Miss Debrett on... Pets
People and their pets can be positively
embarrassing. As you eavesdrop on an
apparently cogent (but inevitably
one-sided) conversation between
a man and his dog, or watch a
woman twittering baby-voiced
endearments at her cat, you're
filled with the overwhelming
urge to point out "They're only
animals! Not people!"
Long tales of animal illness,
visits to vets, travails and
suffering are reminiscent of accounts of relatives' final illnesses. Hollow-eyed bereavement (when the dog, cat, budgerigar finally meets its maker) is excruciating.
Yes, they're only animals, and people - surely? - are more important. But there comes a point when you have to accept the absolutely crucial role pets play in many people's lives. Sometimes the reasons are blindingly obvious - the childless couple, the lonely widower, the elderly woman with no family living nearby. Or maybe the animal just enhances and enriches everyone's life, and has become a much-loved part of the family.
It's only polite, therefore, to treat the pet-owner's passion with respect and sympathy. Ask after the dog or cat. Commiserate
over its ill-health. Share in the owner's bereavement at the
Just don't feel you have to succumb to the baby voices - that really is a step too far…
Miss Debrett's Top Tips
- Respect the centrally important role that animals play in many peoples' lives.
- Try to be polite and show interest in their pets' welfare.
- Remember, however, that pets should never take priority over people.