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Entertaining Can Give You An Advantage

I have a story regarding my many experiences as a guest in the home of my future in-laws. They are both wonderful people and I love them dearly, and they keep many wonderful pets. There are four cats, two dogs, two large parrots, a lizard, and a snake in their home. I enjoy the company of a polite pet, but many of theirs unfortunately cross my boundaries quite frequently. The best example of this is when I am invited over for a meal.

My future in-laws regularly feed their pets directly from the table and, presumably as a result of this practice, the pets are not shy about begging, crying loudly, or even jumping into your lap in order to get at your meal. Since they do not seem to mind this, they do not seem to expect that I should mind it either; however, I find it very rude. My fiance has tried to address this source of discomfort by insisting that the animals be instructed not to jump on me while I am at the table, and this has helped some.

They also regularly allow the pets not only to eat from their utensils during the meal but also to lick off the plates and utensils afterward. Besides the fact that I have always been taught that “human” food is not good for animals on a regular basis, I am also personally not comfortable eating from a utensil that a pet’s mouth has touched, and so I choose not to participate in either practice if I can avoid it. My choice is met with insistence and, at times, judgment (though usually joking in nature). Again, my fiance tries to intercede on my behalf without hurting any feelings. I realize that it is their home and I am a guest, but I do not think that I should feel judged for not following practices that make me uncomfortable, particularly regarding feeding pets directly off utensils and then continuing to use them.

They also seem to expect that I am just as comfortable around their reptiles as they are; unfortunately, this is not the case. I do not mind a reptile in the room, but I would prefer that it remain in its cage or, if it must be taken out while I am in the room, that it is not brought in close proximity to me without my consent. However, they find this odd and unacceptable and insist that I not only maintain close proximity to both reptiles but also hold and pet them. If I refuse politely, they tell me that I “just don’t like animals very much.”

My future father-in-law is also a smoker, and while he is a very nice man and I do not judge him for what he chooses to do in his free time, I feel that he is somewhat inconsiderate in his habits while I am there. I have allergies and asthma and as such smoke can make me quite uncomfortable, and besides this he sometimes smokes a substance that is illegal in my country. I do not particularly enjoy having irritated eyes and lungs during my time there, nor do I feel comfortable with illegal actions performed while I am a guest in anyone’s home. I have never felt comfortable voicing my objections directly, since it is his home and he can do what he likes, but for the sake of avoiding the coughing trigger I usually try to unobtrusively move away. I have been accused of being rude for doing this, but I feel that it is rather inconsiderate of him to ignore the fact that it causes me physical discomfort.

These are mostly minor annoyances, certainly nothing that would entirely stop me from visiting them; they are wonderful people and generally good company. My only question is whether I am in the wrong for feeling this way about any of these things. I do my best to just avoid “sticky situations” all together, but that is sometimes just not possible. 0222-12

Having politely expressed your point of view with little compromise from the future in-laws, it seems to me that the best course of action is to prepare yourself to be the  hostess in your own home by extending many invitations to your mother and father-in-law.   On your own turf, where you call the rules, you can best entertain them and maintain the family harmony at the same time.    Provide FIL with an ashtray outside to smoke his cigarettes and forbid illegal substances in your home.   One of the advantages to entertaining and hospitality is that it does give you to upper hand to define how the family will interact together when they are in your home.   Make your hospitality so wonderful that everyone will want to come to your house on a routine basis where you get to have a pet-free, smokeless, happy experiences with your husband’s family.

On visits to them, I suggest a vigorous greetings to the dogs and cats.  Love on the pets in the proper context in other words.   Having displayed your affection for them, it won’t seem as odd to the parents when you discreetly keep pushing the cat off your lap at meals or ignore the dogs’ begging during meals.   I have a friend who owned a rather large dog who wasn’t quite mannerly.   I greeted the dog very affectionately (I do love animals) but I maintained my boundaries with him by refusing to allow him to paw me or jump on me.  Firmly shoving the paw or body away is all it takes.    And you may have to do it repeatedly.

{ 52 comments… add one }
  • Daisy February 22, 2012, 10:18 am

    Oh, dear! Future in-laws may be wonderful people, but they are uninformed pet owners. Allowing animals to “demand” food signals to dogs that they are the “alpha”; this is actually quite uncomfortable for dogs, who evolved in packs where there were strict hierarchies. Dogs need their owners to set rules and enforce them. This makes the dog feel confident and safe. As for reptiles, they are actually susceptible to infections, viruses, and respiratory diseases that can be passed to them by humans. You might try telling your in-laws-to-be that you’ve been reading up on reptiles and you don’t want to pass on your cold, since they can have a difficult time recovering from illness. (If you can cough a convincing little cough, it may help!)

