Where she goes, so does her large dog. Ugh.
October 19, 2015 10:06 AM   Subscribe

Another question about my sister. She has a large pit bull and brings him everywhere (unless it's inconvenient, in which case she leaves him with a friend or family member). She wants to bring him to our house for Christmas. I don't want him to come.

She's had this dog since he was a puppy, loves him and dotes on him, and he is fairly well trained. But he's huge and clumsy, and I already feel stressed by hosting our family for Christmas--I don't want to worry about her dog as well.

We have a tiny chihuahua, and she knows our home is pet-friendly, so she's pushing hard to bring her dog (in the past, I declined on the basis of "landlord doesn't allow pets"). But the chihuahua is old and nervous, and our yard is decent but not huge, and I just. don't. want. her. dog. here. My partner also dislikes large dogs.

Usually when she goes on a trip, she leaves the dog with a friend; for some reason, that's not an option for her this Christmas. Money isn't really an issue for her, and I really can't understand why she isn't able to pay a friend to take care of the dog for a few days. When I bring this up, she says there's nobody available--this is patently false, but I can't prove her wrong. Plus, it looks petty if I argue on this point. In her words: "I don't want the dog thing to become a 'thing' again this year, but I sort of refuse to kennel or board him for the holidays. It feels cruel and cold and part of the holiday celebration is including ALL family members - which includes the fur babies!!! :) Yes, I said fur babies."

As the squeakier wheel in our family, she can and will pitch a fit if she doesn't get her way and the rest of the family will follow suit. Do I have any way to forbid her dog and still have our family visit? I've really been looking forward to hosting Christmas and would hate for everyone to cancel. What's my best option here?
posted by witchen to Human Relations (57 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
"Your dog is not welcome in my home. This will only become "A Thing" if you insist on not respecting my preferences regarding my home. I hope you can make suitable arrangements for your pet and I look forward to seeing you this Christmas."
posted by jbenben at 10:10 AM on October 19, 2015 [28 favorites]

What does her getting her way mean in this case? Will all of your family go to her house instead of yours if you don't allow her to bring her dog? Will she show up with the dog even if you say no and hope that everyone feels bad for her and guilts you into letting the both of them stay?

From the way you describe it, it sounds like all you can do is say "no dog" and hope the fallout goes somewhat in your favor.
posted by griphus at 10:13 AM on October 19, 2015 [4 favorites]

I also will not board or kennel my dogs. We get pet sitters or we don't go. That is our choice, however; we don't inflict our dogs on people who will not welcome them because we're not assholes.

Is she staying with you? This makes a difference in terms of strategy.

Can you put up a baby gate and separate your dog from her dog unless your dog is being held?

The only other option is to deal the same card:

Hi Sis --

I understand your bond with Big Dog and how important it is to consider his well-being. We are in the same situation with Chihuahua, is now elderly and nervous and increasingly intolerant of other dogs. This is Chihuahua's home and I'm not willing to subject him to the kind of stress at this stage in his life.

1. I will understand if that means you can't come, but like you I am putting the welfare of my dog first.


2. I think we might be able to make this work if we can keep them separated with a babygate; I am willing to confine Chihuahua to the kitchen and dining room unless she is in arms if you are willing to confine Big Dog to the living room and hall on a leash.

You can play it either way but #1 will likely result in no dog, no sister.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:17 AM on October 19, 2015 [84 favorites]

I have a big fur baby of my own whom I dote on. If someone didn't want me to bring him with me to their home holiday or not, I wouldn't bring him. Forcing your dog on others is rude even if they are family. You are within your right to say no.
posted by cecic at 10:18 AM on October 19, 2015 [27 favorites]

I believe the party line recommendation here is, "I'm sorry, but that won't be possible."

Based on your other question, you are evidently used to giving in around what she wants and she is used to getting what she wants, so when you set this boundary, expect it to be pushed on. Smile and don't give way. People may, in fact, decline to come to a party where your sister's dog isn't welcome because she throws a snit over it - you can either set this boundary in full knowledge that might be the blowback and be fine with it, or you can allow her wishes to supplant yours in this matter.

DarlingBri has a good plan if your sister is a reasonable person. I have a cat and I absolutely will not allow other animals in my house because she can't deal and it's her house. Your "furbaby" has the right to be safe and secure in her own home, and you have the right to peace of mind.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:20 AM on October 19, 2015 [8 favorites]

It's your holiday as much as it is hers and you have the right to enjoy your Christmas (as much as you can with hosting duties and all that). If you don't want the dog at your house, then that's your right. Personally, I don't think it's necessary to make ourselves miserable in order to make Christmas "just so."
posted by cabingirl at 10:23 AM on October 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

You have an elderly dog and don't want to subject him to additional stress. Just keep repeating it.

