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by Abigail Van Buren

Man's Best Friend Deserves More Than Just Friendship

DEAR ABBY: I am a volunteer and board member at the Mercer County Humane Society animal shelter in West Virginia.

Approximately 10,000 animals pass through our shelter each year, many of which do not find homes. We feed and love them, but there aren't enough good homes for all of them.

I feel sure that puppies and kittens are on many children's wish lists for Christmas. Pets can be man's best friends and wonderful companions, but I wish that people would realize how much care a pet actually requires. All the cats and dogs that end up at our shelter were once someone's sweet little kitten or puppy.

Enclosed is a column you wrote 10 years ago, titled "Doggy in the Window." Please give it another go. -- SARAH R. GIBSON, PRINCETON, W.VA.

DEAR MS. GIBSON: At the risk of winding up in the doghouse (some readers do not like reruns), I'll chance it:

DEAR ABBY: My name is Joshua and I am 7 years old. I want a dog, but my mother says no. I really want one bad. Abby, I will take any kind. I promise to take care of it. How can I get my mother to let me have a dog? -- WANTING A DOG

DEAR JOSHUA: Please answer these questions:

1. Who will prepare the dog's meals?

2. Will someone be home during the day to look after the dog?

3. If the dog is a puppy, someone will have to exercise it at least twice a day. Who will do it?

4. Who will pay for the dog's license, collar, shots, regular examinations at the vet's, and any emergency treatment the dog may need?

5. Who will pay the cost of spaying or neutering your pet to prevent the birth of more unwanted puppies in a nation that already has too many? Every day, thousands are "put to sleep."

6. Are you willing to obey all the laws concerning dogs, such as keeping yours on a leash, and seeing that it doesn't do its "business" where it shouldn't?

7. Are you willing to care for the dog as long as it lives?

Important lessons are learned from having a pet, but it takes time, money and a willingness to accept responsibility to be a dog owner. Can you handle it?

DEAR ABBY: About a month ago, my husband and I decided to do our Christmas shopping early. We bought coats, ski pants, thermal socks and boots -- for homeless people.

I can't begin to describe the joy it gave us. Shopping had never been so much fun. Instead of worrying about sizes and colors, we simply bought warm, sturdy clothes. Since we bought everything at an outlet store, we managed to get about 100 items, including 17 winter coats -- for a little more than $1,000.

When we delivered the clothes to the local shelter, the manager was overjoyed. Winter weather had arrived the night before, and she had already given out all the winter coats. She had dreaded coming to the shelter that night, knowing she had no warm clothes to distribute.

Next year my husband and I will celebrate Christmas twice. The first time will be in July! Abby, won't you please let your readers know that "Christmas" can happpen any day of the year -- the joys of giving are rewarding beyond belief, and the need is always there. -- OVERJOYED IN EVANSTON, ILL.

DEAR OVERJOYED: Thanks for reiterating a homily that may sound corny -- but it is, indeed, more blessed to give than to receive.

Most teen-agers do not know the facts about drugs, AIDS, and how to prevent unwanted pregnancy. It's all in Abby's updated, expanded booklet, "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054. (Postage is included.)

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