“My Parents’ Dog Crapped on my Aunt’s Cream-Colored Carpet and Now They Won’t Come Home For the Holidays”

Over the years, my family holiday celebrations have included: me and my husband, my parents, my paternal aunt, uncle, two cousins and my paternal grandma. My aunt always hosts. My parents live about a three-hour drive from all the rest of us, and since they’ve both retired, they usually sleep over at my aunt’s house and leave first thing in the morning. In the past, my folks have always brought their large breed dogs (standard poodles) to my aunt’s house as they have difficulty finding a sitter on holidays. The dogs have been generally well-behaved but not really trained. Last year at Thanksgiving, my parents brought their poodles and the younger one took a massive dump on my aunt’s cream-colored carpet despite being walked several times. I’m sure the dog was anxious at being in a new place, but it was unfortunate. After the holiday, I had to strongly suggest to my father that he apologize and offer to pay for carpet cleaning – which he did. However, my aunt decided that she no longer wants the dogs at her house, and she suggested we hold our holiday get-togethers on “off” days so we can still all be together but my parents can find a sitter and leave the dogs at home. I thought this was perfectly reasonable.

We suggested they put the dogs in a kennel, but they refuse as they put a former poodle into a kennel when we all went on a week’s vacation together and that dog cried himself into a life-threatening health condition that required several thousand dollars’ worth of surgery to save his life. Sadly, my parents do not find either solution reasonable at all, and they have pitched a fit. Last year’s Christmas was celebrated without my parents who refused to come without their dogs. “These dogs are our children” they like to say – which, as their only child, I find hurtful.

My aunt, grandmother, and I have traveled out to visit my parents a couple times over the past year, but this has been hanging over everyone’s head. My father has continued to try and guilt his sister into changing her mind, but we all agree it’s better not to have these big dogs underfoot on the holiday. First, for all the poop and peeing issues and also because there is potential for the big dogs to knock over Grams, who is 94 now and frail (she’s fallen many times recently and fractured her spine).

For Thanksgiving this year, my parents suggested everyone drive the three hours to their house to celebrate, but Grams is often in pain, which make long drives not really an option for her, and I had to work the next day, so we all declined. My home is too small and my three cats would not welcome two big dogs into their space. So my parents chose to stay home with the dogs and cook for themselves. The rest of us all got together at my aunt’s. When I called that night to check in with my parents, I was told: “Well, I guess no one missed us at all.” I do not react well to passive-aggressive statements and responded that they were eating alone as a result of their own decision and they had no reason to be upset with anyone else. Today I got a text from Mom saying that my “tone of voice and absolving of my aunt’s partial responsibility in all this” was hurtful to them.

Before I lose my mind, Wendy, can I ask for an outside opinion here? Am I wrong in believing that, as the host, my aunt has every right to ban the dogs from her house despite welcoming them for years in the past? What possible reason do my parents have for believing they’ve been wronged here? — Stuck in the Middle with Yams

You are not wrong for believing that, as host, your aunt has every right to ban dogs who take huge dumps on her cream-colored carpet or the owners of said dogs who don’t seem to understand how rude it is to bring these untrained pets into other people’s homes! Honestly, your parents sound a little nuts. At the very least, they are selfish. They’re also liars. They don’t bring their dogs because “it’s hard to find a sitter”; they bring their dogs because they want to and they don’t care how it affects anyone else. It’s not like they don’t know when Thanksgiving or Christmas is. If they really wanted to get a sitter for their dogs — and they don’t! — they’d book far in advance. It’s not difficult to plan ahead. They just really, really don’t want to. Have you asked them why they don’t plan ahead? Have you suggested to them that they book a sitter now for next Thanksgiving since everyone missed seeing them so much?

Another option for them would be to find lodging in your town that allows dogs. AirBnBs or pet-friendly motels or hotels would be an answer. They’d have to leave the dogs for a few hours while they joined everyone for the holiday meal, but surely they’ve left their dog alone for a few hours before?! If anxiety is an issue, they could talk to their vet about ways to alleviate the anxiety. They could also crate the dogs in whatever lodging they found so that any accidental large dumps would be taken inside the crate and not all over the hotel room/airbnb. And if they crated the dogs at an AirBnB so as not to get in Granny’s way, maybe they could even host everyone for a potluck so they’d be able to check on the dogs regularly and let them out for walks.

Another option is that you and your husband travel to spend holidays with your parents, without your aunt and uncle and grandmother and cousins. Maybe you don’t do this for *every* holiday, but you alternate. It seems that if you live in the same town as your extended relatives, you can see them kind of whenever you want, and it would be a nice gesture to make the three-hour drive to see your parents on some holidays, even if it means missing an occasional holiday get-together with Grams, et al. As passive-aggressive as your parents are acting — and they are acting like children! — I can kind of see how they might be hurt by the perception that you’d rather spend a holiday with your aunt than with them. (I’m not saying that’s true, but I can see how they might see it that way.)

