Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Shortly before my wedding, I decided to have my teeth fixed. The dentist quoted me a price of $4,000, which my husband and I could not afford since we were paying for our entire wedding.

My parents agreed to pay the dental bill as soon as it arrived. However, there is now a "stipulation." They are demanding the full list -- including exact dollar amounts -- of what EACH of our guests gave us for wedding gifts. If I refuse, my parents now say our previous verbal agreement is worthless, and my husband can cover my dental bill.

Am I wrong for not wanting to give them the dollar amount or tell them what each guest gave at our wedding? They call me at work and insist I tell them because they "must" know if their family and friends "disrespected" them. I feel that whatever people gave us is whatever they could afford, and my husband and I are very happy with the gifts we received. -- NEWLYWED IN DARIEN, CONN.

DEAR NEWLYWED: Your parents are wrong to attempt to blackmail you into sharing the list with them. That information is none of their business. I hope you stand firm, call your dentist and work out a payment plan.

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 73-year-old man in reasonably good health who would like to own a dog. However, I have two concerns: A dog might outlive me, or I might outlive the dog -- which would be traumatic for me. I'd appreciate your opinion. -- THINKING OF ADOPTING IN LAS VEGAS

DEAR THINKING: It is well known that pets lower levels of stress and depression. Adopting a dog could give you a new "leash" on life because responsible pet owners must establish a regular routine and exercise their animals.

However, before you take the plunge, consult your doctor about whether you're healthy enough to have one, and ask a veterinarian about the care it will require and whether you should adopt an adult dog rather than a puppy. Then talk to your lawyer about ensuring that, in the event of your death, your faithful companion will be cared for until it joins you in the Great Puppy Park in the sky.

DEAR ABBY: I am writing this as a mother of four and an operating room nurse for 30 years. Once again, I had to pull a crying mother from her child so I could take the child into the operating room.

I understand that a child having surgery is upsetting and stressful. My own children have had to have surgical procedures done, so I know the feeling. But if I can help parents understand one thing, it would be that the child looks to the parent for support. If the mother is crying and clinging at the bedside, the message the child receives is: If Mom is that upset, something bad must be about to happen to me.

No one is implying that you do not love your child or you are not worried about him or her, but it does no one any good if you have to be peeled off your child. Please send your little one off with kisses and encouraging words, and the child will be a little less frightened. -- WISCONSIN R.N.

DEAR WISCONSIN R.N.: I'm printing your letter verbatim. As traumatic as sending a child into surgery can be for both parent and child, the words a child needs to hear are, "You'll be going to sleep, and when you wake up, Mommy will be right here. I love you. Now give me a kiss." For the child's sake, venting for stress relief should be saved for the waiting room.

To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)