If it helps, remember that it's not a lie.
posted by winna at 10:23 AM on October 19, 2015 [44 favorites]

So is her dog actually vicious or just big and clumsy? Why would you worry about her dog? Can you put her dog in the back yard for most of the day? can she keep him on a leash for the time he spends in the house? Can your elder dog hang out in a bedroom for part of the day? I think there must be a compromise in here somewhere.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:25 AM on October 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Many apartments have limits on the size of pets.
Although the real answer is given above- this won't be possible. End of story, arguments not useful.
posted by nat at 10:32 AM on October 19, 2015

I've skipped the last few Family Christmas get-togethers for similar reasons.
I won't force my large dog on people who aren't keen, nor will I ask him to put up with humans *I* can't stand.
Is it really a big deal if she doesn't come?
posted by whowearsthepants at 10:33 AM on October 19, 2015 [5 favorites]

I too have a largish dog, and I too tend not to board or kennel the dog unless it is an emergency. I do NOT take my dog to events such as this, even though she is friendly and well trained, because I have no right to impose my large dog on the people attending or the host/hostess family.

Your sister is rude and demanding. Just say "Sorry, you can't bring your dog here, it doesn't work for me." After that it is her call...
posted by HuronBob at 10:33 AM on October 19, 2015 [6 favorites]

You might want to make sure to include language that indicates that you actually _like_ her dog in some way (not just "don't dislike", but "he's a big love and I'll look forward to seeing him next time I visit you"), which will help your sister feel that you like _her_. This could help soften the message.

However, if you want a family holiday where everybody gets the most time to connect with Mom, Dan, and Sister -- these times are rare and precious after all -- then you should be able to structure things that way.
posted by amtho at 10:41 AM on October 19, 2015

How long is this visit? One overnight? Four overnights? Can she and her dog stay with another family member?

I really can't understand why she isn't able to pay a friend to take care of the dog for a few days.
Maybe her go-to people are away over Christmas too.

I've really been looking forward to hosting Christmas and would hate for everyone to cancel.
Is "everyone" really going to cancel on you if you don't let your sister's dog come? Who is "everyone" and what will they all do instead? Are you interested in doing that instead too?

Sounds like a lot of this isn't really about the dog at all.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 10:46 AM on October 19, 2015 [5 favorites]

This is always so weird to me. I've had dogs and I have cats and I have a horse and I have kids. And in a million years, I wouldn't expect anyone to extend an invitation to my dog. She's a love and whatever, but JC on a stick, she's just a dog. And I'm hardly an expert on etiquette, but to me, this isn't about a dog as much as it's about someone who doesn't care about boundaries (I mean your sister).

I'd tell her you'd love to celebrate the holiday with her but unfortunately, you can't have her dog as well. That's it; you can't have her dog.

I love dogs but they're not people. Their rights don't outrank the rights of the host and their family and pets.
posted by kinetic at 10:50 AM on October 19, 2015 [18 favorites]

I agree that you are in the right here, but it is super-hard to find housesitters over the holidays.
posted by mmiddle at 10:50 AM on October 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

You're definitely allowed to say "I'm sorry, I cannot host the dog at all."

But... would you be up for some kind of compromise? Is your sister staying with you? Does she have to? Would you be okay having the dog around during one afternoon or evening (with whatever restrictions, baby gates, etc make you & your own dog comfortable)?

If so an option might be for sister and dog to stay at a dog-friendly hotel nearby (this isn't hard to find -- bringfido.com is a good resource for this) and, if you're okay with it, dog comes to your house with sister for one dinner or afternoon out of the visit.

(This is what I do for some family visits -- husband, dog & I stay in a motel, and then we come to family dinner at a relative's house with dog, but dog has to be shut up in a room by herself or shut in the yard if she's being annoying. I'm also comfortable with leaving my dog in the car during restaurant dinners when heat isn't a concern, but that's not something everyone will feel OK about -- and perhaps a suggestion that someone who calls them "fur babies" might not take kindly to :P.)

(Oh, and yeah, it is probably legit that she can't find sitters for Christmas when she otherwise is able to -- since everyone tends to travel around that time and someone who's fine hosting a friend's dog at their home is not necessarily fine with traveling with friend's dog!)
posted by anotherthink at 10:54 AM on October 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'd suggest that you work on reframing "how Christmas should be" -- perhaps it isn't the cards for everyone to spend Xmas eve in one place and wake up in matching jammies and then sing carols together. As we all get older, add new people into the family, etc. we need to adjust our traditions. So start thinking of options outside of whatever your plans for hosting were and your imagined "how Christmas is going to go".

From your previous question it sounds like sis lives 4 hours away. Hypothetically here are the options:
- Xmas morning she takes Her Dog out to pee and poop, puts him back in the house, drives 4 hours to your house, you all do Xmas stuff for as many hours as Her Dog can be left alone, then she drives home to tend to Her Dog.
- Above plan, but she hires a dog walker to extend her time at your place. I've hired dog walkers numerous times over the holidays and it can be done.
- Again, this is assuming that Sis comes for just Xmas day. You say that Her Dog can come, but "Sis, Mr. Wigglebottoms the Chihuahua is getting older and more nervous and we can't really have other dogs around him anymore." and Her Dog must stay out in the yard (or maybe a basement?) the whole time.
- Give up on your idea of hosting at your house altogether if you don't want to deal with this drama.
- I'm gonna assume that it has been well-established that you are hosting this year. If your other family members ditch you because you wouldn't allow Her Dog, let them. I know that it will feel like a bummer, but how embarrassing for them that they made that choice.

