s deaths?

A: It is very nice to provide extra comfort to a friend who may be feeling especially sad on a death anniversary. A thinking of you card or a bouquet or arrangement of flowers conveys your friendship and provide support at what may be a difficult time.