  • GroceryGirl February 22, 2012, 10:24 am

    I agree with Admin about hosting at your own home. I have a cousin who is a borderline hoarder and her house is, in a word, DISGUSTING. So, consequently I always have her over to my house. I make a huge meal (she’s not big on cooking) and everyone wins

  • elizabeth February 22, 2012, 11:10 am

    I don’t like dogs and have no qualms about informing people that when I am in a house with their dog. I have no problem with the dog being there, but if he/she starts to jump on me, push me over, lick me, etc, I simply dont touch it and verbally tell it that I’m sorry, but we aren’t going to be friends. Most owners actually laugh at me and get a kick out of it and though the dog doesnt know what I’ve said, they almost alway figure out very quickly that I’m not someone who is going to pet them. and they leave me alone. I’m not mean or rude in anyway and say it in a lighthearted manner, but I’ve never had a problem yet with my approach. I’d suggest a similar approach for you (if you dont really like animals and would rather not pet them at all that is.

  • WildIrishRose February 22, 2012, 11:26 am

    We have a fairly large dog that is very well-behaved, except around a certain friend. The friend doesn’t exactly encourage the dog to jump on him, but he doesn’t discourage it either. Or rather, he didn’t until my husband pointed out that the 60-pound dog could knock down my 75-year-old MIL, and we’d really rather that not happen. End of jumping.

    Rude animals are like rude children. They are usually the result of bad “parenting.” I’m with admin here–make over the dogs and cats when you arrive to let your future in-laws know that you have no issue with animals per se, but don’t allow them to come near your food. As for the smoking, I agree with admin there too. Have them over to your house to avoid having to put up with that.

    As for the reptiles, I don’t even know what to say there. I’m not a huge fan of reptiles, and I have strong objections to non-native species even being here outside a zoo situation. The Everglades are having a real problem with boas and pythons that people thought were cool until they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) take care of them any more, and then thought the proper thing to do was to release them into the wild. Your future in-laws are being unconscionably rude to insist that you pet the reptiles if you don’t want to. What’s their response going to be if one of their pets bites you? I’d do a lot more entertaining in my own home were I you. How can they possibly object to that? And if they ask about it, feel free to plead allergies to the smoke. That will cover just about everything!

  • AMC February 22, 2012, 11:46 am

    Blech! I consider myself a big animal lover but that part about feeding the animals from their utensils and then continuing to use them made me gag!

  • Erin February 22, 2012, 12:23 pm

    Oh ew. Animals’ mouths are filthy – I love my dogs and cats but I would never in a million years let them lick the dishes or utensils. And you’re right, most human food isn’t good for animals, and some foods we can eat with no trouble are downright poisonous to pets.

    Your future in-laws don’t sound particularly nice to me, if they’re acting like there’s something wrong with you for not wanting to eat after their dogs, or not wanting to have an asthma attack from the smoke. You can’t just leave your allergies and asthma at the door when you come visit.

  • LovleAnjel February 22, 2012, 12:41 pm

    I’m with the other posters – the future in-laws aren’t doing their animals any favors. And they are being rude and sort of abusive about it. If someone doesn’t like reptiles, you don’t force them to touch or hold them (I am a reptile lover, and I wouldn’t do that to a person, anymore than I’d want my “trigger” animal shoved in my face). If the reptile is taken out, you might think about briefly leaving – you could go for a walk or to the bathroom for a long stretch. Don’t give them a chance to put that snake in your face.

    I’ll admit that my DH & I give our cat “people food”, but away from the table, and usually after we are done eating (side story – the cat gets excited about cans being opened, and usually I’ll “show” him what’s inside and say, “See? Tomatoes. You don’t want.” I did that the other week with a can of chili, thinking the spices would disgust him, and he stuck his little face right into the can…) We do not respond to begging, and if he tries to get up onto the table he gets removed. He keeps trying, though, just in case. It’s a really difficult behavior to extinguish, and unless you consistently shove the animals off your lap, they’ll keep bothering you.

    One trick is to utterly ignore the animal while it’s performing the bad behavior (they’re like kids sometimes, if you respond to the behavior it’s attention and they do it more). I did this with my brother’s Jack Russel and within the course of a few hours he got the message: when they do something you dislike, like jumping on you or begging, clasp your hands behind your back and pointedly look away – no eye contact, don’t even look to see where they are in the room. Then, when they are doing something you like, like quietly sitting, gently pet them and talk sweetly. They’ll figure you out and come to you when they want quiet treatment, and go after the in-laws when they want to rough-house or beg for food. If someone jumps on your lap or puts their paws on you, say “no” firmly and push them away (with smaller critters you can puff or blow air in their face – it doesn’t hurt them but is uncomfortable or disconcerting). If a dog jumps on you when you’re standing, put your hand out or knee up so it contacts their chest – they’ll be kept at a distance, and be unhurt but disconcerted.

  • NotThumper February 22, 2012, 12:43 pm

    I completely sympathize with you OP! I am a “parent” of 3 cats myself and 1 of them is an awful beg! My husband and I were living with his parents when we were given this cat as a kitten and despite my insistence they not feed her “people” food or on the table/counters they did anyway.

