DEAR ABBY: I have written to you before, and your advice served me well. I have another problem now, and I don't know what to do about it.
I am a childless man, but I have owned my dog for 12 years. I work from home and we are together constantly. Honestly, Abby, he is the joy of my life.
My problem is I live in constant fear of losing him. I know it will break my heart, and I'm not sure I can deal with it. At night, when I rub his belly at bedtime and see the love in his eyes, I can't sleep for thinking about the day when he will no longer be with me.
I know he's "just a dog," but he has been my kid for all this time. Do you have any advice for me? - AFRAID OF THE LOSS
DEAR AFRAID: I understand your feelings. I doubt there is any pet owner who hasn't had one special departed pet who lives on forever in his or her heart.
My advice to you is to not spoil one more precious second you have with your dog by worrying about what will eventually happen. You knew going in that your dog would have a certain life span. That's the "deal" we make when we become animal guardians.
When the time comes, talk to your veterinarian about support groups in which you can share your feelings. And don't be surprised when you find out you are one of many.
DEAR ABBY: I have this co-worker, "Sam," who is no longer performing 100 percent at work. It started shortly after he moved out of town, and he was forced to start commuting. Sam complains about the commute because he doesn't allow enough time for it, and he ends up being late to work.
Lately I have noticed that he has also started to slack off on his daily tasks. He'll sit down, prepare to do something, then get up and disappear for 20 to 25 minutes. He'll come back for a few minutes, then disappear again. I don't know where he's going. All I know is we generally have to pick up the slack when he gets to the end of his shift and realizes he hasn't accomplished everything.
Is this something I should report to my managers? I feel it's unfair that Sam gets paid for the same amount of time that I do, while I'm doing my work at full capacity and he's putting in less than half. - FRUSTRATED CO-WORKER IN ILLINOIS
DEAR FRUSTRATED: If it won't have a negative impact on your job ratings, you and the others on your shift should stop picking up the slack for Sam. It will then become apparent to your managers that he's not doing his share, and he will cook his own goose.
DEAR ABBY: When I was 11, I lived with my dad and stepmom. My 14-year-old brother lived with our grandparents in another town, but they would visit every couple of months.
After one visit, as they were leaving, my grandmother said, "Come here and give your brother a kiss and tell him you love him." My brother and I looked at each other and, in typical kid fashion, said, "Yuck!!"
Abby, I never saw my brother again. He died the next week from a congenital brain aneurism.
It taught me a lesson. The words we say to our loved ones should be sweet, because they may be the last words from us they will ever hear. My brother died 55 years ago, and I miss him still. - STILL MISSING HIM
DEAR STILL MISSING HIM: Please accept my sympathy for your loss. The life lesson you learned from your brother's untimely death was an important one. I am sorry it is one you had to learn at such a tender age.
Write Dear Abby at DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.