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by Abigail Van Buren

Pet Owner Makes Her Case for Snakes' Obvious Charm

DEAR ABBY: After reading your article about people who are afraid of pets, I had to write. I have dogs, cats and also snakes -- all boa constrictors. While I was growing up, my brothers would come in from working the fields and get a big kick out of throwing snakes on me. I made up my mind I wasn't going to be afraid, so I studied up on snakes and learned everything I could about them -- that's how I started keeping snakes as pets. Now I'm invited to bring my snakes to schools and talk to children so they can decide for themselves whether snakes are good or bad.

Snakes make loving pets. I took my 6 1/2-foot boa constrictor everywhere with me until she got so big I could no longer sneak her into my blouse. Boa constrictors are non-poisonous. They're intelligent, too. When I ask for a kiss, she kisses me on the corner of my mouth.

Once, when she was on the couch with me, she heard someone coming into the house through the sliding glass door -- so she went right after him! (Afterward, the police refused to come in to make the report.) Dogs intimidate people by growling and showing their teeth, but most folks are terrified at the sight of a snake!

Snakes are much easier to care for than a dog or cat. They eat only once every eight or 10 days, and they're not slimy like most people think -- they're smooth and silky.

Before closing, I want to commend you for telling the reader who was terrified to discover a snake coiled up in the corner of her attic, "Why kill it? People don't realize that snakes eat mice and rats, and they're good for the environment." -- KAREN SMALL

DEAR KAREN: Snakes have gotten a bad rap ever since one made its debut in the Garden of Eden.

A few more reasons why snakes make good pets: They're quiet, you never have to walk them -- and you'll never have to worry about anybody stealing them.

DEAR ABBY: "Not Perfect," who says non-smokers should assess their own bad habits before looking down at smokers, seems to think that being an irritant to others is an inevitable part of life. Baloney! The smell of cigarette smoke is repulsive, which is why, for 17 years, I carefully abstained around non-smokers.

Now that I am an ex-smoker, I still have plenty of bad habits, but I am grown up enough to shield other people from them. A partial list: I do not snap my gum, hum overtures or make noxious nasal noises in public. When my windows are open, I keep my stereo down. It is not unreasonable for me to expect such consideration in return, or to be outraged when I don't get it.

No smoker who exercises good manners should be treated like a leper. However, people who light up around strangers, as someone recently did in front of me in the post office, deserve to be treated like the insensitive clods they truly are. -- IMPERFECT BUT POLITE, STATE COLLEGE, PA.

DEAR IMPERFECT: You are right -- it is simply a matter of "good manners," which calls to mind this time-honored quotation by Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), the witty English author of "Gulliver's Travels": "Good manners is the art of making those people easy with whom we converse. Whoever makes the fewest people uneasy, is the best bred in the company."

"How to Be Popular" is an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person. To order, send a long, business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054. (Postage is included.)

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