Friday, 04 September 2015

The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 4 September

If a family friend adopts a bereaved pet, can they then do what they like with it? Thomas Blaikie advises

Written by Thomas Blaikie
Dear Thomas,
My mother died recently and it was a huge relief when a friend asked if he could have her Border terrier, Toggle. I was only too delighted. A few days later I phoned this friend to find out how Toggle was getting along. ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘I had to give her away. She chased my chickens.’ Was I right to be upset?
Lindy Needham, Stowmarket

Dear Lindy,
You often hear touching tales of poor bereaved pets being rescued by kind souls. A friend of mine’s mother had an elderly epileptic dachshund, and when she died Battersea Dogs Home said they couldn’t take an animal with a medical condition. The family were in despair. They faced having to put him down, which would have been the last straw in the circumstances. In the end they put out an SOS on Facebook. Somebody showed up from the other end of the country. The one thing they wanted, it transpired, was an elderly epileptic dachshund. So they came down to London and took him away.

In your case, Lindy, you may think your friend was doing you a favour in dealing with the ‘problem’ of your recently deceased mother’s dog, but to be blunt about it, he was getting a pedigree dog for free. It seems he was keen to have her. So just to give her away after only a few days is incredible. The excuse seems feeble as well. What dog doesn’t like to chase chickens?

At the very least, he should have offered to return Toggle to you, although to be fair, he may have thought it best to spare you in your bereaved condition. On the other hand, if your friend is taking the line that the dog was his to do what he liked with (let’s hope not), then that would be terribly insensitive and unfair. Of course you’re concerned about the fate of your mother’s dog, and I shouldn’t be surprised if Toggle having to be rehomed hasn’t added to your sorrow and loss. So naturally you want to have news of her and to know that she is well and happy.

But something doesn’t add up about this. I wonder if your friend acted in haste and/or there isn’t someone in his household who would never have agreed to have Toggle. Maybe that’s the reason she only lasted a few days and explains your friend’s offhand behaviour towards you. He’s got into an awful muddle and is being defensive. It’s often when people feel guilty or know they’re in the wrong that they behave the worst.

Let’s hope you don’t fall out for good over this. Anyway, we’ll be most anxious to know what has become of Toggle. Maybe it’ll all turn out for the best. I do hope so.

Please send your questions to thomas.blaikie@lady.co.uk or write to him at The Lady, 39-40 Bedford Street, London WC2E 9ER

WHAT TO DO ABOUT… MISOPHONIA

This is hatred of sounds such as chewing, sniffing, lip-smacking and clicking pens. There’s dispute amongst the psychiatric community as to whether this is a genuine separate disorder, but some people have a very marked reaction. They can’t go to family dinners (it’s worse if someone you’re close to is chewing or sniffing) and their lives can be disrupted by the aggressive feelings these noises provoke.

It could be that this extreme response is a part of another disorder, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder. I wonder if fear of intimacy and fear of being out of control aren’t something to do with it, since these sounds are (a) an indication of another human body nearby, and (b) being produced unconsciously on the whole. We can all recognise symptoms of misophonia in ourselves to some extent, especially if we’re in a woundup, anxious state. Once you become aware that someone is clicking their pen or whatever, it’s impossible to ignore. But avoid barking, ‘For heaven’s sake stop that.’ Try a general conversation on the topic of clicking pens. Buy them a new Biro that doesn’t click.


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