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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I usually get a bit depressed around my birthday, and this past year was especially hard. Two years ago, I lost my grandmother, my father and a girlfriend shortly before my birthday. Also, my new girlfriend dumped me a year ago, just before my birthday. Now I associate my birthday with the loss of people for whom I cared deeply and I become depressed weeks before the occasion.

This year I received two cards in the "snail mail" -- one from my stepmother (which reminded me that my dad can never send me a card again) and one from my oldest sister. I was, however, surprised to receive an e-mail card from another sister and her two small children, another e-mail card from my younger sister and several from Internet buddies. The real kicker was an e-mail greeting from my mother! One of my sisters had shown her how to create a card on the computer and send it to me online.

Because of the snail mail and e-mail cards I received, I didn't feel quite so alone this year. In fact, it was the most loving birthday I've had in years. -- KEN IN GROVE CITY, OHIO

DEAR KEN: Congratulations on having overcome the birthday blues. Thirty years ago, who would have believed that so many people would own personal computers and use them for greetings and personal messages? This age of sophisticated communications technology is a marvel to behold, isn't it? Belated happy birthday, Ken.

DEAR ABBY: This is my first letter to you, but after reading about the woman's husband who urinates in their front yard, I just had to write. When I read your answer I laughed out loud even though I was alone in the house. I was reminded of a solution to a problem that we have here in the desert Southwest.

It isn't unusual for critters from the desert to cruise through town looking for food. The javelina (wild boar) especially can be a nuisance because it travels in family packs, and a group of at least six was checking out my porch every evening to see if my cats had left any food. I'd chase them away, but that deterred them only for a little while. I needed a more permanent solution.

Someone told my daughter about a group of beer drinkers who usually drank outside the house. Instead of going inside to urinate, they'd just do it in the yard -- and they had no problem with javelinas. Other people who were bothered by the pesky creatures tried it, and it worked. I finally talked my grandson into marking his territory in various spots around my yard.

It worked at my house, too. It has to be repeated every so often, but it's such an inoffensive way to be rid of the pests. I'm signing my letter, but do not use my name. It's a small town and I don't need that kind of notoriety. -- ARIZONA READER

DEAR ARIZONA READER: Thank you for an intriguing letter. Several readers wrote to tell me that urine is a pest repellent. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I don't know if you're aware of this or not, but according to the master gardener, Jerry Baker, urine can be very beneficial in the garden to control pests. I can tell you from experience that urine seems to have eliminated the pack rats that were around our home for years. Since pack rats can be very damaging to one's house, my theory was, "If a little urine gets rid of them, whatta deal!" -- TOM IN TUCSON

DEAR ABBY: Since those of us over the age of 60 are referred to as "senior citizens," that must mean that people in their 40s and 50s are "junior citizens." And if that's the case, it would follow that those in their 30s are sophomore citizens and adults in their 20s are freshman citizens.

If this is true, we would have a new age grouping system that eliminates "elderly" from our vocabulary. For those who ask what comes after "senior," the answer is, "Graduation, of course. We don't die. We graduate." -- GEORGE TIPPEN, SENIOR CITIZEN

DEAR GEORGE: That makes sense to me. And our post-graduate education depends upon the course we take here on Earth.

Everybody has a problem. What's yours? Get it off your chest by writing to Dear Abby, P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069. For a personal reply, please enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

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