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Holiday Pet Peeves

Do your prep work before bringing animals along to family gatherings — or hosting them in your home

Respect the ground rules. The person who has the ground sets the rules, and the decision to bend or break them is theirs to make. If you want to bring your pet to a family gathering but your son-in-law says absolutely no, you have to respect that. Arrange to stay at a pet-friendly hotel or leave your pet behind, boarded or with a pet-sitter. Likewise, the person who demands you remove a member of your family (the furry one) as a condition of his visit is barking up the wrong tree.

Negotiate. Negotiations can start when the boundaries are established. Pets may be welcome if they'll stay in a crate when unattended, for example, or someone with mild pet allergies could be accommodated in a clean room that's off limits to pets. Again, make sure nothing is left to misinterpretation. If you're hosting a pet, make it clear there are certain conditions to its visit. And if you're bringing yours, spell out your plans for cleaning up after your animal.

Compromise. While there's likely no compromise where health and safety are involved, everything else is up for debate. Moving a gathering to a restaurant may be the answer sometimes, as can be setting up visitors in nearby hotels. Accommodating a visiting pet who's happy to relax in a crate or carrier can work as well, even in a home not set up for pets, and if a host is gracious enough to allow pets on the bed, it's wise for the visitor to provide her own bedcovers, if possible.

Remember, assume nothing, anticipate problems and try to get along. If everyone does, the pet peeves of the holiday season will remain the old staples of politics and religion, with the animals blessedly left out as a topic for holiday strife.

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