DEAR ABBY: I have a 12-year-old son I’ll call “Josh.” His mother, “Jan,” and I are divorced. Jan is verbally and emotionally abusive. I see Josh three days a week. I took him for counseling, but Jan told him counseling is for crazy people, and now he refuses to go. I told the doctor what my ex said, and he said she needs help because she’s destroying Josh’s self-esteem.

My son wants to move in with my wife, “Sue,” and me when he is old enough. For eight years he’s had a dog named “Rascal” that he loves. When Josh says he wants to live with me, Jan threatens to get rid of Rascal if Josh isn’t there to take care of the dog.

Jan said I can have the dog, but Sue says, “No way!” She hates dogs and will not have one in the house. Abby, Rascal is a small inside dog, so keeping him outside is not an option. I think Sue should accept the dog for my son’s sake. I tried to explain that it is for Josh’s emotional well-being. She says it’s her or the dog. I say the choice is not the dog, but my son’s happiness.

I said she doesn’t care about my son or she’d accept Rascal, and she went crazy – yelling four-letter words. She actually threatened the dog and me. I told her I must take Rascal over her because Josh is my first priority. What should I do? – TORN BETWEEN MY WIFE AND SON

How sad. You know what you have to do. Your son must be your first priority.

P.S. Before involving yourself with any more women, please get counseling to find out why you are drawn to self- centered abusers.

DEAR ABBY: My 80-year-old mother lives alone in a small apartment and maintains a fairly independent lifestyle with the help of public assistance.

I live across the country, but talk to her on the phone several times a week. During one conversation, she told me that my 50-year-old brother has been storing furniture in her tiny living room even though she asked him not to. I wrote to my brother, asking him to remove the items immediately and to apologize for causing our mother aggravation. (He has a good job and a grown family.)

Mother has since reiterated to me that she wants the furniture out, but says she’s afraid my brother will retaliate – which shocks me.

While I can’t fathom my brother taking advantage of our mother this way, I wouldn’t put anything past him. Several years ago, he took a jazz album collection that belonged to me out of Mom’s apartment without my permission and refused to return it.

Is there something more I can do – or some agency that can help? – FRUSTRATED IN CALIFORNIA

There certainly is. Since you are concerned about elder abuse, contact the Administration on Aging Eldercare Locator service, toll-free (800) 677-1116 (Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time, or on the Web at: Please don’t wait. Your mother has the right to feel safe and secure in her own home.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

To order “How to Write Letters for All Occasions,” send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447.

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