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DEAR Virginia,

This may sound trivial but I have a very good friend who, two years ago, acquired a large dog. She dotes on this horrible beast and last year she came to stay for a weekend in my flat, bringing it with her. It howled all night, peed on my carpet, scratched the paint off my doors and slept on her bed, leaving masses of dog hairs. She's proposed coming again – but do you think I could ask her to leave the dog at home? I don't like dogs anyway, but this one is particularly horrible. Or am I just being mean?

Yours sincerely, Emma

DOGS. Don't get me started, as they say. I'm with you on this one. I can just cope with small ones, but big ones, with their drooling mouths, their smelly breath and their great wagging tails, aimed at clearing any low surface of all its ornaments, not to mention the way they're always either sniffing up your skirt or licking all your make-up off with their slobbery, rasping tongues ... yuck.

But: she loves him. And you love her. And we all have to put up with our friends' obsessions. If your friend had a two-year-old who rampaged round your flat breaking things, kept you awake screaming at night and laid waste to all around him, would you ask her to leave him at home?

No. If she had married a ranting, prejudiced, burping, sexist and obnoxious man, would you ask her to leave him at home? It wouldn't be possible.

It's easy to say, "Tell the friend to put it into kennels." But you're imposing not just expense on your friend but asking her, temporarily, to dump a relationship.


The dog will be feeling abandoned; your friend will be worrying herself sick about it and will miss it. This is a big downside to a weekend with an old friend.

You're also saying to your friend: "I love you but not the things you love." Can you make a friendship conditional like this? I don't think so.

Either ask her again, but try to minimise the damage by covering her bed with an old sheet, getting some earplugs and laying down a few very simple ground rules such as no scratching at the doors.

Ask her for advice, perhaps, on how to minimise the disruption – "to make it nicer for poor old Rover," you could say, "who didn't seem to have such a good time the last time you brought him." Or, in future, make arrangements to see her on neutral ground between your two homes, or go on day trips, perhaps?

The dog may "just be a dog" to you, but to your friend he is a vulnerable child, a playful husband, a protective father and a dog.

You either have to drop your friend or see much less of her, or lie through your teeth and, by regarding the dog as some kind of disability, do your best to accept this wretched animal as part of her.