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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: After an on-again off-again affair with a married man for almost 10 years, our relationship finally ended today.

During the time we "messed around," I lost most of my friends because we socialized in the same circles, and I felt ashamed of what I was doing, so I stopped going around with any of them. So here I sit, lonely and embarrassed.

How do I explain to people I meet why I don't have many friends? I know time heals, and I need to focus on the good things in my life and move forward, but I feel isolated and stupid.

I never asked him to leave his wife nor did he promise he would. It was just a one-night stand that went on way too long. I did have relationships in between, but I'd always go back to him.

Can you please give me some suggestions on how to rebuild my self-esteem and learn to love myself again? -- KICKING MYSELF IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR KICKING YOURSELF: Gladly. A giant step in the right direction would be to stop kicking yourself because you appear to be plenty bruised already. Then, instead of isolating yourself, get out and get busy: Join a gym. Scout out organizations where you can volunteer.

No one will know whether you have dozens of friends or only a few -- and don't volunteer the information because it's no one's business.

Take a class or two. Join a church if you feel you need spiritual guidance. And make a vow never to involve yourself with a married man again.

DEAR ABBY: I work for a veterinarian, and I would appreciate it if you would please print some "tips" for pet owners to make their visits go more smoothly.

1. When you call for an appointment, please give us YOUR name. Do not say, "This is Fluffy's mother," because we care for 23 cute, cuddly cats named Fluffy and also a couple of Pomeranians.

2. Always have your dog on a leash and your cat in a cat carrier. If you don't own one, place him/her in a cardboard box taped firmly shut. Cats are more secure in an enclosed space, so it will be calmer during the visit. Loose cats can bolt at the sight of a strange person or pet and become injured, or even dash out an open door.

3. Please do not bring your other pets along "for company." It is distracting for you and also for the pet who is being seen. Also, it's important that you be able to fully concentrate on everything the doctor has to say.

4. Please do NOT offer advice to others who are waiting.

5. DO ask us about anything you're curious or worried about. We have heard it all and won't be shocked, embarrassed or think you are "dumb." It is our job to make sure you are comfortable and knowledgeable about your pet. Feel free to tell us the funny thing he did this week, or how she comforted you. We love to hear about our "patients." -- FRONT DESK LADY

DEAR LADY: I hope my readers with pets will take your intelligent suggestions to heart. And I'm betting that your list of "tips" will be posted in veterinary practices far and wide. Thank you for sending them.

QUOTE FOR THE DAY: "My divorce was messy because there was a child involved. My husband." (Wendy Liebman)

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 only) to: Dear Abby -- Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)