The real issue here is that none of you can meet in the middle (metaphorically, I mean, although maybe literally meeting in the middle could be an option, too), and all of you are acting like there aren’t other reasonable options (your parents being the worst offenders of this, by far). Holidays don’t have to be celebrated ON their actual days, they don’t have to be celebrated all together with the same people every single year (or every single occasion), and they don’t always have to be celebrated at the same place. I would remind your parents of this, tell them you missed them on Thanksgiving and that, although it is no longer an option for them to bring their untrained dogs to your aunt’s house, there are still numerous options for you to spend a holiday together and you want to work with them to figure out one that works best to try as soon as you all can. If they continue to suggest that the only option is for them to bring their dogs to your aunt’s and that your aunt is keeping you all from being together by banning their dogs, I’d let them know that you’re over the family politics and you and your husband will be spending the holiday season in Cabo next year, the end.


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  1. OK, my dogs are my “babies” and I don’t like boarding them – they freak out, too – and therefore, I generally either have someone they know come to my home and petsit or take them with me when I travel. You can find pet-friendly hotels everywhere and in 10 years, it’s never once been a problem. So, the easiest solution here is for your parents to stay in a pet-friendly place nearby your aunt, leave the dogs there during the festivities, and then go home to their “babies.” Surely family harmony is worth the price of one night in a pet friendly hotel.

  2. Artsygirl says:

    LW – I have three very large fur babies so I understand why your parents are so attached but Wendy and you are right, they are being unreasonable. I would suggest something like Rover (which even has a service where a sitter will stay overnight in your house with pets). Of course, as pointed out, it is likely that they don’t want to be at all accommodating requests of the rest of the family. The fact that you had to tell your father that he needed to apologize and offer to pay for the cleaning alone tells you that he feels entitled.

  3. dinoceros says:

    Your parents are definitely in the wrong. It sounds like it crossed over from being about the logistics to just being out of spite. I assume they are hoping that being passive-aggressive will guilt people into eventually giving in. But they are making the choice not to come. I guess I don’t really understand how people with pets that are THAT high-maintenance life their lives — do they never go anywhere normally? I say that because I’ve known people who couldn’t leave their pet to go to a gathering, but would leave them while they were work all day. Personally, I think it’s better for the pet to teach/train them to tolerate other situations, as sometimes it’s out of your control. If an emergency happens, you don’t want to be in a situation where you’re worrying about your pet as much as the emergency.

  4. Northern Star says:

    When your ill-behaved dogs actually destroy someone else’s stuff and it doesn’t even occur to you to fix or replace it—you’re basically a jerk. 94-year-old Grandma isn’t going to be here forever. Let your selfish parents sulk alone at home while you spend time with her for the holidays.

  5. As Wendy mentioned, there are these magic things called dog sitters that will come over to your parents’ house twice a day. There are even dog sitters that will do overnights! I used to do overnight dog sitting for folks who liked the comfort of having someone in the house, who had dogs with separation anxiety issues, etc..

    1. Yup! And I will generally even fit you in day of if necessary. If they can’t find a sitter at all, it’s because their dogs are unmanageable and unruly around unknown people. I won’t take those at any price. Her parents are being jerks.

  6. I totally agree about the hotel. Just find a residence Inn. I will note, when people are passive aggressive, I normally go for the root emotion. Say to your mother, “I am sorry you were lonely and we did miss you. But it hurt my feelings that you chose the dogs over us. You could have gotten a hotel and you chose to stay home alone.” Be direct but kind. Don’t let this passive stuff happen.

    1. Residence Inn. La Quinta. Hyatt. All dog friendly… and there are probably plenty more, plus airbnbs.

  7. wobster109 says:

    Since your aunt is hosting, and since she’s offered to have the celebration on an off-day, I say next year she should just plan it for the off day. She doesn’t need your parents to agree to it. Just send out the invite with the new date and time.

  8. You should require that every LW work “massive dump” into their posts.

  9. Oh LW, I really feel for you. Your parents are being ridiculous about their dogs when, as others have mentioned, there are plenty of workarounds here– hotel, dog sitter, etc. But your aunt is also being kind of ridiculous about her carpet. I mean, everybody poops and the carpet has since been cleaned so why hold it against the dogs (and their owners) for life.
    I’d bet that your aunt has been looking for a reason to disinvite your parents and they’ve been looking for a reason not to come. But you, poor LW, are trapped in the middle of all this crap, but not totally without power. Call your parents on their crap. Decide for yourself who you want to see for what holiday, and maybe throw mom and dad a bone by adding them to the holiday rotation (or for a nearby weekend).

