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Sympathy letter for pet's death?

Dear Miss Manners: My sister and I both have elderly pets. When one of my pets passed away, I received a number of very kind expressions of sympathy from every member of my family, including my brother.

After my sister's oldest pet was put to sleep, I very naturally wanted to comfort her as best I could from several states away, and sent her a sympathy card as well as a handwritten note. Our brother, however, has not been in contact with our sister in the month following the loss of her favorite pet.

Our sister is brokenhearted and quite upset that our brother can't seem to take five minutes out of his day to call our sister to make an expression of sympathy.

Miss Manners, please help me understand what etiquette surrounds the passing of a pet.

Gentle Reader: Pet etiquette is not the issue here; family etiquette is.

Miss Manners is not going to tell you that handwritten condolence letters must be sent whenever someone's pet dies. There are people who feel that an animal is equivalent to a person, and others, including many fond pet-owners, who do not.

The problem here is that your sister is in the former category, and your brother is not, and may even be unaware that your sister is. You, however, are, and furthermore, he is your brother too.

So why are you letting this fester? Why aren't you saying to your brother, "Becky is taking the loss of Thackery very hard, and I know she'd love to have an expression of sympathy from you"? Miss Manners suspects that another relative's prompting him may have produced the expression of sympathy that you received under similar circumstances.

> Go with assigned seating

Dear Miss Manners: We have a variety of chairs at our dining room table. Some are antiques and a little fragile, but fine for the normal-sized person, while other chairs are new.

We have a group of people over for dinner a few times a year, and the problem is, one of the fellows is much larger than average. We never have had assigned seating, but how do I guide him to one of the new chairs without making him feel badly about his size?

Gentle Reader: With assigned seating. Why hosts balk at this most basic of duties, Miss Manners cannot imagine.

Do they suppose that guests enjoy standing around awkwardly and then plopping down next to someone with whom they have nothing in common -- or, more likely, someone with whom they have everything in common (but now is not the time to discuss who is going to the PTA meeting next week or whether the dishwasher needs to be replaced)?

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