    I’m sure this is somewhat my fault since at the same time I was caring for my 17 year old cat (who was dying) and I’d let him eat from the chair since he was slow and the other cats/dogs would get at his food if one of us blinked. I don’t think they understood the difference as to why I was giving one special treatment and trying to prevent disaster with the other. Sigh!

    Anyway, as a result the kitten is now approaching 3 and she is a BEAST when it comes to human food. (We’ve long since moved into our own place btw) She’ll sit quietly at your feet and stare, not jump. However when we have company for dinner or a party all of the cats are confined to the bedroom with their own food and necessities. I would never dream of subjecting anyone else to my cat’s quirks.

    Also, I don’t know if this is true for all cats but despite all of my best efforts I have found it impossible to cure my cat of this bad behavior.

  • Pam B February 22, 2012, 12:46 pm

    Our dog gets excited when we have company so we usually put her outside when we have guests. The exception the other day was my when my 72 year old dad was visiting… he rolled around on the floor and played with our dog like he was a 12 year old : ) We almost had to put them both out! (jk)

  • twik February 22, 2012, 12:54 pm

    If someone forced me to handle an animal I didn’t wish to handle (and let me point out I’d probably be there going “SNAKE! Let me hold the snake! PLEASE!”), I would simply not do so. If that resulted in people saying grumpily, “I guess you don’t like animals, then,” I wouldn’t argue. It may not be true, but if it keeps them from dropping a Hellbender into my lap at lunchtime, it might be good if they believe it.

  • Ashley 2 February 22, 2012, 12:55 pm

    Great advice admin^^ I wonder if it would be reasonable for the OP to request that perhaps the inlaws move the animals to a separate room or outside at meal time. That seems like it could help as long as the inlaws are willing.

  • Kaiti February 22, 2012, 1:05 pm

    POD to the above about rude animals, and a reminder that human food is NOT good for dogs, and in some cases can be toxic.

    An amusing reminder about what happens when you feed the dog from the table: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQCwHluBqFc (Simon’s Sister’s Dog)

    And a quick list of human foods that are REALLY bad for dogs: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/people-foods.aspx

  • Bint February 22, 2012, 1:23 pm

    Yeuch. I love pets but this would drive me mad. Agreed with Admin – although I would add that asthmatic or not, you are quite right to admit that no, you have no right to ask your FIL not to smoke in his own house.

    I think you also missed the irony of putting this
    “I do not judge him for what he chooses to do in his free time”

    immediately followed by this:
    “I feel that he is somewhat inconsiderate in his habits while I am there”

    You *are* judging him. There’s nothing wrong with that either. I’d think my FIL was pretty inconsiderate if he smoked around me and I had asthma, but face up to it and decide what you want to do on that basis. It is his house, he can do what he likes, tell your fiance you can’t hack it and bring them over to yours.

  • Cat Whisperer February 22, 2012, 1:41 pm

    Oh my. I think administrator got it exactly right: if you want to enjoy the company of your in-laws, offer them the hospitality of your home, and politely refuse invitations to accept their hospitality at their home.

    I have very strong feelings that a person’s home is their castle, and they get to choose how they live in their castle. I do not understand the chutzpah of people who come over to someone else’s house and think they have the right to tell their host/hostess what they should do in their own home. It’s okay to tell someone that you can’t/won’t go over to their home because you have an issue with something like animals or smoking, but it isn’t okay to go to someone’s home and criticize them for the way they choose to live.

    However, I believe that a guest has a right to ask for reasonable accomodation as a condition of accepting hospitality, as long as the request for accomodation is polite and doesn’t come across as a criticism of the host. “Would it be possible for you to open the windows and not smoke while I’m there, because smoking aggravates my asthma,” is a reasonable request. “Can you please not bring the reptiles out of their cages, I’m phobic about reptiles,” is a reasonable request. “It makes me very uncomfortable when you smoke substances that are illegal. Can you possibly try not to do it where I can see you or smell you doing it?” is a reasonable request.

    When the host chooses not to accomodate a reasonable request, well, I think the only option you have is to do as admin suggests: decide that you would prefer to offer hospitality in your own home, where you get to make the rules, and refuse to accept hospitality where your reasonable requests for accomodation won’t be accepted.

    I got into this issue with my parents when I was old enough to leave home and have my own place. My parents were both lifelong smokers, and it wasn’t until I moved out and lived in a smoke-free environment that I realized how many of the physical problems I’d had came as a result of living in an environment that was constantly filled with second-hand cigarette smoke. So I instituted a “no smoking” policy in my home, and started limiting the time I spent visiting my parents in their home.

    This did not go over well. Parents are accustomed to the role of being “head cow” in the family herd, and when their “calf” starts telling them “now I’m a grown-up and I get to make some rules for YOU,” there are going to be fights, because this touches on dominance in the family herd. And where dominance is an issue, nobody gives up easily. Especially not the “head cow” who finds his/her position threatened by a subordinate.

    OP seems to be trying to be as nice as she can about the issues here, but there will probably be resentment continuing to play out if she insists that she can’t accept hospitality in their house and insists that they toe the line in following her rules in her house.

