DEAR ABBY: You advised the 16-year-old girl who said she had been "replaced" by her mother's dogs that you could guarantee that her mom loved her and her brother more than the dogs. Don't be so sure! When I first met my husband, one of the first things he told me was that the only family member that received any attention from his parents was their dog. I laughed, thinking it was funny, but it proved to be true.
This was an extremely dysfunctional family. Both parents ignored my husband and his brother and fawned over the dog. They took the dog for walks, special ice cream treats every week and rides in the car. They didn't even bother to attend my husband's college graduation. Over the years, we'd receive detailed letters about the dog's activities, but never once did they call to wish my husband "happy birthday." Both brothers needed years of psychotherapy.
After 33 years of marriage, my mother-in-law was finally widowed. After meeting the "love of her life," she confessed she had never loved her husband, never wanted kids and neither had he, and announced to her sons she would "no longer require them"!
Millions of people own dogs, and their children don't feel unloved and want to sit and cry. This young girl senses her mother doesn't care for her. We had a dog, and I KNEW my mom loved us more because she told us every night and spent time with us. This mom must not be doing that. -- WIFE IN SEATTLE
DEAR WIFE: Thank you for the wake-up call. I have to confess that I was surprised by some of the feedback I received regarding that letter. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: Pets don't talk back, refuse to be helpful or ask for money. All they want is love and food. They don't ask where you've been and they're always happy when you come home. Their love is unconditional. -- PET LADY IN FLORIDA
DEAR ABBY: When my son started getting older, suddenly his mom became either invisible or an embarrassment to him. I heard from others what a charming young man he had become -- so nice and friendly -- but you'd never know it when he came home. I barely heard the sound of his voice unless he wanted me to iron a shirt for him, or he needed gas money. Then he would suddenly become very nice!
Maybe Mom is using the dogs to soothe the hurt of not being allowed into her children's lives. Maybe the dogs provide objects on which to focus the love that she desperately wants to shower on her children, but is unable to because that love is rebuffed. Obviously, the dogs fill some kind of void. -- MOM WHO'S BEEN THERE
DEAR ABBY: Besides owning three Labs, I am a volunteer parent for Labrador rescue here in Florida. One puppy is a lot of work; two are practically a full-time job. If only "Replaced by Dogs" would pitch in, help with training, walking, bathing, feeding and playing with the puppies, it would give her mom extra time to spend with her and her brother. She would also be spending quality time with her mom. -- LAB LOVER IN FLORIDA
DEAR ABBY: Several years ago, my boss was called into the school counselor's office because her daughter had complained that her mother showed more love and attention to the dogs than to her. "Shelly" promised to shower both her children with the same love she showed her dogs. Needless to say, it lasted only two days before the children were tired of being hugged, kissed, and told "I love you" all day long! -- PATRICIA IN CUMMINGS, GA.
Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600