Holidays should be fun and enjoyable. Keep reminding yourself of this.
posted by k8t at 10:59 AM on October 19, 2015 [4 favorites]

Okay yeah, I just read your previous question. Use Darlingbri's script above using option #1 and let the chips fall where they may. The time to stop acquiescing to her every whim is now.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 11:00 AM on October 19, 2015 [7 favorites]

This bothers me as a dog owner - just because you have a dog does not mean your Christmas gathering is immediate permission for everyone to bring their dogs. She really should ask first, regardless. Ugh.

I'd say something along the lines of "Please don't bring Fido. Although we love him, we are trying something new this year to cut down on the chaos and are asking everyone to keep their dogs at home."

If she balks, just remain polite but firm and let her know there is nothing to it other than that.

You could always go the white lie route which my sister has used with her in laws before and say that your dog is getting over a nasty case of kennel cough and the vet says no exposure to other dogs...but that would be fibbing which isn't really recommended.
posted by floweredfish at 11:02 AM on October 19, 2015

I agree with others that it's believable that she wouldn't be able to find pet/house sitters over the holidays.

I'll say up front that you are allowed to bar this dog from your house for any reason or for no reason; it's your house and you don't need to justify who is invited to anyone. However, I would encourage you to figure out why you don't want her dog to be there. I only say this because it's not clear from your question whether it is because of your dog, because you don't want a big/clumsy dog getting in the way, or because it's what your sister wants and you're sick of her getting her way.

I was totally on board with you on your previous question about not giving in to your sisters wedding craziness. However, if there's a solution that works for everyone (e.g. babygating a room for her dog? putting the dog in the basement? Keeping the dog outside most of the time (depending on weather)?), I'd encourage you to do your best to be accommodating.
posted by Betelgeuse at 11:04 AM on October 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

Plus, it looks petty if I argue on this point.

So don't.

The best part of getting your own roof is you get to decide the rules for the shit that happens under it. Refuse to have this argument. If you don't want the dog in your house then don't. I don't care what your reasoning is at all. Your house, your rules.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:10 AM on October 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think your sister may well be right that is is hard to find a pet-sitter over the holidays -- we always have the most trouble this time of year, and we have a well-natured cat who only needs a check-in and litter-scoop every few days rather than much more intensive dog-sitting.

That said, I don't think this means you're required to accept her dog as a visitor, especially since it sounds like it would be a stressful visit for your pet. I think it is fine to say something like "I completely sympathize with the difficulty of finding pet sitters over the holidays. But, our space can't accomodate a large dog right now, especially with our elderly dog who gets very stressed around larger animals." But, then you do have to let the chips fall where they may - she may end up deciding not to come, or may push for having the holidays in a different location where she could bring her dog.
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:15 AM on October 19, 2015

If you've moved since last time her dog visited, you could tell her the landlord won't allow pit bulls or dogs over $weight or more than one dog.

I am generally very much a pushover and avoider of confrontation but holy shit, I agree that you need to stand up to your sister, she sounds like a handful (to put it mildly).

(you might also tell her that dogs don't know about/care about Christmas.)
posted by ghostbikes at 11:16 AM on October 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

I also never boarded my large dog as he was really not tolerant of it. I missed some events due to my decision to stay home with the dog when preferred dog-sitters weren't available. I never brought the dog to a place where he wasn't explicitly and enthusiastically welcomed. And, I often preferred to get an Airbnb or similar so that I could establish a relaxed home base for the dog while I was visiting others.

DarlingBri's first option is the way to go. More than your other concerns, your wanting to shield your own elderly dog from extra stress is 100% legit (especially if there are lots of others in the house already) and if your sister really loved "fur babies" she'd accept that reason with no push-back. If she just wants to do what's most comfortable for her, she'll pressure you. Hold firm. This is your house and these are your rules. She can respect them or be a jerk. It's up to her. If your family's way of "solving" sister's tantrums is to indulge her every time, then you have bigger fish to fry. You're not being unreasonable.
posted by quince at 11:16 AM on October 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's OK and important to have boundaries and saying that she cannot bring her dog is a totally reasonable boundary. (And I am someone who generally loves being around big clumsy dogs.)

Offer to help her brainstorm and find alternative solutions that work for her (like having someone stay with her dog at her house), but stay firm on your boundaries (and respect hers - don't push her to board her dog if she's not comfortable with that, etc.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 11:30 AM on October 19, 2015

Based on your previous question about your sister, she sounds selfish and inconsiderate, and I can see why you're resisting letting her have her way. But on this issue alone, neither of you seems particularly unreasonable (or particularly considerate.) She loves her dog and Christmas won't be as much fun to her if she can't have him with her. As she says, "part of the holiday celebration is including ALL family members" and her dog feels like a member of the family to her. It would be considerate for her to make other arrangements for the dog, but people aren't required to consider other people's desires over their own in every circumstance. It's perfectly reasonable for her to decide that she'd rather not go to a Christmas get together that excludes her dog if she doesn't think she'll enjoy it enough to make it worthwhile, or if her dog's happiness is more important to her than your happiness. (And she's not automatically a bad person if she cares more about her dog than about her sister.