    But about all you can do, when there is genuine discomfort involved, is to continue to politely refuse hospitality where you cannot accept the conditions it comes with, and when you extend hospitality, require that your guests respect your position as hostess and conform to your rules.

    (Unfortunately, the predictable outcome is that you spend less time together than you may wish you could. Sad.)

    So is lecturing me on how my animals behave and how I should “train” them to behave better. Anyone who comes to my home as a guest, accepting my hospitality, and who then decides that gives them a license to tell me how I should run my household, had better be ready to leave without delay, because I believe that my home is my castle and nobody gets to tell me what I should do in my own home. Leave if you want, refuse to come over if you don’t enjoy it, but if you accept my hospitality, don’t abuse it by trying to tell me what to do. That’s a dealbreaker.

  • Onlyme February 22, 2012, 1:51 pm

    Wow, you could be writing about people I’ve had in my life. One BF’s mom & Step dad knew I couldn’t be around the amount of smoke in their house. Their compromise was opening the living room windows (even in dead cold of winter), hand me some T3’s and say “deal with it”. As for the illegal stuff and reptiles, well I just choose to not be around it. If there is someone I know will have it, then I just don’t go. Made my life easier, cause then it wasn’t my problem. (Actually don’t have that friend anymore 🙂 )

  • Invalidcharactr February 22, 2012, 2:06 pm

    Wow. If someone told my dog that they “were not going to be friends,” I would agree quite wholeheartedly and show them where the door is located.

  • Calli Arcale February 22, 2012, 2:08 pm

    As Admin and other commenters have already addressed the issue of how to handle canine/feline begging, I’ll focus on something more sigificant: allowing reptiles to roam freely. This applies also to birds.

    Reptiles and birds are biologically quite different from mammals, having diverged in the Permian Era, a very long time ago. As a consequence, there are bacteria which are happy with them but not with us. The most notorious is Salmonella. Birds and reptiles commonly carry this bacterium without showing any symptoms whatsoever; it is as normal to them as human strains of E. coli are to us. But it is very much not a good bacterium for humans; it can make us violently ill, and can even be lethal. For this reason, live birds and reptiles should never be permitted in food preparation or serving spaces, unless those spaces are thoroughly sanitized afterwards, before any food preparation occurs. Caged reptiles might be okay; caged birds would be less so, since they shed feathers and some of that material can drift quite a ways in a room. If the reptiles are being allowed at the dinner table during meals, I would try to educate the owners and/or try to decline future invitations.

    Heck, asthma and allergies make a good way out of confronting the bad pet-owner habits; say your doctor has recommended you spend no more than 45 minutes in their house, and you will pretty much preclude meals there. Tell them straight-up it would be better for your health if you met at your house or a restaurant, and then the rest isn’t a problem anymore.

    (Incidentally, I used to be a reptile owner. They’re wonderful creatures, and quite beautiful in their own way. But they require very special care, and it is not something to be undertaken lightly.)

  • CaffeineKatie February 22, 2012, 2:21 pm

    I agree the OP will have to be hostess to escape the animal-related issues, but I doubt her in-laws will be any more respectful of her wishes when they are in her house. She should be prepared for them to show up with pets and ciggies in hand. If they are calling the OP rude for trying to eat and breath in peace, I don’t understand why she thinks they are wonderful and why she thinks they will respect ANY boundaries in the future, esp. if the OP and her future husband decide to have children.

  • DogLover February 22, 2012, 3:03 pm

    I totally agree with the admin and other suggestions on how to handle the situation. You are not wrong to be uncomfortable in this situation and hosting is a wonderful solution, or simply stepping out of the situation.

    I do want to clarify that a lot of people food is just fine for dogs. As long as you avoid the items that are toxic (I believe a list is posted above) there are many “people foods” dogs can eat. I think this myth is unfortunate because often supplementing kibble with fruits, veggies and meat can lead to a healthier dog. Note of course that there is no requirement this be fed from people plates or utensils or from the people table, but giving people food to dogs can be quite beneficial for them.

  • cheyne February 22, 2012, 4:02 pm

    The OP is far more forgiving than I am. These are not “minor annoyances” to me. Feeding pets directly from your eating utensil, then continuing to use it? When they are cooking, do they allow the pets to “taste” what’s in the pot then continue to use the spoon? There would be no way in ehell that I would eat so much as a cracker in their home (and the parrots would probably try to snatch that away).

    I don’t understand how anyone can be called nice if they try and put a reptile in your face or get you to pet it if you are uncomfortable doing so. These people are major boundary crossers IMO.

    My solution would be to meet them outside their home for a meal, or whenever I wished to visit with them. No pets, no smoking, no problem. If you do invite them to your home you need to make clear that the pets are not invited, and their is no smoking in your home. Be upfront about it so they can choose whether they want to come or not.

    OP, you’ll need to polish your spine o’ steel and deal with this now. It will not get any better on it’s own once you are married or Deity forbid have children.

