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Miss Manners: Must I greet the humans, or can I skip to the dogs?

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Miss Manners

Judith Martin, columnist for Miss Manners

Dear Miss Manners: I used to be a dog walker, and I really like dogs. When we are out for a hike and I see someone approaching with a dog, I have the urge to say hi to the animal.

Is this impolite? I guess the normal thing is to address the person and say "Cute dog" — but that's really not what I feel like doing. What about saying hi to both the person and the dog?

Gentle Reader: "Cute dog!" said — or shouted — to the owner in passing is perfectly fine, as long as there is no expectation that the interaction go further.

In that case, Italians, adept in the art of combining the pragmatic with the sentimental, have a phrase that we would do well to adopt: "E buono?" or "Is he good?"

Miss Manners supposes that Americans will take issue with questioning a dog's morality, but it is meant to protect the prospective petter from a precarious temperament. And not necessarily that of the dog.

Dear Miss Manners: When ordering a wedding present from an online registry for the daughter of an acquaintance, I specified that the gift be delivered to the bride's home, where she lives with her parents. The couple did not provide an email address for what was offered as a "gift receipt" — which apparently allows recipients to return or exchange presents without the prices being revealed — so I used the email address of the bride's mother.

I don't know how this "gift receipt" was worded, but it was clearly vague enough that it misled the bride's mother into thinking the present was intended for her, not the bridal couple. She sent me a warm thank-you.

What should I do? The mother will be embarrassed if she realizes I did not send her an expensive gift out of the blue. The only options I can think of are pretending never to have seen the texted thank-you, letting the family sort it out when the gift arrives addressed to the couple, or buying another of the same item and shipping it to the mother. 

I suppose the latter is the better option, and should be considered the unfortunate price to be paid for cooperating with the lunacy of a wedding registry in the first place. What do you say?

Gentle Reader: Both of your proposed scenarios, Miss Manners is afraid, will alert the mother of her mistake. But one is at the greater expense to you.

Perhaps you may reply instead, "I hope that you will all enjoy the 'His and Hers' cashmere bathrobes while Tabatha is still staying there, but this particular set was intended for her and Marshall. I would be happy to procure some for you and Howard, though, for another occasion."

It is unlikely that she will agree to this, but if she does, at least you will be able to check those two off your list with something that you know will please them.


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