It would be considerate of you to let her bring the dog. You admit he's fairly well trained and you don't mention any specific problem you expect him to cause or any other family member who has an issue with him. It sounds like you and your partner just don't like having a big dog around. But people aren't required to consider other people's desires over their own in every circumstance. It's perfectly reasonable for you to decide that having the dog there would make Christmas too unpleasant for you and you're not going to go along with it.

This is not a situation where one person is right and one person is wrong. It's a situation where two different people want reasonable but opposing things.
posted by Redstart at 11:39 AM on October 19, 2015 [5 favorites]

I agree with the others who think it's very strange for your sister to believe that she can bring her dog everywhere without an explicit invitation. Dogs aren't "fur babies" (gag) -- even as someone who loves dogs, I recognize that they're smelly creatures which make messes and are definitely not people.

I think it's also strange for commentators to urge you to find a compromise and want you to figure out "why" you don't want this dog around -- as though there's some expectation for people to host dogs, and you need a good excuse. You don't want this dog around -- that's enough! You don't need to be accommodating! Your sister is in fact being unreasonable!

I like the tone of jbenben's script. She's using playful language in an effort to soften her entirely selfish desire to get her way. Responding in kind is a bad move. You might get somewhere if you're polite but cold and firm.
posted by crazy with stars at 11:45 AM on October 19, 2015 [10 favorites]

During a recent move, my family stayed with my parents for a week. They didn't want our dog in the house, so we used Rover.com to find a sitter nearby. It worked out well - it was affordable and convenient, and he was in a home rather than a kennel. Maybe that's an option for you guys?
posted by judith at 12:40 PM on October 19, 2015

From the outside, I sort of side with your sister but maybe my comments here can help you meet her where she is and speak in a way to help her understand where you are... (excuse any over-stepping or assumptions, I promise that I am trying to help)

When I am in the lucky position of having a dog, said dog is my shadow. If I go, they go, with very little exception. As a result, my dogs are well socialized, chill and very used to that pattern. They have always been big dogs. It has been my observation that little dogs are less well-trained because the consequences for bad behavior are much smaller (little dogs that get yappy, mean, or territorial just get picked up (which reinforces that behavior, but that is another rant)).

From my perspective (and limited data) you have characterized this dog as "fairly" well-trained and yours as "old and nervous" (I don't know what the symptoms of "old and nervous" are but I presume they are explanations of iffy behavior --- again, helping you with sister perspective). Add that to your partner's feelings about large dogs (which may or may not be rational, I have no data, I am just helping with your sister's perspective)... Suddenly, that results in "Sister, you cannot bring your well-behaved dog because I have this yappy nervous-wreck that I am unwilling to manage/mitigate and a partner who irrationally judges dogs based on their size rather than their demeanor."

Now, what can you do about that?
-For me, if you came right out and said the line that I just wrote for what it was, you would continue to have my attention because at least you were owning up to it. This is the opposite of trying to paint this as you being on higher ground.
-You can absolutely forbid the dog from attendance, you very much have the right to do that. Whether that is the right choice or not, who knows.
-You can try to come up with a compromise of some kind... Not interested in compromise? Then think for a second about what that means... You are not interested in compromise (that is the statement of someone who is demanding that they get their way).
-Perhaps "Against my better judgment, bring the dog, as long as we agree that if this, this, or this happens, that the dog goes in a crate or that you both have to go home... I need you guys to agree to this specifically, and the parents too, so that this doesn't turn in to a she-said-she-said situation"
-Lots of options on how to proceed. On the balance, I might shy from a line-in-the-sand approach, that is likely to create more drama than family togetherness. If you put your foot down and she insinuates the quoted stance from above, then (if your family is rational) she will have them on her side.
posted by milqman at 12:50 PM on October 19, 2015 [5 favorites]

Maybe i'm weird but i think people bringing over pets on christmas is really strange, and would be extremely unusual in my entire extended people-network? I have a huge huge extended family and have visited many family friends, partners families, and close friends families for holidays and the only time i can ever think of someone bringing a dog was when it was a summer holiday or maybe once if they were staying at the house for an extended period.

So basically, and also judging by the previous question, i think your sister is fairly deft at reframing not normal things as totally reasonable and normal, and starting the conversation from there. This isn't that hard if you're good at it, and then you get to start conversations confidently like "so i was doing this totally normal thing and then witchen just flipped out!".

There's people in my family like this. Ugh.

My first thought would be, is there any parent or family member you can get on your side that this is ridiculous other than your partner? Is everyone really going to side with her and think you're being a total bitch or whatever and bail, or does it just kinda feel that way? I have seen dynamics like that play out, but it can get a bit catastrophizing when you're used to it.

Basically, you are right, and you need to say no. There's some good scripts in here. I'd focus on figuring out who your allies are in this being ridiculous.

