At this time of year, some of us will be welcoming houseguests into our homes for the holidays. While there are many articles offering tips and hints about being a host, most of them are meant for humans. Moreover, they tend to focus on superficial niceties like setting out clean towels and fresh flowers for your overnight visitor. That’s all well and good, but as a canine host, I have somewhat different concerns.
What follows will help my fellow dogs make their houseguests’ stay as memorable as can be. Given my vast experience,* I daresay even my human readers will find some of these tips useful.
If our people are well trained, we dogs will be consulted about possible guests and perhaps even asked to help screen them. An invitation to stay overnight confers a lofty status on the guest: that of a most highly valued and intimate friend.
Of course, even the closest bonds may be put to the test by the confines of an average Manhattan apartment. But a gracious host doesn’t allow a petty thing like limited space to put a damper on his guest’s comfort. Make sure that the tone of your invitation lets the guest know that she will be very welcome, or at least tolerated.
Preparing for the Visit
Before your guest arrives, don’t forget to hide your most valuable belongings somewhere safe where there is no chance the guest will happen upon them by accident.
Do not worry that you are being churlish by doing so. On the contrary, you are sparing the guest the inevitable embarrassment she would feel should she accidentally destroy one of your objets.
What a considerate host you are!
Your visitor’s stay begins the moment she crosses your threshold, brimming with anticipation and bringing with her a whiff of distant lands, like Rangoon or Prospect Heights. Your guest will appreciate it if you make her feel welcome by taking the trouble to greet her at the door yourself rather than sending a servant to do the task.
Having given her a warm reception, offer to take her things (you may want to keep some of them for yourself once you’ve sorted through her bag). The houseguest will probably appreciate a drink after her journey, so don’t forget to show her the water bowl, which of course your people will have filled with the finest municipal tap water.
Now is the time to relax and catch up on all you’ve missed since the last time you met. The beginning of your houseguest’s stay is a delightful time, full of conviviality, activity, and the reciprocal pleasures of giving and receiving hospitality.
A thoughtful houseguest (and what other kind would you dare invite?) may bring a hostess gift or perhaps even a supply of food to spare the host the burden of providing all the meals. Show how much you appreciate her thoughtfulness and good taste by sharing her food with her. Don’t be shy about shoving her out of the way if need be; she’ll take your obvious enthusiasm as a compliment.
Set aside a warm, quiet spot for your houseguest’s sleeping area. Some guests may prefer to bring their own bedding; otherwise, have your people make up a clean, soft bed with fresh linens and a cozy blanket. Once everything is ready for your houseguest, test the sleeping quarters by lying down for a brief nap. Don’t hesitate to rearrange the blanket or fluff up the cushions—you want to make sure the bed is truly comfortable.
If it turns out that the houseguest’s bed is more comfortable than your own, feel free to commandeer it for your own use. The houseguest will appreciate your selfless generosity and will later rave to her friends about the sacrifices you made for her contentment.
Making Your Guest Feel at Home
While it is essential that you and your people take care of your houseguest during her stay, both you and she will appreciate the freedom and relaxation that comes from also allowing her to take care of herself. In the living room, scatter some indestructible, brightly colored playthings here and there with which she may entertain herself should she choose. Likewise, provide a few comfortable spots for lounging or napping. Everyone needs a break now and then, and your houseguest will appreciate nothing more than the care you have taken to make her feel truly at home in your abode.
However, you may discover that your houseguest, once so liberated, begins to take some liberties. She may spend the afternoon camped out on your favorite pillow. Perhaps she usurps your spot on the sofa in prime ear-scratching proximity to your people. Such minor conflicts are sometimes unavoidable. Even the most unflappable host may be caught off-guard when he walks into the room and discovers his guest perched on his loved one’s lap. If you find yourself in a situation like this, the first thing to remember is to maintain your calm demeanor. Attempt to rectify the situation by addressing the houseguest and your people directly, in a firm but quiet manner.
If that fails, retreat to a quiet but obvious corner from which you can silently communicate your displeasure.
By now, you may find that your initial feelings of pleasant anticipation and generosity have given way to vague misgivings and even resentment. Fortunately, it’s about time for your guest to depart. As you bid her a fond farewell, be sure to tell her how welcome she is to return, even if you don’t really feel that way.
Once you are certain she is gone, take a moment to check whether she left any food behind—then run around the living room at top speed, rejoicing in your reclaimed solitude.
* I had a houseguest once last spring.
BONUS: My amanuensis has planted a clue in this post that will tell you the name of our houseguest. Did you find it? If so, e-mail me the answer. One respondent chosen at random from the correct answers will win a poem composed by me in his or her honor. (I cannot guarantee that this poem will be any good.)
Answers must be received by 10 PM EST on Monday, December 22nd to be entered in the drawing.