  • --Lia February 22, 2012, 4:55 pm

    In addition to the admin’s excellent suggestion to entertain in your own home, I recommend clicker training. Here’s how it works. You bring a baggie full of yummy healthy dog biscuits. This dog food made for dogs. You keep it by your chair at dinner. Then you throw the dogs the biscuits but only when they’re politely lying down 2 feet from your chair and not whining. Google on clicker training for more info on how it works. Basically you throw the biscuits at longer and longer intervals until you’re only rewarding them at the end of the meal. There’s some stuff about a small noise you’ll need to make to signal that a biscuit is coming too. (You’re on your own as to the reptiles. I like fur. I don’t understand reptiles.)

  • kristin February 22, 2012, 6:27 pm

    @LovleAnjel: Your aside story made me laugh, because I have a cat who does the same thing – begs and usually turns her nose up at whatever I’ve got once I show it to her, but occasionally she digs in. It’s always the oddest thing she decides she wants to try. One time I watched her lick a potato chip across the floor and I almost cried from laughing so hard.

  • Zhoen February 22, 2012, 6:28 pm

    All the etiquette is covered. But these are not wonderful people. They have no respect for anyone who differs from them. They are neglecting their animals in the name of indulgence. They are careless of their son’s choice of spouse. They will be the same kind of grandparents. Look very hard at this guy you intend to marry, make sure he’s fallen far from that pair of trees. Build some really good fences, grow a very strong spine.

  • Vicky February 22, 2012, 7:15 pm

    I must agree with many of the posters and admin with regard to the manners of it all. The part about the reptile reminds me of my SIL and her bird. When my DH, DD and I would visit my MIL, my SIL (husband’s sister) would also come to visit and stay at MIL. She had a paraqueet, Pia and at her home, would let Pia out to fly around. So she felt that she could do the same thing at my MIL. When I voiced my discomfort at having the bird fly around me (it just creeped me out and I was fearful of certain natural processes), I was talked down to and made to feel that I was being unreasonable and foolish for not liking the bird. The compromise was to allow the bird to fly around the kitchen. This grossed me out even more since that is where we prepare food and having the bird land on the counters or table was skeevy. The ironic part was that everyone was very accommodating with regard to the dogs – they were put into the basement or room when a certain fearful family member would come over.

  • Cat February 22, 2012, 7:35 pm

    My Mother loved to open her mouth wide and let her dogs lick inside her mouth. She could not understand why I didn’t want her to kiss me. I love animals, but that made me sick.

    I’d refuse to be anywhere near the snake if it’s a constrictor. I am not afraid of them; I do not see them as pets. I do have a Florida Slider Turtle, but he doesn’t see himself as a lap turtle and I respect his decision.

    No matter how much I liked these folks, I think I’d decline staying at their home. I’d be happy to take them out to eat, but I am not sitting at a table and letting Fido/Mouser eat from my fork and I am not letting their smoke (legal or illegal) make me sick.

    For future invitations, I think I’d decline by saying, ” I am so sorry to have to decline, but I have many allergies which are made worse by pet dander and smoke. Do allow me to take you out to lunch at XXXXX. Will you meet me there at XX o’clock? I’ll be at the XXX Hotel.”

  • Jeanne February 22, 2012, 8:17 pm

    This sort of thing is a pet peeve of mine. Why do I have to love everyone’s animals? I have been scared of dogs since a childhood incident. I won’t hurt your animal but why do I have to let it jump on me or lick me? I wish people would be considerate of their guests. That’s part of hospitality.

  • PrincessSimmi February 22, 2012, 9:05 pm

    My family regularly feeds their dogs from the table. These dogs smell, are flea-covered, and generally badly behaved. Last time I visited them, the flea infestation was so bad that my cats now have fleas, my car has fleas, and I’m covered in bites. I told Mum that I will not be visiting again until they solve the flea problem, the smell problem, etc. Now I’m up for $350+ to clear my cats and apartment of fleas. Why can’t people be responsible pet owners?

    Solution? Stop going over. Make the rules you want in your home. You can’t change the rules in their home but you can remove yourself from the environment. Eventually if they miss you enough, they’ll make changes to make you want to be around them again.

    For me, added bonus – my family is allergic to cats, so they can’t visit me either.

  • MidoriBird February 22, 2012, 10:03 pm

    Could it be that the future in laws are being passive-aggressive towards the OP by smoking around her despite her having legitimate health issues and being ostentaneous about the pets despite her being clearly uncomfortable each time? I have known more than one family who got rid of people they disliked by “letting out all the stops”.

  • Kudeebee February 23, 2012, 12:10 am

    Guess I don’t agree with you that they are “wonderful” people. Wonderful people wouldn’t force their pets on you in any way, shape, or form. They would not make comments when yu have to move away from the smoke. I would be concerned about being around the illegal substances.

    I would cut back on visiting them in their home. Host them–with rules you and dh will agree on and enforce– or meet them in public places. I would visit them when the visits. Involve being outside like a BBQ and involve as little inside time as possible.

