DEAR ABBY: I recently lost my loyal companion of 12 years, my dog Buddy. His death has been difficult for me, although with each passing day the hurt eases a little.
My 3-year-old niece, "Tamara," adored Buddy. Her first words during any conversation usually were, "Where's Buddy?" or, "How is Buddy?" Tamara lives in another state, so she was able to see him only during visits to my home. I asked my sister to explain that Buddy had died and gone to heaven, hoping Tamara would understand why Buddy is no longer here with me. Sadly, she didn't do as I asked. The last time we talked Tamara said, "Maybe he'll be back from heaven when we come see you."
They're coming next month, and when they do I know I'll have to deal with Buddy's loss all over again. What's the best way to handle this with the least amount of hurt for all concerned? When her fish died, they flushed it down the toilet, and Tamara still thinks it will come swimming back one day. -- "AUNT LALA" IN RHODE ISLAND
DEAR AUNT LALA: Please accept my sympathy for the loss of your beloved Buddy. The way to handle this is, when your niece arrives and asks where Buddy is, tell her again that he died. And when she asks when he's coming back, tell her that when creatures die, they do not come back. It's the truth, and it may stop her from continually checking the toilet.