    1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      If the dog did that at my house it wouldn’t welcome to come back, at least not inside. For one, it is disgusting, especially during a holiday with a house full of people. Nobody needs to be watching for dog poop while enjoying a holiday. Second, who knows how often the dogs pee without it being as obvious. Third, even if the dog’s owners paid for the carpet cleaning either the aunt or uncle had to be home while the cleaning happened. So either somebody has to be retired or somebody had to use a vacation day to be there when the cleaners arrived. I personally am not going to use my vacation time to clean up the mess that someone’s dog made. The dog wouldn’t be in my house again. Not everyone is fine living with poop. It’s not like the cleaning happens instantaneously.

    2. dinoceros says:

      Nobody has a natural right to bring their dogs (especially big dogs) over to someone else’s house. Nobody is owed that. I don’t know anybody who does that, unless it’s a situation where the other person has dogs who want to see their playmates. I assume the aunt was probably barely tolerating the dogs to begin with — they track dirt, leave hair, lick people/things. A lot of people would have not allowed the dogs at all, poop or not poop. The LW also indicates the dogs are not trained. And then to top it all off, the LW’s parents had to be bugged to even handle the poop situation right. I don’t see how the aunt is at fault at all here.

    3. Ele4phant says:

      What? How is the aunt being unreasonable?

      She didn’t disinvite them – she just doesn’t want the dogs there anymore. She even offered compromises like moving the date so the parents would have an easier time finding an alternative.

      It’s totally reasonable IMO to not want those dogs in her house again. I don’t allow dogs in my house – even those that haven’t pooped yet inside, because I don’t want to tell with what dogs might do in my house. That’s why I don’t have one.

      1. ele4phant says:

        And frankly, it’s not just the poop. They have an elderly grandmother, and the dogs are untrained and rowdy – that creates a safety issue for her. Are the dogs *more* important to the LW’s parents than their own mother’s safety that they can’t find a way to leave them at home for a day?

    4. If you knew the only way you’d see your sister for a holiday was to let her bring her dog, you wouldn’t let it in your house? It just seems like an outsized reaction to cause basically a family rift over some carpet.

      I guess I’m just a crazy dog lady because a friend’s dog did poop in my house and we cleaned it up and it was no big deal and I certainly didn’t disinvite either my friend or her dog from future house gatherings.

      1. dinoceros says:

        If you knew the only way you’d see your brother for a holiday was to hire a pet sitter for a day, you wouldn’t get a pet sitter? I guess I don’t understand why all the blame would be placed on the aunt for this conflict. Would it be nice of her to let them bring the dogs no matter what? Sure. Is she obligated to? No. It’s not unreasonable for a person to not be able to bring their pets every single place they go.

      2. dinoceros says:

        Also, I think that was supposed to be sister? But I can’t even really keep track.

      3. I did not place all of the blame on the aunt. The parents absolutely are the most at fault here. They are dogs and should be treated like dogs. I send my dog to the kennel all the time.

        But that doesn’t mean that the aunt is totally blameless because she did have the option to be magnanimous for the sake of family harmony and chose, instead, to get bent out of shape about carpet.

      4. ele4phant says:

        Look – animal poop in my house is a big red line for me. And a lot of people. While you may be a huge dog lover and be cool with it, plenty of folks are less tolerant and that’s okay.

        And the Aunt has tried to compromise here – she’s offered to make it easier for the parents to find a place they trust to leave the dog by moving the date to a non-holiday. The parents are continuing to be unreasonable by insisting their way or the highway. They were not at Thanksgiving because they decided they would only go under their conditions, not because the Aunt made it unduly hard on them.

        Get a dog-sitter to stay with the animals in their house. Stay in a hotel that allows dogs. They had options.

        This is her home, she’s allowed to have limits. That she held firm when her sibling and their spouse tried to manipulate her into getting their way is not being unreasonable. Sheesh.

      5. (nope, you’re right, its the dad’s sister… so i got my sister/brother backwards)

        Ok I’ll agree that the aunt did try many things to accommodate and I definitely agree the parents are being manipulative.
        But I definitely still stand by the belief that the aunt was looking for a reason to disinvite them and this was just a convenient (steaming pile of) reason to do that.

        It just sucks for LW that she can’t get the family together because everyone is digging in their heels on this.

      6. SpaceySteph —
        Really, nothing in this suggests that the aunt was looking for a reason to disinvite LW’s parents. All she did was disinvite the dogs after they showed they couldn’t be trusted in her house. That seems perfectly reasonable. As you say, she offered many alternatives. Even relatives aren’t required to accommodate the pets of their house guests — allergies, mess, just big animals bumping around the house. This is one step beyond those parents who get bent out of shape if they are invited to a ‘no children’ event. There are occasions where children are appropriately not wanted. Doubly so for large dogs.

