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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have been married for 27 years. Two years ago, my husband was laid off from his job after 31 years. I had always saved our money, and lived with an eye toward the future. We had taken out loans occasionally at my husband's credit union. Each time he got a raise, I'd put some of it away for that "rainy day."

One Saturday when the mail arrived, there was a letter in it from the credit union saying my husband was two payments behind on a loan. When he returned from playing golf, I told him I'd seen the dun and it was a mistake; it had to be his brother's. (His brother also worked for the same company.) I said if that's the way they did business, I'd meet him on Monday and we'd withdraw all our money and put it into another bank.

The following Monday, on my way to work, we met at the place the company had set up for outplaced employees. My husband seemed nervous and said we needed to talk. He then informed me that the $75,000 to $80,000 that was supposed to be in the account was gone. He had spent the money. I had been able to deal with his losing his job and my going to work full time, but this was too much. I exploded.

I asked him what he'd done with the money. He said he spent it on the family. Well, Abby, I know what kind of lifestyle we have lived, and we have nothing to show for that amount of money.

We went to counseling. I thought I was losing my mind. I loved this man, had his two children, and have never been with anyone else. The counselor told me I was not crazy. But when I'd talk with my husband, he made me feel like an idiot. The counselor told him that all I wanted to know was what he had done with the money. My husband insisted he didn't know what he had spent the money on.

Things went from bad to worse. Then I found girlie magazines in the back of our closet. I could only imagine the kinds of things he had been up to through the years.

We are now separated. When I see him, he swears that he has changed. But he still hasn't taken any responsibility for his dishonesty.

Abby, will I ever be able to trust him again? I thought I knew him. He says he doesn't need help. Can you advise me? -- NEEDING PEACE IN WASHINGTON

DEAR NEEDING PEACE: Should you trust him again? Why should you? He is clearly a liar. He knows how he spent the money.

Although he swears he has changed, leopards don't usually change their spots, especially those who don't cooperate in counseling. It's time to look out for yourself and do what's best for YOU.

DEAR ABBY: I need some advice. I am a cat lover and own three declawed and lovable cats. I have a neighbor who periodically visits me and panics when the cats walk by her. She keeps asking me to remove them from the room. I have tried reassuring her that they will not harm her, but she still overreacts.

Should I confine them in a separate room, or should I graciously tell her that this is my home, and my cats' home, and they are free to roam as they please? -- CATFUSED IN CANADA

DEAR CATFUSED: The cats may be lovable to you, but not everyone is a cat lover. Also, many people are allergic to animal fur.

When your neighbor visits, keep the cats in a separate room with food and water. She will appreciate it.

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