Also, similarly, where is everyone else going to go if they bail? It's not nowhere. Would you be invited? I might even make up a lie/excuse of why you can't have it at your place to go to her house, or some aunt/uncles house or whatever unless there's a great reason not to just so that i didn't have to deal with this. Having a party at your own house is stressful and sucks anyways. If she's so insistent on this, can it be her problem? How close does she/other family-member-everyone-would-go-to live?
posted by emptythought at 1:06 PM on October 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

"I'm feeling really stressed out about having your dog over Christmas. Christmas is already really stressful. I don't know what to do. I am really uncomfortable, and I need your help."
posted by Nevin at 1:08 PM on October 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

Thanks for the advice and scripts so far, everyone. A few things:

- If family doesn't come to our house for Christmas, I/we have to drive 4 hours and get a hotel room (Family members all live in separate, uncomfortable spaces, aka what happens when mental illness does your housekeeping) and find someone to care for the small dog. Not horrible, but not ideal.

- Big dog is well behaved, but it's impossible to ignore his presence in the house, and he's forceful with fences (our backyard is fenced adequately for a chihuahua, but I don't know how it'd stand up to a larger, stronger dog). I sneeze a lot when he's around. He likes to rough-house with small dogs and I'm scared of what this would mean for the chihuahua.

- Other family members tend to be avoidant ("STOP FIGHTING! LALALALA!") whenever there's a disagreement, which is how sister gets her way so often. It's usually just easier to give in. I can draw boundaries, but I can't make my parents draw boundaries.

- She will agree to a compromise while never intending to keep it. I considered asking her to bring a toddler gate or abide by an "if...then" rule, but there's no reason for her to keep her word and precedent shows that she won't.

So I've replied-to-all on our email chain appealing for their understanding re: the small dog and our stress levels, and sister may be able to stay elsewhere in town and visit us during the day. I think that's our best bet for now! And thanks again.
posted by witchen at 1:18 PM on October 19, 2015 [7 favorites]

If your family all cancel coming over at Christmas because your sister can't bring her dog, them seriously, fuck 'em. I would tell them they can shove their blatant favouritism of your spoiled brat of a sister up their collective arses. (assuming you're not being over dramatic and they would choose your sister's dog over you - although it seems in your last post you thought they would take her side but you were able to suggest a compromise and your family did side with you)

Its your home, you make the rules. Having a chihuahua - which barely even counts as a dog ;) - does not mean your home is Pit Bull friendly.

There's something very odd about the language in your sister's message ( sort of refuse?!) but she's made her position clear so I would respond with "I'm sorry to hear you wont be joining us for Christmas but understand you would rather spend it with your fur baby than with the rest of your family. I look forward to seeing you at easter (or whenever you'd usually be seeing her next)". Then the ball's in her court, you've called her bluff and "sort of refused" to acquiesce to her wishes. Stick to your guns and make no excuses for yourself. You do not need to defend your right to decide who and what can be in your home. Its your dog's home too and he has a right to be comfortable too.

Why is it OK for you to have to find a pet sitter but not for her? It baffles me that you think your family will not come to your house for Christmas if she can't bring her dog in favour of an alternate plan that excludes your dog?
posted by missmagenta at 1:25 PM on October 19, 2015 [8 favorites]

If family doesn't come to our house for Christmas, I/we have to drive 4 hours and get a hotel room (Family members all live in separate, uncomfortable spaces, aka what happens when mental illness does your housekeeping) and find someone to care for the small dog. Not horrible, but not ideal.

You're missing the third option, which is that your extended family does their thing and you and your fiance stay home for Christmas and establish your own traditions.
posted by melissasaurus at 1:26 PM on October 19, 2015 [20 favorites]

You said in your followup comment that you are concerned that her large energetic dog who enjoys roughhousing might harm your elderly tiny dog who is easily stressed. That is seriously enough of a concern all by itself and you do not need to say ANYTHING other than that, again and again, if your sister continues to protest your no-outside-dogs-allowed edict. If she thinks dogs are "fur babies" then surely she doesn't want your fur baby ending up spending Christmas at the vet after being mistaken for a chew toy.
posted by BlueJae at 1:31 PM on October 19, 2015 [12 favorites]

He likes to rough-house with small dogs and I'm scared of what this would mean for the chihuahua.

Then it's a safely issue for your dog. An old chihuahua is fragile.

I have a dog the size of a small pony and I completely understand people not wanting him around. Even though he's a low key dog he's impossible to ignore!

As a dog person I'd be concerned about the safety of a small dog around my dog, even though he's gentle. Accidents happen even if you have a big dog that likes small ones.

You have an ironclad excuse for barring the big dog. Whether or not she's reasonable is up to her, but no one could fail to see your point.
posted by winna at 1:33 PM on October 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

If others bail, I would honestly just spend the holidays with your partner's family and/or do your own baby Christmas, and/or book tickets somewhere warm and tropical just for the two of you. Any of these options sound way more relaxing and celebratory!
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:47 PM on October 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am beginning to think your sister is testing you, to see if you really love her, by demanding you endure absolutely ridiculous crap. I am also beginning to think that this is a really old pattern within your family.

Anyway, it's really sad if she can't do more than one day because the dog needs her that much, but it just isn't possible for you to host the dog in your home for Christmas.

