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by Abigail Van Buren

Lonely Caregiver Seeks Comfort in Wrong Arms

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 56-year-old grandmother. The love of my life died last summer. As I cared for him throughout his illness, I grew deeply lonely and despondent. Around that time I began having coffee with an acquaintance of ours. To make a long story short –- he gave me genital herpes.

Abby, PLEASE remind your readers to protect themselves. This disease is a life sentence. The physical and emotional pain can be overwhelming. A couple of hours in someone's arms isn't worth the isolation afterward. Now this affliction is with me for the rest of my life. It's a horrible disease. There's nothing romantic about it. I'm an intelligent person who should have known better. -- PAYING THE PRICE

DEAR PAYING THE PRICE: You have learned a painful lesson, but an important one. Every sexually active person, regardless of age, should be tested before engaging in sex with a new partner. It is estimated that one out of four sexually active people have herpes -– and 90 percent of them do not realize they have it. If everyone acted responsibly, it could save a lifetime of pain, embarrassment and regret.

More information on this important subject can be obtained by calling the Centers for Disease Control National STD Hotline toll-free number: (800) 227-8922. It is open 24/7.

DEAR ABBY: The letter you printed from "Rehabilitation Counselor," advising people with seizure disorders about state agencies that assist individuals with disabilities to become gainfully employed, was excellent. However, I would like to add more information:

Canine Partners for Life (CPL) is an organization that provides "service" dogs to people with various disabilities to assist them in leading more normal lives. These service dogs can be trained to detect a seizure up to 30 minutes before it happens, enabling the individual to take precautions required to possibly prevent or alleviate the problem. -- PETER ESHERICK, OREFIELD, PA.

DEAR PETER: I am familiar with service dogs and the important role they can play in the lives of people with disabilities. While most of us are aware that Seeing Eye dogs perform an important function for sightless people, special dogs can also be trained to retrieve items, open and close doors, provide stability when walking, and alert their owners to oncoming seizures.

Canine Partners for Life can be contacted by writing to P.O. Box 170, Cochranville, PA 19330-0170. The phone number is (610) 869-4902 and the fax number is (610) 869-9785. The Web site is � HYPERLINK "" ���.

DEAR ABBY: I have been with my girlfriend, "Adrian," for two years. She has always been obsessed with my past. Recently, Adrian went through all my old letters from ex-girlfriends, dating back to early grammar school. Now she is demanding that I burn them. I have refused because she read them without permission, disregarding my privacy.

Is it wrong to keep old letters? I've always assumed it's OK until I get married -– or at least engaged. To me, the letters and notes are a "diary" of sorts. What's your opinion? -- SENTIMENTAL GUY IN IDAHO

DEAR SENTIMENTAL GUY: Your girlfriend is jealous, insecure, nosy and nervy. She has no right to "demand" anything from you. If I were you, I'd keep the letters and give Adrian a change-of-address form. In the long run, you'll be happier.

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $10 (U.S. funds)

to: Dear Abby -- Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, MO 64111; (816) 932-6600