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The question

I am allergic to cats and have recently found out I’m allergic to dogs as well. My sister always shows up to my house with whatever dog she has, and the last time I told her that I’m allergic to dogs as well and she can spend the night but next time she can’t bring her dog. She said I was a liar and even if I was allergic, that her dog was special and I couldn’t be allergic to her. I don’t know how to handle this, and since she won’t come to my house and I can’t go to hers should I take this as our relationship being over? I am 56 and she is 57 and neither one of us has anyone else.

The answer

The question of whether to bring one’s pet is a fraught one, and since you ask I would never bring my pet to any social gathering unless the host or hostess specifically begs me to do so, and even then I would be nervous about it.

Host/hostess: “Bring your dog, Dave, I beg you. He is man’s best friend and a wonderful companion and great addition to our family gatherings.”

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Even then I don’t think I would. In fact, no, I certainly would not bring my dog.

I have seen social situations tip over from slightly annoying to extremely aggravating when people bring over their dogs.

Especially when more than one guest does it. The dogs bicker and fight and who needs that?

I say all this in a slight cloud of hypocrisy. I have done it. I remember the first time we brought our beloved brand-new little puppy Murphy – may he rest in peace, he was a great and beautiful dog – to my in-laws’ house. He lifted his leg in their incredibly pristine home and took a whiz on their VCR.

I was ... I don’t even know if “mortified” is a strong enough word, but I don’t think I know a stronger one.

Who needs that? With everything else going on in the world and everything else to contend with in our lives?

So I learned. “Learn, Dave, learn”: That is my motto and I decided then and there (as my father-in-law got a paper towel and cleaned off his prized VCR) I would never bring my dog to any other friends’ or family functions.

Bottom line: I don’t think you should “take this as your relationship being over” with your sister but I do think you should put your foot down.

Especially if you’re allergic. Now (having learned my lesson) I wouldn’t take a dog to someone else’s house even under normal circumstances but if the person specifically said, “I’m allergic and so please don’t bring your dog”?

And still she did? Height of rudeness. And she should be called out on that.

And what’s all this “special” nonsense? I know there are such things as dogs that are hypoallergenic. Ours was one of them. They have hair not fur and thus no dander, yadda yadda yadda, meaning even people who are allergic can be around them.

But if you have discovered you’re allergic to your sister’s dog then that’s that.

Now is not the time for circumlocution (64-dollar word I know). Tell her flatly and bluntly she can’t come over if she brings her dog. And be firm about it.

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If she refuses, it’s true that is a bit of a stalemate. Because as you say, you obviously can’t go to her house – because you’re allergic to her dog!

But that’s on her, honestly. If she wants to go to that place (The House of Rudeness) and stay there – well, that’d be a surprise, especially since you’ve said you two have only each other.

I’ve often said, and truly feel, that you should not cut a person you love out of your life even under the direst of circumstances (you murdered someone? I visit you in prison) but sometimes you have to put people in what I call “the penalty box” when they misbehave so egregiously.

Just for a time. I predict she will come around. You just have to be stoical in the meantime. But do be firm. My other aphorism/thought is, “We teach others how to behave toward us” and clearly your sister needs to be given a lesson in how to behave toward you.

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