- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 28, 2006

We recently moved into a new house, and I fear we’ve gotten off on the wrong foot with our next-door neighbor. Our dog escaped while the movers were finishing their work, and before we noticed where he had gone, he had dug holes in several of her elaborate flower beds.

We, of course, apologized profusely and offered to fix the damage or pay to have it fixed, but the neighbor refused and continues to keep her distance from us.

Is there anything else we can do, or should have done, to repair this rift?

A: It seems as if you have pretty much covered your bases regarding this unfortunate mishap. You have apologized, offered to pay for damage and — presumably — made guarantees that a similar incident will never occur.

In the long run, the most effective thing you can do is to take every precaution to ensure that your dog does not “escape” into your neighbor’s yard again. If you have children, the importance of this must be made clear to them. Take time to inform your neighbor of your vigilance in a follow-up letter of apology. With no repeat incidents, perhaps her attitude will soften over time.

Because she has refused your offer to be reimbursed for the damage to her yard, it wouldn’t hurt to accompany the note with a peace offering: a handsome floral arrangement, perhaps, or a beautiful plant that she might consider adding to her garden to help replace what was lost. Because she apparently is an avid gardener, you could ask a local nursery what would be appropriate. Better yet, if she has a landscape service, call to see if someone there can suggest something that might be to her taste.

Q: How can I get visitors to stop taking their shoes off in my front-door foyer? In the same vein, how can I gracefully keep mine on when I visit someone else’s home? I know people are trying to protect their hardwood floors, and this is becoming a trend, but this is getting ridiculous.

A: The first part of your question is relatively simple to answer: Just tell them to keep their shoes on because you are not worried about damage to or dirt on your floors. If you visit someone else’s home and your hosts ask you to remove your shoes, you have no option but to consent. If you feel that strongly about it, you don’t have to go back.

Keep in mind, however, that in many countries, Japan and most Muslim lands, for example, guests are expected to remove their shoes at the entrance (where they may be given special slippers to wear instead). Follow the lead of your host. To refuse to comply with this custom would be a gross insult.

Address your questions on etiquette and protocol to Kevin Chaffee, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail to civilities@washington- times.com.

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