        Second, the aunt didn’t demand an apology, the LW demanded that her father apologize to his sister. An apology was certainly warranted, as was an offer to pay to clean the carpet. The LW’s father was boorish here. Beyond that, the LW feels more bent out of shape and insulted than her aunt does. Her parents now count the poodles as ‘their children’, without mentioning her and she feels displaced from her birth family. I think she is over-reacting, because that is just how many older folks think after their kids move out and it’s just them and their pets. Still, their ‘we don’t consider ourselves welcome anywhere our dogs aren’t welcome’ approach to social occasions is bizarre, even by the standards of typical empty nesters. I put 100% of the ‘blame’ on LW’s parents, who refuse to accept any compromise and can’t see a difference between their dogs and actual children. Love your pets, sure, but this takes it to the very sad and silly level. I no longer have pets for allergy reasons, but we did not travel with our pets, we know many very strong pet lovers and they also typically don’t travel with their pets. The expectations of LW’s parents lie FAR outside the norm. Rather than the aunt looking for an excuse not to invite LW’s parents, I think the parents, if their heads are still screwed on halfway straight, seized upon an excuse to avoid family functions while feeling holier than thou. They are in their bunker with their new children and family has become part of the world of ‘other’ with whom they have a beef.

      7. ele4phant says:

        @StaceySteph, I mean she was offered to inconvenience everyone else in the family by moving the celebration of Thanksgiving to a different date – just so they go have an easier time finding care for their dogs.

        I really don’t see where you’re getting the idea that the Aunt was hoping they wouldn’t come and was the dogs as an excuse to dis-invite them.

        However, she had a firm line and wasn’t going to capitulate to their unreasonable demands.

        Which frankly – if it were me, those dogs (any dogs) wouldn’t be welcome in my house from the outset. My exclusion of them is never mind to discourage dog owners from coming into my house, but it’s my house and I don’t want dogs in it. Period. I think the Aunt has been more than reasonable in trying to work with her sibling.

    5. “But your aunt is also being kind of ridiculous about her carpet. I mean, everybody poops and the carpet has since been cleaned so why hold it against the dogs (and their owners) for life.”

      No, the aunt is actually bending over backwards to accommodate them. She is being very reasonable and not at all ridiculous. Yes, everybody poops, but most of us poop in the toilet. I fortunately haven’t dog poop on my white carpet, but I would imagine it would still leave some discoloration after being cleaned. Poop is poop. It is gross, disgusting, unsanitary, and I want my carpet clean, thank-you-very-much.

      1. “But that doesn’t mean that the aunt is totally blameless because she did have the option to be magnanimous for the sake of family harmony and chose, instead, to get bent out of shape about carpet.”

        It is pretty expensive to recarpet a house. And often you have to do multiple rooms or the entire floor/house at once so you can avoid a mismatch.

  10. Guilt and embarrassment make people aggressive. That is how I understand your parent’s behavior. They are ashamed of this disgusting event and would rather think it never happened. So they project their guilt on your aunt and make HER the guilty one. Low. Anyway, it is classic that impolite people create a drama for the others. My advice would be to be solution oriented with your parents. Say that the dogs won’t enter your aunt’s home anymore, ever, but everybody would like to be able to celebrate with your parents, so you can help finding a solution. Try to be explicitly the embassy for a solution making, and say that there should be efforts on both sides. Your aunt chose an easy day for sitter. And you can propose to find yourself a sitter or find a hotel where the dogs can come. No one is allowed to impose pets on hosts, the guest should on the contrary ask for permission : you can recall that basic rule of politeness to your folk. If your parents refuse your help, then there is nothing anymore you can do. You can visit them sometimes but they will have created their own isolation. All this is probably better discussed in person at their place.

  11. My dog is my baby too, so I get that. I never board her either. What I do is what your parents need to do…you find a really nice person who takes dogs into their home and watches them while you are gone a few days. I had a friend who would take my dog when I went out of town and I would take her dog when she was out of town. Our dogs were great buddies. When we moved I made friends with a woman who pet sat as her job. She would have our dog go stay at her house and my dog got to know her and her dog and thought of it as her 2nd home. I could tell my dog was comfortable there. Yes, she could take my dog on holidays too. We moved again and I found a really nice woman who comes and stays at our home! She LOVES our pets and they love her. I can tell my dog (who is elderly now) likes the stability of staying in her own home. Traveling makes her nervous now. Those parents have options that are not boarding and they really need to stop being so stubborn and start looking into things.

  12. NorthernCoast says:

    Great picture choice, btw, Wendy. You can just TELL that that dog just pooped on an expensive carpet. Haha!

  13. Simple solution, have the aunt take a dump on your parents carpet and call it even!

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