  • David February 23, 2012, 12:25 am

    I would be uncomfortable eating from a utensil that a different human mouth than mine had eaten from, much less any other type of animal. Also, I do not want pets or children jumping on me, especially during dinner.

    I recommend meeting your in-laws at places outside the home.

  • Etta Kett February 23, 2012, 2:22 am

    Wow, talk about not getting along with others (the in-laws). I like reptiles, but if I had one I would never insist a guest hold them. And you have to be pretty extreme to find it “odd” that some people don’t like them. And also insisting on smoking illegal drugs in front of you, and somehow you are the bad person for being uncomfortable with this?

    I can’t comprehend this. This isn’t low class, this is no class.

  • Typo Tat February 23, 2012, 7:20 am

    Is “wonderful” an euphemism in this story?

    OP, you need to realize that what’s happening isn’t minor or even tolerable. These people are treating you very badly, and it needs to stop. I’d suggest you move as far away as you can from the in-laws and cut them off. Don’t play host to these people – they’ll just come with their filthy habits into your home.

  • Mary February 23, 2012, 10:05 am

    Lia, clicker training is not for all dogs. When we took our dog in for training classes, the trainer first tried out the clicker with him. Our dog was terrified of that sound, even though there was always a treat involved. After so many sessions, the trainer said that clicker training was not an option for our dog.

  • L.J. February 23, 2012, 10:05 am

    It’s not going to go well. People like that have a mindset of: When you’re at their house they’re the hosts and get to do whatever they want. When they’re at your house they’re the guests and get to do whatever they want.

    Also, I’ve met precisely ONE considerate smoker in my entire 30+ years on this planet. All the rest felt they had a right to smoke wherever they liked and that anyone who objected was making an unnecessary fuss. If you don’t draw some boundaries now and speak up for yourself before the marriage, you can look forward to years of being treated poorly. And if you’re not willing to speak up for yourself, you’ll deserve it.

  • Kitty Lizard February 23, 2012, 10:10 am

    Sorry, but I agree with the consensus. These people sound pretty horrid. I’d be gasping and gagging, and I’m an animal lover. Quite frankly, if you stuck a snake in my face suddenly, I’d probably wrap it around your neck, and although I do feed my dog some carefully chosen people food, it’s in his own bowl and certainly not from my own eating utensils. I’m voting passive agressive and I don’t think they particularly like the OP – this is their way of letting her know it.

  • VltGrantham February 23, 2012, 10:21 am

    I’m sure this won’t be a popular opinion, but I think I might rethink the marriage altogether unless the fiance is willing to be more proactive about the health and well-being of his bride to be. There should be no “trying” to talk to the parents and/or allowing commentary that his fiance does not like animals because she doesn’t want to feed them from her plate, allow them to jump on her, or handle animals she is uncomfortable with. He should not be allowing his parents to insult her by claiming that she is rude for wanting to protect her health by moving away from a smoker. She has asthma for goodness sakes!

    The fiance might not be able to make his parents do anything, but him putting his foot down and making it clear that calling his fiance “rude” is to stop, post-haste, or future visits to their home will not happen and the relationship will be curtailed accordingly.

    I would definitely make sure that any future visits where either at my house or another location. And unless my fiance was going to make it clear that such commentary was not going to be tolerated, I would be putting forth a lengthy delay on the wedding.

  • Xtina February 23, 2012, 10:25 am

    The OP’s in-laws sound like rude boors, forcing their animals on their guests, especially when the guest (even though she is/will be family) does not care to interact with them. I have animals and would never even have thought to force a guest to interact with my pets if they didn’t want to. And allowing the pets to lick the utensils and plates and continue to eat/serve from them is not sanitary–but certainly is plenty gross. If I were the OP, I don’t know if I could willingly eat food prepared at that house. And the pot-smoking, knowing the OP’s feelings and health problems–again, rude, rude, rude on the part of the in-laws (not to mention illegal). Don’t know that the OP will be able to do anything to change the minds and manners of the in-laws, but entertaining at her own home is one way to go–another is to take matters into her own hands when she visits them at their home and pointedly avoid the animals or get suddenly busy when they try to hand one off to her. I’d probably also start bringing my own silverware and plates! 🙂

  • Patty February 23, 2012, 11:15 am

    Wow, they let snakes and lizards free to roam in the room whenever you are there? That’s a situation I wouldn’t like to be put in. I like animals, I might have no problem even hanging around a snake, but to let them out while eating? Without asking for my consent or noticing that I am uncomfortable? No, that goes way too far. I would also suggest to meet them outside the house.

