Dear Amy: Every year, our aunts, uncles and cousins plan a yearly "European family vacation."
The "Reunion Committee" sends out an "invitation newsletter" informing family members about the location, venues, etc., and after each vacation they always send a follow-up newsletter about how much fun they had, where they went, what they ate, etc.
My two sisters and I have no desire to attend these so-called "family vacations" because for one thing, we cannot afford them, and secondly, we have not seen or spoken to these family members for about the last 20 years.
We live simple lives and really do not fit in because they are (and always have been) on a different socioeconomic level.
We love them, but just really don't fit in with them.
We really appreciate the fact that they are including us in the planning of these family vacations, but helloooo, we really don't care because we are just not into this.
Our question to you is how can we tell the Reunion Committee to kindly remove us from the mailing list, without coming across as being nasty and rude?
-- Three Simple Sisters
Dear Sisters: Although you say you love these family members, you also say that you have not seen or spoken to them in two decades. If this annual vacation roundelay is your only contact, you should initiate some other form of contact with them before you cut this off completely.
You can't control how people interpret this request: "Please remove my sisters and me from the family group vacation email chain." But I wonder if you really care how these people view you, since the undercurrent of your question is laced with judgment for them having the gall to try to include you in a family vacation that you cannot afford (or simply don't want) to take.
You feel excluded from these family members because you haven't seen them in 20 years. And you continue to not see them because you feel excluded.
The best way to feel part of a family is to spend time with them. The second-best way is to be in touch with them.
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You could write: "We wish we could spend time with family members, but will probably never join you on the annual vacation to Europe, so it might be best to remove our names from the group email. If there are more local get-togethers in the works, we'd love to know about them."
Dear Amy: In your column, you ran a letter from "Doggy Manners," who complained about "therapy dogs." This was almost certainly the wrong term. I'm hoping you could clear up some misunderstandings for your readers:
Service dogs have been individually trained to perform work for persons with an ADA-qualifying disability. Training takes about two years and producing the dog costs at least $25,000. A disabled handler may be accompanied by the service dog anywhere the public is permitted.
Emotional support dogs are pets with no special training. They get the label if a clinician writes a letter stating that the owner has an ADA-qualifying mental illness and is emotionally dependent on the pet. These dogs are legally different from pets in only two ways. They must be permitted in no-pets housing (if the housing is covered by the FHA) and at least for the moment, the airlines permit them to fly in the cabin.
Therapy dogs are trained to be affectionate and have nice manners. They are tested and approved by a foundation, and they are insured. These dogs, with their handlers, are invited to places like nursing homes to be petted and enjoyed. They have no special standing for access other than by invitation.
Due to internet scams, millions of Americans think that it's okay to buy a certificate and a vest online, put it on a pet dog, and take the dog with them wherever they go. Service dog teams (including me and my dog) have been attacked and bitten, as have members of the public.
For people who present pets as service dogs: Stop thinking only about yourself. You're hurting your dog, interfering with disabled people who rely on their dogs and infringing on the rights of the public and businesses. If you wouldn't buy a fake handicapped parking placard for your car, stop pretending your pet is a service dog.
-- Service Dog Trainer
Dear Trainer: Thank you for the correction and clarification. "Doggy Manners" was complaining about "emotional support" dogs, but used the term "therapy dogs." I repeated the mistake in my answer.
(You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: email@example.com. Readers may send postal mail to Amy Dickinson, c/o Tribune Content Agency, 16650 Westgrove Drive, Suite 175, Addison, Texas, 75001. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or "like" her on Facebook.)