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by Abigail Van Buren

Fear of Household Pets Is Often Disguised as Dislike

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I frequently entertain at home. We have a dog and a cat that we love like members of our family. When we have guests, we always confine our pets in another area before our guests arrive. Many of our friends have told us that they appreciate this because they have a fear of dogs, or cats or both!

Our veterinarian told us that when some people say they "dislike" animals, they actually fear them. For example, if a person who is not used to having pets around entered someone's house and was greeted at the door by a hostile dog barking angrily or a cat that curled around his leg, he could have an anxiety attack!

I happen to have a terrible fear of snakes. I know that not all snakes are poisonous, but just the sight of a snake terrifies me. Yet some people have snakes as pets -- but I cannot imagine a host or hostess allowing a pet snake to slither freely among the guests. Well, the fear of dogs and cats is every bit as terrifying to some people as the fear of snakes is to me.

Our animal-loving friends didn't believe us when we brought this up in conversation. They thought it was an exaggeration, but after questioning others whom they thought merely "disliked" animals, they finally admitted that they were actually afraid of them.

What do you and your readers think? -- ANIMAL LOVERS

DEAR ANIMAL LOVERS: I consulted my animal expert, Dr. Erwin David. He said: "The analogy concerning the snake is a good one. People tend to fear that which they distrust -- and dislike that which they fear."

DEAR ABBY: My friends and I have a problem with which we need help. We wear hearing aids, which makes it difficult to hear people talking on some of the television programs, as the background music and special sound effects are so overpowering, they drown out the voices.

For example, in "Jake and the Fatman," the roar of the ocean is so loud it's impossible to understand what the people are saying. It doesn't help to turn the volume up, and we can't do as President Bush suggests: "Read my lips."

I love music, but loud background music is unnecessary on dramatic shows.

Commercials are a problem, too. They are so loud, they blast the hearing aids out of our ears. (Have you ever tried turning a hearing aid down with barbecue sauce on your fingers?)

The advertisers think they are getting our attention with the extra-loud commercial messages, but most people have remote-control sets, and they just shut the sound off until the program comes on again.

Are many of your readers experiencing the same problems? And who can we contact in the television industry to correct this? -- CORA LAIRD, FORT DODGE, IOWA

DEAR CORA LAIRD: The television sponsors have been dodging these complaints for years. Address your grievances to the sponsors of the programs you watch. And while you're at it, write to the Federal Communications Commission, 1919 M St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20554.

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