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by Abigail Van Buren

Loss of Dog Is High Price for Man's Bitter Lesson

DEAR ABBY: I found my dog, "Belle," last year at the pound. We bonded instantly and I knew I had to take her. She was sweet, funny and fearless.

I remembered the truck commercials on TV where the message was dogs love trucks. Belle was no exception. The day I bought my used pickup, she hopped into the bed and was ready to go. It seemed that half the vehicles I saw growing up were old pickups with dogs -- always unrestrained.

At first, there were short trips to the store or on a back road. But after a month, we got more adventurous. Sometimes Belle would get excited and lean over and snap at passing cars. That should have warned me, but at the time I thought it was funny. It never occurred to me to be concerned. Not until she fell out.

I watched in the mirror as she tumbled to the road. Belle survived the fall and started to get up, but before she could get out of the way, an oncoming car hit her.

It was stupid, awful and completely unexpected. And it could have been prevented. A simple harness, or better yet, keeping my beautiful Belle in the cab would have saved her life.

Now, because of a stupid, macho image I had of a man, his dog and his truck, I have lost a beloved friend. Please, Abby, warn your readers that if they have a pet they care about, not to allow it to ride unrestrained in a truck bed. -- GRIEVING IN LEXINGTON, KY.

DEAR GRIEVING: Please accept my sympathy for the loss of your beloved pet. I'm printing your reminder for the benefit of other pet owners, but I would like to extend it. I frequently see young children standing on the seats of vehicles driven by their mothers, while Mom chats away on her cell phone. I have also seen pets and people riding unrestrained in the back of open trucks. It takes only a moment for an accident to happen. These kinds of accidents can be life-altering or fatal. So please, folks, use a little restraint -- the kind that buckles.

DEAR ABBY: I recently relocated to live near my son, "Gary," and his girlfriend, "Gina." Gary supports Gina and her three children, and talks constantly about marrying her and adopting the kids. Gary believes that Gina will marry him one day, but she has confided to me that once she finishes college and starts her career, she does not see herself married to my son.

I'm torn between telling Gary the truth and hurting him (not to mention damaging our relationship), or letting him find out in two years that he has been seriously used. -- TORN MOM IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR TORN: Talk to Gina and urge her to level with your son. If she refuses, then you must do it. If he finds out in two years that you knew all along that he was being used and said nothing, it will be more damaging to your relationship than if you tell him the truth now. He won't like hearing it, but you must tell him what Gina told you. If he were my son, I would.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)