I suspect that if you communicate the "it just isn't possible" thing in a low-emotion way, your parents will behave exactly as they did regarding ThanksBridalGate - rolling their eyes and cajoling her into something halfway reasonable. I'm pretty sure that pattern is just about as old as the thing with her testing your (and their) love with her demands.

Also, as a point of reference: there are some extremely strange people in my family who like making ridiculous demands, including some who think everyone else loves (or should love) their dogs, horses, cats, guinea pigs, whatever, too. Not once has anyone insisted on bringing a pet to Christmas. It sounds crazy to me, and I'm in the kind of family where a person had to be ordered never to bring a specific partner to our house because the partner is a convicted pedophile. It took like five demands. I think even she would think it's a little crazy to insist on the dog.
posted by SMPA at 1:55 PM on October 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Upon your follow up - if they all throw a huge scene and all bail the hell with it - this is time to start your own new family traditions!

My (now husband) and I had a drama-fueled situation arise in the past on Christmas. When everyone threw a fit and said "we aren't coming" we called their bluff and said OK! We stayed home, cooked for an army since all the shopping had been done, dropped most of it at the local shelter and then just totally enjoyed ourselves at home with the dog, movies, taking a long walk and an open invite to our neighbors to stop by. It was glorious, and we loved it so much that it's our new family tradition. Some extended family has come around and joins us now, but after pioneering that first year and not falling into the guilt trap was immensely liberating.

This the season for family drama. Stick to your guns...do it nicely, but it's just not worth the stress, shame and unnecessary guilt! Sometimes going into these situations knowing that you can do your own thing is really helpful in enforcing your own boundaries.
posted by floweredfish at 2:31 PM on October 19, 2015 [11 favorites]

I think part of the problem is that the way this is phrased, it's not "we don't want other dogs here," it's "we don't want sisters dog, who we think kind of sucks even though it is well trained here." Have you allowed other dogs over before? If so you're not on really great ground to stand on. If you have a yard and a house it would be reasonable to let the chihuahua stay in the house and the other dog in the yard.
posted by corb at 2:42 PM on October 19, 2015

Depending on the location it might be cruel or impossible to house a dog outside. Also if the sister wants to force the issue it's a lot easier for her to drag the dog inside if it's physically present.
posted by winna at 2:45 PM on October 19, 2015

I considered asking her to bring a toddler gate... but there's no reason for her to keep her word and precedent shows that she won't.

So... provide your own babygate? And local rescue with a fostering programme will be DELIGHTED to have it after Christmas. And where is your partner in all of this? If she lets the dog through the gate, is she or he not capable of saying "No, Fido stays behind the gate or goes back to the motel room; choose."
posted by DarlingBri at 3:13 PM on October 19, 2015

Theoretically, I like the idea of a babygate because it means you can all be together in a nice space with a minimum of drama.

I'm a huge pit bull lover. I've fostered them, rehabbed them, financially support multiple pit rescues, have helped friends with them, etc. If this dog is an energetic, bounding exuberant pit, I can guarantee that a babygate with a senior chihuahua on one side, and the young friendly ball of energy on the other, will be more stress than you can imagine. Unless the dog is used to having physical separation from other dogs in the same house, it's not going to be a relaxing situation. People's tensions will raise with the barking and the pawing. That's not the moment for behavior training, trust me.

But as everyone has said, the dog is not the issue. Your inability to set your own reasonable preferences with your family and sister is the real issue. Remember that you're not being a bully for refusing to constantly acquiesce to her demands. It does also mean things will get uncomfortable, but aren't they already?
posted by barnone at 3:33 PM on October 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was impressed with how your family managed to accommodate both you and your sister last time. It wasn't exactly the "things explode into drama and they take her side against yours" catastrophe you envisioned. I'm probably being naive, but I hope they / you all can find a solution that works for all of you. I'd stick to your needs gently but assertively.
posted by salvia at 6:43 PM on October 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

If I understand your update, the dogs have never met? Then that is a perfectly reasonable excuse to not have your sister's dog in the home. It would actually be pretty irresponsible to have the larger dog there. You have no idea how the two will react, and it is not in the best interest of either 'fur baby'. They should meet on neutral ground with a backup plan in the future.
posted by Vaike at 6:48 PM on October 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

I hate to suggest this, but maybe have YOUR dog boarded? I only say this because your family and sister in particular sound like they make your life hell if you don't do as they say, and sister will probably bring her dog no matter what you say about it. At least that way Fido (while somewhat stressed) is out of the direct line of fire.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:11 PM on October 19, 2015

No. Just no. Not because it's not a valid solution, but because it teaches sister that manipulation and kicking and screaming works and that everyone will bend over backwards constantly no matter what her demands. All giving in does is encourage more of the same behaviour. I think OP needs to start drawing some hard boundaries and if sister and family don't agree, well, they don't have to come but she needs to make it clear that she won't be rolling over whenever sister pitches a fit. No is a complete sentence. They don't have to like it. They just have to abide by it.
posted by Jubey at 8:48 PM on October 19, 2015 [14 favorites]

this is patently false, but I can't prove her wrong

Then it's not patently false.

