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by Abigail Van Buren

Woman's 'Mr. Wonderful' Was Really Full of Spleen

DEAR ABBY: As an animal lover, I'd like to share my story so that others may learn from my mistake.

I have had the best companion of my life, my dog Chelsey, for about seven years. Two years ago, I met "Mr. Wonderful," we fell in love, moved in together, and then the honeymoon started to deteriorate. I learned that Mr. Wonderful had a mean streak in him that I was unwilling to live with. As we arranged our breakup (settling bank accounts, dividing up furniture, etc.), Mr. W. made a very big issue out of how close he'd grown to Chelsey, and he insisted that he keep her. Against my better judgment, I let him have her.

Big mistake! To make a long story short, Mr. W. took Chelsey out to a rural area and dumped her. Mr. W. didn't want her -- he just wanted to get in one last dig at me.

So there I was, blindly thinking that the two of them were living happily ever after. Meanwhile, some kindly country folks found Chelsey and took her to the city animal shelter, where she was chosen "Pet of the Week." For this honor, she made a short appearance on one of the local TV stations' news broadcasts. I almost had a cardiac arrest when I saw my Chelsey on TV described as a "stray" found eating out of trash cans.

Abby, let this be a lesson. When you're breaking up with someone, don't let him have your beloved pet! -- PAT IN FIRCREST, WASH.

DEAR PAT: You and Chelsey are both very lucky -- first to have been reunited against great odds, and second, to have the pathological "Mr. Wonderful" out of your lives before he caused more damage.

DEAR ABBY: My letter is prompted by my frustration with insurance representatives with no medical knowledge. I am a physician, and am frequently asked by my patients to write or call on their behalf regarding a medical bill that the insurance company has denied. Many times, I am just repeating what the patient has already said to the claims person. Other times, I am engaged in disputes with claims people who don't know what they are talking about.

Recently I was explaining a disease process to an insurance representative when she haughtily informed me that she had taken a medical terminology class. Perhaps she is able to spell "nephrophthisis," but I believe her scope of knowledge ends there. Since I don't know how to fix cars, I certainly wouldn't argue with my mechanic about the automobile engine.

My colleagues report similar experiences. My patients share horror stories. I would like to hear an explanation as to why insurance companies employ people who handle claims in subjects about which they are not knowledgeable. -- FRUSTRATED DOC, UTICA, N.Y.

DEAR FRUSTRATED DOC: I suspect it has a lot to do with cost containment. If a medical professional were handling the claims, it might drive administrative costs through the roof; and if a debate actually occurred between two medically knowledgeable professionals about whether a claim should be paid, the company might find itself paying out more fees to doctors. I'd be interested in a response from insurance companies -- if it is short, sweet and to the point.

CONFIDENTIAL TO MY IRISH READERS: Happy St. Patrick's Day to one and all. In the words of an old Irish blessing:

May you never forget what is worth remembering,

Or remember what is best forgotten.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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