Miss Manners: Uninvited guests don’t make the rules

DEAR MISS MANNERS: In our retirement, my husband and I purchased a large, beautiful home in a famous desert resort area. In addition to the rest of the house, we have three guest rooms that would make any five-star hotel proud, plus a private swimming pool surrounded by palm trees. You get the idea.

Naturally, our home has become a favorite destination for our family, which is wonderful! One of our goals was to create an oasis and a gathering place for our multigenerational family for festive occasions.

We also have three beautiful, well-trained golden retrievers. They are as much a part of our family as the humans, and everybody who comes to visit loves them.

At one large family gathering, with 12 relatives staying in our house, my sister-in-law announced she had invited a college friend from 40 years earlier, plus the friend’s husband, to spend an entire day with us. They would join us for the planned celebratory lunch, dinner and festivities.

Then we were warned that the friend, despite being a licensed psychiatrist, has a deathly and obsessive terror of dogs. When she sees any dog, she becomes hysterical, jumps up on chairs, screams, etc.

We tried our best to accommodate her, but it meant locking our golden retrievers -- and this is THEIR home as well as ours -- in a spare bedroom for the entire day. Even taking our dogs outside to do their business was an ordeal, as we would literally have to put the fearful guest in one room, shut the door, then take our dogs out through a side door. (The daily temperature here is often over 100 degrees, so the dogs cannot be left outside for any period of time.)

This uninvited guest was in our house from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. -- 12 hours. (She originally said she would stop over for just an hour or two.) And this is somebody we do not know. It really ruined the day, the celebration, everything.


We understand that not everyone likes dogs, and we NEVER take our dogs to other people’s homes or parties unless specifically invited. We would not even think of doing so.

Another family gathering is coming up, and my sister-in-law has announced her friend will be coming again. This is not amenable to us. How do we get out of this without offending everybody?

I am so frustrated with all of this. What is the old saying? “No good deed goes unpunished”?

GENTLE READER: Indeed. You may therefore reasonably and justifiably say, “I am afraid that while we enjoyed meeting your friend, we simply cannot guarantee a safe environment for her with the dogs. Perhaps we should meet at your home in the future.”

While it is true that Miss Manners generally prioritizes the comfort of guests over animals, she makes a notable exception when the guest was never invited in the first place. If your sister-in-law objects, you might politely remind her of that.

Miss Manners | Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

Miss Manners, written by Judith Martin and her two perfect children, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Marin, has chronicled the continuous rise and fall of American manners since 1978. Send your questions to