It's your house, you make the rules — if you don't want the dog there, you're just going to have to say so. There's no way around it.

If you're worried that the family will think you are being unfair, then you might want to offer some kind of compromise — help her find someone to look after the dog, or set conditions in advance (even if that means you have to take responsibility for organising the "babygate".

Alternatively, suck it up and let the dog come.
posted by robcorr at 9:03 PM on October 19, 2015

Look the rest of her behavior has been well covered in this thread and I have nothing new to say about it. Stick to your guns. But the idea that she "can't" find a pet sitter or that it's tough is b.s. I work for a dog sitting service, with a national (US) presence, and now is the time that owners are booking for the holidays. Memail me if you'd like the name of the website. But it's just as easy to put up an ad on Craigslist or Nextdoor or on a local FB group to ask for help or referrals. Everyone wants to make a little extra cash these days, ESPECIALLY at the holidays. So if you want to call her bluff on the pet sitting, send her some info in that vein. Although my real answer is do not do the emotional labor that she is trying to force you to do.
posted by vignettist at 12:44 AM on October 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

I wrote a lot of stuff but TLDR, your last few questions point to a major golden child /scapegoat dynamic in your family, and I think the only way out of all of these "but what if sister gets upset...." scenarios is to start saying no and embracing the consequences. It's scary, because you may discover that your family just isn't that into you, and that they really only want the "happy holidays" scenario where you are being a doormat and indulging every demand your sister makes. You already think everyone else will cancel Xmas if you don't let sister bring her dog. They are telling you that your sister's dog being at Xmas matters more than you, because it belongs to your sister.
posted by nakedmolerats at 6:34 AM on October 20, 2015 [7 favorites]

From what I recall of the last question, OP is not willing to take the nuclear option with her family at this point in time. (And really, one has to be filled with mighty long-sustaining rage in order to stick with the hell and hate she will get from her family if she starts "setting boundaries.") Yes, this isn't right and yes, the sister and her dog do matter more than her. But if she's not willing to pay a heavy price to get what she wants from unreasonable people, then finding some sort of way to work around the immovable object is the best she's gonna do.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:04 AM on October 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Wait, I just read the update on the last question- is this Thanksgiving Actual, or is this Engagement-Party-Shifted-Thanksgiving? If it's Thanksgiving Actual, was it initially scheduled for your parents place and moved out of consideration for you? If so, what was your parents' Holiday Dog policy?
posted by corb at 9:28 AM on October 20, 2015

Huh. I'm with salvia re: being impressed with the way the family handled the last sister vs the OP family drama -- given the positive outcome of the OP's last Ask about this sister with regards to their parents' boundaries, it's premature for us to conclude that the OP's parents really believe "the sister and her dog matter more." Rather, wait and see what they actually do before jumping to that harsh conclusion.

These parents have done the right thing before: "Thanksgiving compromise is a win. Both parents are on my side after an email went out with the costs for the party (hint: it's exorbitant) and we all had a good laugh over how grossly out of line her expectations are. Parents also confirmed this will not affect my own wedding planning or funding, and that we all love each other very much, etc. Obviously my angst was coloring a little of my perception..."

With all due respect, OP, it seems your angst is coloring a little of your perception here, too. (And look, we all get what a real PITA your sister is.) Take jbenben's and DarlingBri's excellent advice here. State your case. Prioritize the needs of your elderly pup not to be traumatized by a much bigger, younger dog. Your house, your rules. Good luck!
posted by hush at 10:17 AM on October 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you use your own dog as an excuse - when something happens to it you'll have no reason not to let the big dog in.

I personally wouldn't allow it and I love doggies.
posted by Flowerpower at 2:06 PM on October 20, 2015

Yes, building on what hush just wrote, the other thing that interests me about the resolution of the Thanksgiving case is the side-taking that occurred. "Both parents are on my side after an email went out with the costs for the party (hint: it's exorbitant) and we all had a good laugh over how grossly out of line her expectations are."

As nakedmolerats said, "TLDR, your last few questions point to a major golden child /scapegoat dynamic in your family." As in most families like this, the question of who is "the good one" switches over time. At Thanksgiving, OP's needs got met when the sister became "the bad one." Resolution could have come when everyone's needs got respect and accommodation. (In truth, both people had valid needs, if I assume the sister didn't want to have her party on the same weekend as another big event, when half of the guests might be out of town.)

This is a tough dynamic to live with. Nobody wants to be "the bad one," so it's a constant effort to remain "the good one." When conflict arises, it's a roll of the dice: does everyone help you, or do they demand you give in or else make you the "villain" (a word used in the last question). If conflicts lead to everyone ganging up on one person, then no wonder a simple disagreement starts to feel so fraught. No wonder OP thinks "OMG what if everyone bails on coming to my house for the holidays!??"

I don't know if a single family member can single-handedly defuse this and shift the system toward one where everyone's needs are respected. But all you can do is diplomatically assert your needs while trying to accommodate others'.

