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

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.

DEAR ABBY: Can you give me a lighthearted, polite response when someone says, “Shame on you!” for not doing something he thinks everyone should be doing – like watching “Star Wars” movies and inconsequential things like that?

My husband has a colleague who says this constantly. We find it rude, but don’t want to match his rudeness with our own. – STUMPED IN ST. CLOUD, MINN.

You husband’s colleague is not being rude. He’s being asinine – and for you and your husband to buy into it is a waste of your time and emotion.

The next time he says, “Shame on you” for something so trivial, just laugh and agree with him. “Yes, ha-ha. It’s shameful.” Then change the subject. No one has the right to dictate how you should spend your time, so take it with a grain of salt.

DEAR ABBY: I read an article in our local paper a while ago that said good employees who leave a company usually do so because of their boss.

With that in mind, I would like to bring closure to my recent resignation with the following open letter to my former boss:

“Thanks for asking me to stay on, but I respectfully decline. I will be self-employed from now on. However, if in the future I ever feel the need to be publicly humiliated, blind-sided, ostracized and called a spy, be distrusted and disciplined by superiors for no good reason, fight for wages that are rightfully mine, stabbed in the back by fellow employees, used as a pawn in executive rivalries, or (especially) chewed out when you’re having a bad day, I’ll get back to you!” – MOVING ON IN NEW MEXICO

I’m printing your letter. I hope that seeing it in print will be cathartic. I wish you good luck in your new career, where someday you may be a boss yourself. And if you are, I’m sure you will create a healthier office environment than the one you left.

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.

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