Mary Killen

Your Problems Solved | 31 July 2004

Etiquette advice from The Spectator's Miss Manners

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Dear Mary...

Q. I wonder if I might pass on this little tip to your readers. We have recently had new neighbours move in who keep a terrier, which is locked in the house all day while the owners are out at work. The constant whining and barking of the bored and lonely dog was driving us to distraction, and the new neighbours seemed disinclined to do anything about it. The solution turned out to be simple — laxative chocolate, removed from its wrapper, and pushed through the letterbox. After coming home to a house full of dog excrement for only two days in a row (minimalist decor with white carpets), they made other arrangements. And if you are worried about any allegations of cruelty to the dog, the terrier is now boarded out with a dog-walker during office hours, where he has a vastly improved existence with plenty of company, fresh air and exercise. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.

Name and address withheld

A. I was delighted with your tip until I ran it past the dog expert Maureen Osborne, who scolded that human chocolate containing theobromine can prove fatal to dogs, which is why they must eat only specially prepared canine choc drops. She also scolded that the innocent terrier might have sustained prolapse or rupture through his ordeal, to say nothing of a possible beating from his cruel owners. Sufferers from this widespread problem might prefer to take a tip from an acquaintance of mine who solved it by ‘lethargy selling’. She advertised for a dog-minder, called him round for an interview and, slipping him a tenner, persuaded him to knock on her neighbour’s door offering his services and claiming that he noticed the dog was barking each time he walked past with his other charges. They jumped at the offer. They had been meaning to look for someone and had simply not got round to it.

Q. Please can you settle an argument. I recently attended a party given by a host with a famously large fortune. I was invited as a friend of a friend. Thirty or more tables were set up throughout the downstairs of the house and we all sat down to dinner. Each table (for eight) had one or two disposable cameras on it. Was I supposed to photograph my fellow guests, then take the camera home as a souvenir for myself? Or was I supposed to leave the camera behind so that my hosts could have the photographs developed and keep them for themselves?

S.O., London SW12

A. The normal protocol is that you leave them for your hosts to develop and keep. Many hosts find that their celebrity and grandee guests prefer this method of record-keeping to the intrusion of being photographed by an unknown party photographer.