But for the long run, I do wonder whether the sister is the real enemy here. It does seem like the family is warped around accommodating her, so maybe this really originated with stuff that's going on with her. But then again, could this [good one / bad one], only-one-person's-needs-get-met dynamic have created excessive rivalry? Could it be your parents driving the dynamic? I'm not sure etiology matters at this point, as I don't think it changes the core advice. But if there's any chance that it's stemming from them, then over the long run, OP, you might want to consider whether taking sides with them against your sister helps, or whether it just continues the "Who's The Good Child Now?" game. It might be better to get off that teeter-totter altogether.

I think that starts via the same strategies recommended above, with one clarification -- that your position probably should be "my needs are valid" but not "and hers are unreasonable."For instance, drop the "that's patently false" stuff. Just stick with "hey, I have these needs... let's find a way to meet all of our needs... sure, I know she's saying that, but I have these needs, so that suggestion won't really work for me..." and resist the temptation to make her the villian.

Unfortunately, when one person opts out of this little game of Odd Man Out, sometimes they lose by default for a little while. But the Thanksgiving story gives me hope that instead, your parents might step up again with some good problem-solving. If someone turns to you with blame ("don't be unreasonable, just let your sister bring her dog!"), you could even point to that as a model ("I don't think it's unreasonable to care about my dog, or that she cares about hers. I just think we can find a way for everyone to get what they needed, like we did on Thanksgiving.")

In the short run, not saying negative things to your parents about your sister's demands might be tough. You give up on that short-term warm feeling of bonding with them and having them on your side. But in the long run, you're not only trying to end this whole "taking sides" dynamic, but you'll be reducing your exposure to your sister's extreme demands. It's like, step one could be to stop letting "Giving in to Sis's Unreasonable Demands" be a feature of your own behavior, and then step two would be to stop letting it even be a feature of your conversations with your parents. You'll have already started modeling for your parents what it looks like to steadily hold on to your own wishes in the face of her demands, and maybe they can learn that from you. Or not! When you don't accommodate demands that infringe on your needs and you don't listen to how others are doing so, your sis can be as demanding as she wants, and you'll be totally buffered from it!

Anyway, tl;dr -- this sounds like a complicated and stressful family situation that will take a lot of work and steadiness to begin detaching from. If you don't have a great therapist on your side helping you figure out what the heck is going on, it might worth it. Good luck.
posted by salvia at 3:40 AM on October 21, 2015 [7 favorites]

I really feel for you - the Get My Way By Temper Tantrum is a strong dynamic in my family, and I had almost exactly the same situation -- Sister and Dog -- the past two years. Except my sister's dogs are untrained wildebeests. My sister has written family-wide emails that literally state that her dogs are her only family, and she expects her rightful place to be respected ..... (I think you know how this goes).

I see no reason to offer to host her dog. It's that plain and simple. It's yours to offer, and you don't want to, and your reasons are all you need. You don't have to justify it to anyone.

I really agree with the sentiments above that you have to stop participating in the Get My Way By Temper Tantrum. You have to stop giving her the reaction she expects. She cannot have her temper tantrum without your participation. To do that, you have to stop giving her space in your conversation with your parents, and in your head. Just talk about you and what you need, with your parents; step away from proving that she's wrong (she is) or that she's unreasonable (she is). Stick to what you need and what you can do. This is easier said than done, but it's a direction.


The first time, I gave into the dogs. I sneezed and sniffled and fended off jumping dogs in my own house for 3 days, while our pet cowered in the basement. Dogs kept stealing food AS I WAS COOKING, with only "aww, bad cute doggy-poo!" reactions from her. She brought a cage for Dog 1, put him in it to sleep in the bedroom we'd given her, and he rattled it ALL NIGHT and put deep scratches in our hardwood floor. She slept on the couch (I have no idea why) then complained that she wasn't provided accommodations up to her rightful place.

The second time, I did not offer to host the dogs. She made the fuss you'd expect. A parent ended up paying for her flight and hotel at the last minute ($$$). Hey, temper tantrums work! And now you know a major reason why I eloped.

I am envious that you seem to have parents who mediate this reasonably well. Mine do not, but I'm pretty much at peace with that. On the other hand, they're on the receiving end of Temper Tantrums more than me, so honestly I just feel badly for them.
posted by Dashy at 2:50 PM on October 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

If this dog is an energetic, bounding exuberant pit, I can guarantee that a babygate with a senior chihuahua on one side, and the young friendly ball of energy on the other, will be more stress than you can imagine.

Barnone, this is exactly what I imagine! And a rickety fence (fine for a geriatric 4 lb dog, no match for a big bouncy pit bull) around the yard, and all the large poops, and etc. etc. Pretty much exactly this is my concern.

And Dashy's suggestion, just above, that your position probably should be "my needs are valid" but not "and hers are unreasonable."For instance, drop the "that's patently false" stuff. is going to be the winner, I think.

Where things are now: there is grumbling! But I described Chihuahua's stress reactions (lots of barfing) in detail and everyone agrees they don't want dog barf for Christmas. This advice was super, super helpful in determining reasonable boundaries (and acknowledging my own tendency to catastrophize), and I thank you all. My tiny dog thanks you, too.
posted by witchen at 8:26 PM on October 22, 2015 [5 favorites]

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