    My parents also have a dog who hasn’t been trained to “act properly” at dinner 🙂 Which means, he’ll circle the table begging for food, put his head on someone’s thigh and so on. While that is accepted in the family (that is in the end their fault, they haven’t thaught the dog!), whenever there are guests, the dog stays out. That’s basic to me…

  • Chocobo February 23, 2012, 11:32 am

    For all the blustering about “thy home is thy castle” going on in the comment section, I think it is important to remember the following:

    1) Smokers must ask non-smokers if they might that they smoke. Smokers have unfortunately historically ignored this rule, to their own detriment, since everyone else got so fed up with it they started confining smokers to restricted areas, and then used the heavy hand of legislation to outlaw them altogether. This applies even within one’s own home when guests are over. It is one of the reasons that men and women were separated after dinner back in ancient history; the men (smokers) would stay behind to smoke and chat while the women (nonsmokers) retired to the parlor. The host would not have lit up in front of the ladies and just told them to deal with it because it was his house, so tough cookies.

    2) A host’s duty is to ensure the comfort of their guests while under their care. If one feels that their animals-in-residence are family, that’s fine, many people do. But if so, then they should be subject to both the privileges and the obligations of family status. Therefore when hosting, family and members of the household always take least precedence in their personal comfort. As such, duties when hosting guests may include giving the children something to keep them busy elsewhere in the house, or similarly keeping pets occupied for an animal-fearing or -allergic person. If one has both, even better — children and pets are wonderful at keeping each other entertained. Any host who invites a new guest to their home who has such family members should give fair warning, so that a guest may decline to attend, or in turn warn the host that they have allergies, etc., and alternate arrangements may be arranged if all else fails.

  • Enna February 23, 2012, 3:01 pm

    Asthma is a medical condition – the way that your future in-laws don’t understand that or ignore it isn’t good. I think your fiance should have a word with them in private. I like the idea of the dog biscuits and trying to train the dogs if possible. Animal mouths are dirty, but so are human mouths so it’s not just bad for humans its a good way to make the animals sick as well! If the future in-laws keep pushing you to feed the animals at the table using your utentsials just say “I don’t think human food is good for animals if they have it too much” or “I think that is unhygenic”.

    Admin’s idea is good – if you host it’s okay to set the rules but I also think smoking illegal substances in front of someone who disaproves of them is rude and offensive. Drugs ruin lives and is a very unethical trade that exploits people.

  • Wink-n-Smile February 23, 2012, 3:03 pm

    I agree – either host them at your place, or else meet them at a public place.

    If they ask you to come to thier house, explain that your allergies prevent you from enjoying yourself there, and you always feel ill afterwards. Mention that even if they are so very kind as to refrain from smoking while you are there, or even shut up or put out the animals (which, you must point out, you would NEVER ask them to do!), the dander, smoke residue and ash are still present, and you still have the same allergic/asthmatic reaction, anyway, so it would only make everyone uncomfortable.

    Then go on to say how much you enjoy their company, especially in such a lovely environment as (list your favorite public get-together-places here, such as restaurants, parks, and such), where you can give them your full attention. If they say they miss the pleasure of hosting, point out that you understand, and were it not for your physical frailties, you would oblige. However, their son is certainly not so encumbered, and he can visit them whenever it is agreeable to you all. Then, please, don’t be a clinger who won’t let her fiance/husband go visit his folks without her. Trust me, they’ll like you much better when you give them regular alone time with him.

  • Wink-n-Smile February 23, 2012, 3:13 pm

    Also, if you do plant to marry this man, you might want to start now, training the future grandparents on how life will be, once kids enter the picture (if they do, at all. It’s certainly not a given).

    Babies, toddlers, and young children are not strong, and should not be exposed to cigarette smoke. Add to that the possibility that they might inherit your physical frailties (allergies and asthma), and they must accept now that the kids will not be staying over at Granny’s place, and any visits will be very short. That is to say, you may let the kids out of the car long enough to greet the grandparents, pet the pets, and then load everyone up to go to the park, but that will be about it.

    Start to be on the lookout now for family-friendly (and pet-friendly) places where you can socialize together. Get them used to the idea. Also, if they are dead-set on having the kids sleep over (it really is a blast!), look for a nice hotel in the area, and get pricing, so you can make it a real special occasion. The kids get to hang with the grands, while the parents get some romantic time. And if you all meet at the hotel pool, that’s OK, too.

    The point is, you will not deny them visitation with the kids, but you WILL protect their health. Start now. And be sure to be the most welcoming hostess you possibly can, so they know you don’t have anything against them, personally. Plan outings to include the animals. Dog parks are becoming more and more common, and if you put your mind to it, you can come up with other ideas.

    Good luck!

