Party poopers

Joey laughed at John Cleese’s performance at the Mondavi Center earlier this month.

I’m hosting Christmas for the first time this year. Two elderly and lonely members of my extended family have less-than-welcoming small pet dogs. One dog is not housebroken and the other is unfriendly. To complicate things, my grandmother always brings her small dog, although thankfully, it is well-trained. My family rightly assumes my home is pet-friendly because I have a large dog, but my backyard is not fenced. Plus, all three of the family members must have their pets with them at all times. Each would spend the holiday with their dog instead of family if they felt their pet wasn’t welcome. How can I tactfully request that the two troublesome pooches stay home without also banning my grandmother’s dog? Or should I suck it up and just plan on pee cleanup and minor injuries as part of the holiday party hosting? Should I ask Grandma to leave her dog home this year, too?

Grandma’s pooch is well-behaved and an agreeable companion for your dog, so extend an invitation to both, if you wish. But stop there. Christmas is already on the list of the top life stressors. So while the holiday season is certainly a time to tolerate a belligerent uncle or to welcome a stranger to our table, a dog who urinates or poops in the house is another matter.

The likelihood of drama is high given the characters you describe. If one dog bites another or the other dog is, well, a party pooper, the ensuing flurry of annoyance is what most will recall from the day. So consider creating an outdoor area where all of the dogs can frolic unattended. Or erect a canopy outside over their crates so there is no chance of bites or fights, but weather protection is guaranteed. Another option is to celebrate the holidays with your elderly relatives in one of their homes on the day before your gathering. You can bring a meal and then be assured that he or she has plenty of delicious leftovers for the next day. Remember, the reason for the season is love. Don’t lose it by becoming fearful of what others will think if you state your preferences while still trying to accommodate their desires.

My teenage son is crushed because the girl he has been dating dumped him. Young people have such fragile feelings. How can I help him get through this?

By acknowledging his very real loss. Don’t try to rush him out of his uncomfortable feelings. This is an opportunity for him to learn that people come and go in our lives, and it’s natural to mourn our losses. Let him be hurt, teary, angry and confused. Realize that he will likely dissolve into “end of the world thinking,” as in “I’ll never meet another girl like her.” You also can tell your son an appropriate story from your own life, but honestly, from his perspective, you’re old. So enlist an emotionally stable college-age family member or neighbor to share their breakup experience. Teens need a network of supportive adults in their life. It’s also vital to encourage your son not to call, text, e-mail or tweet his ex-girlfriend. Insist that he not share his feelings on social networking sites, either. Explain that he will likely regret such actions later. When he feels the urge to contact his ex, suggest that he call his attention back to his own life and redirect that energy into a friendship or hobby. Don’t try to distract him by taking him shopping, or you may set a pattern of overconsumption as medicine for heartbreak. Most of all, be patient. All wounds heal in time. But if he talks of suicide, get him to a therapist immediately.

Meditation of the Week

“You were born an original. Don’t die a copy,” writes John Mason, minister and author. Who would you be if you stopped believing in the American Dream and designed your own?