June 19, 2024
Plus: Should I pretend I don't know what's going on between these two friends?

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A friend has a small dog. Though well-loved and generally well-behaved, he barks when anyone arrives, not stopping until someone gives him a treat.

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The hostess keeps treats at the door and hands them to guests upon arrival. I gather many find this adorable. I don’t. The barking hurts my ears. Moreover, because I worked to train my own troubled rescue dog, I know rewards reinforce behavior: in this case, barking at newcomers.

I would never correct my friend, but may I politely demur and say, “Why, no, thank you,” when the hostess insists I reward her dog for barking at me?

She seems so disappointed in me when I refuse. What should I do?

GENTLE READER: When offered a treat, put a little more graciousness into that “no, thank you.” Then make room for the next guest before your perplexed host is tempted to explain that the treat was not meant for you.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: For the last 10 years, three couples and I have been close friends. We travel together, have our own annual traditions, share game nights, brunches, bonfires — we even got matching tattoos.

Then I learned that one couple was separated and planned to divorce. I was the last to learn of it, by over a month, and only found out because other members of the group said that the wife (a good friend of mine) should be the one to tell me. Even so, I was eager to support both parties.

A month later, I learned of another couple’s plans to divorce. Again, I was very supportive of both parties.

Now, the remaining couple, as well as the husband from the first divorce and the wife from the second, make plans that do not include me.

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that the husband from the first divorce and the wife from the second are living together. If this is the case, I do wish them the best if they’ve found happiness. But as I am still feeling the sting of being the last to know about the first divorce, is it better to ask outright or keep pretending I’m clueless?

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I feel that the longer I act oblivious, the more it undermines my friendship with this new couple. I think they assume my “alliance” is with the first divorced wife, but I’ve said multiple times that that’s not true.

What guidance can you provide?

GENTLE READER: Both of your goals — staying friends with the remainder of the group and being up on the latest gossip — are achievable, but require different approaches.

To accomplish the first, organize events with the now-smaller group without any questions or discussion about who is going home with whom. This will convince them that you still wish to be friends far more effectively than prodding into their new alliances.

The second goal will happen without prompting when you take the wife of the second couple out for lunches. Miss Manners recommends against asking out the discarded husband unless you are willing to become the subject of the gossip.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, [email protected]; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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