  • the-Not-So-Divine-Miss-M February 23, 2012, 4:18 pm

    There are a few issues I’d like to address.-

    The first is that as a rule, a guest should not dictate to his/her host what he/she may or may not do in their own house. However, the exception to that rule is when it concerns health issues. So a polite, slightly-embarassed air of “gosh, I’m so sorry, but smoking aggravates my asthma horribly, please could we open a window” is perfectly acceptable. This covers both normal and extraordinary cigarettes. As for witnessing something illegal in your own country? Well, as a host, he’s allowed to make decisions for himself as long as they do not influence you, eealthwise or legally. Again, use the health angle.
    The second is a reiteration of the first rule.- their house, their pets, their norms. You need not participate in the spoon feeding, nor feeding at the table, nor the passing around of reptiles, however you should not begin to dictate their relations with their pets, only your own relation to their pets.
    I strongly agree with the Admin’s suggestion of cooing over the animals at appropriate times to show your general benign indifference to animals, allowing you better “social passes” to push them away.
    At some point, if the animals do not succeed with their behaviour (no food from you), they will stop attempting to solicit food from you.
    I have the same problem with my in-laws, since my MIL shares food with her dogs while I do not do the same with mine. I smile politely, warmly even, at her somewhat passive-aggressive jibes about my poor dog not being treated to an ice cream, and continue eating my own. These are the ways with parents and parents-in-law.
    The place where you can legitimately (though legitimately does not necessarily equal problem-free) set boundaries and except them to stick, is as Admin wrote in your own house. Entertain there instead, and stick to your rule guns (though for the sake of family harmony, do not ban the furry pets from your house altogether).


    As for the entire alpha-dominance-thingy described at some point. Ethologist have long since debunked the entire wolfy alpha myth. The American professor who first described it, now refuses to use the system and words because it is a gross oversimplification of a very complex infrastructure.
    Dogs, and wolfs, are not out to take over the world. They are opportunists, nothing more, nothing less. “Hey, if we do this behaviour, humans give us treats! Score!” is what goes through their minds. Although it can create nervous energy, annoyance, etc., the behaviour is unwanted only because of the nuisance to humans. I strongly recommed Hallgren’s “the Alpha Syndrome”.
    Some foodstuffs are directly toxic to dogs while some are just junk food, McTreats if you will. While they should not form the basis of an animal’s diet, they are no more harmful to an animal if fed occassionally, than a cheese burger is to humans.

  • Elizabeth February 24, 2012, 10:20 am

    I couldn’t imagine if my houseguest arrived with a bag of treats and decided to clicker train my dog! Would that guest also decide to train/correct/’fix’ a host’s toddler, too??

  • Wendy February 24, 2012, 5:07 pm

    My husband and I are both smokers. We smoke in our house but never when we have non-smoking guests. Whenever we have non-smoking guests, smoking is done outdoors on the patio. I would feel very uncomfortable subjecting guests to my smoke. These future in-laws are not considerate of their guest especially since they *know* OP is not comfortable with it.

  • Kate February 24, 2012, 10:25 pm

    OP, I have a similar situation with my future MIL. She has three dogs, and they are allowed to jump on people when they are sitting at the table or on the couch, eat from ‘human’ utensils and plates etc. Her family have all been raised with dogs behaving like this and see no problem with it, but I’m really not an ‘animals in the house’ sort of person and HATE being jumped on or licked by animals.
    I eventually ended up having a discussion with her and said that while I appreciate her love for her dogs, I would prefer not to have them jump or climb on me, and is there anything I can do to discourage that behaviour? She is more aware of it now and will usually tell the dogs ‘no’ if they come near me.

  • Enna February 25, 2012, 6:12 am

    Sounds to me that the future in-laws are either very clueless or they don’t like her that much.

  • c February 26, 2012, 11:33 am

    Several things wrong with the in- laws:
    1.) They have no social graces: it is rude, rude, rude to insist that a guest touch a wild animal they they obviously are uncomfortable touching . It is also so trashy to then mock the guest by maknig a comment that they must not like animals for refusing to touch said animal.
    2.) Letting animals jump on guests is very presumputious that eveyone likes you pets… some people do not like to have anmals jump on them.
    3.) Letting their dogs lick form their eating utensils?! Gross!!!Parasite eggs such as roundworm and hookworms can be passed to humans this way. If any of you are unfamiliar with these parasites, roundworms can cause blindness in people… children are more prone to this… hookworms can cause what is known as ground itch( a nasty skin infection). The dog or cat may have just finished licking it’s ass right before licking the eating utensil thus spreading the parasite egg.
    I work in the animal field and have a blue heeler. I know that she eats her own poop and therefore, she is not allowed to lick our faces . She is also put outside when we have company. People just do not realize how nasty is it to let a dog lick your face let alone lick the very utensil you are eating from. Nasty.
    4.) Smoking around children is tantamount to abuse. Their lungs are still developing. Just wrong to do that.
    So, entertaining on your own turf seems to be that only solution here. Set down your rules… no pets no smoking.

  • Vicki February 26, 2012, 4:46 pm

    Miss M’s suggestion sounds friendly, but it could be hard on the letter writer’s health: if she has asthma, having animals in her house, even briefly, could trigger an attack, because they will leave dander around.
    If the future in-laws care about her (or even want to pretend they do), they’ll accept “I like cats and dogs, but I can’t have them in my house, because asthma attacks are scary things. Losing work days is bad enough, and I really don’t want to be hospitalized.”

    It isn’t like putting up with a little bit of someone else’s music you can’t stand, or letting them show you their vacation pictures.

  • MellowedOne February 27, 2012, 9:58 am

    This story exemplifies the saying, ‘having the right does not make it right’.

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