DEAR ABBY: I have written to you before, and your advice served me well. I have another problem now, and I don't know what to do about it.
I am a childless man, but I have owned my dog for 12 years. I work from home and we are together constantly. Honestly, Abby, he is the joy of my life.
My problem is I live in constant fear of losing him. I know it will break my heart, and I'm not sure I can deal with it. At night, when I rub his belly at bedtime and see the love in his eyes, I can't sleep for thinking about the day when he will no longer be with me.
I know he's "just a dog," but he has been my kid for all this time. Do you have any advice for me? -- AFRAID OF THE LOSS
DEAR AFRAID: I understand your feelings. I doubt there is any pet owner who hasn't had one special departed pet who lives on forever in his or her heart.
My advice to you is to not spoil one more precious second you have with your dog by worrying about what will eventually happen. You knew going in that your dog would have a certain life span. That's the "deal" we make when we become animal guardians.
When the time comes, talk to your veterinarian about support groups in which you can share your feelings. And don't be surprised when you find out you are one of many.