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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My neighbors have a potbellied pig named Petunia. The pig sleeps in their house at night, but early in the morning she is let out to roam freely and has taken to coming to our house to dig holes in the garden and flowerbeds. After the first incident, the neighbors told me to just "spank" Petunia and send her home.

She recently decided to demolish my strawberry bed and melon patch. I had put many weeks of backbreaking work into them, and Petunia not only destroyed the fruit, she chewed the roots as well. When I called the neighbors to issue a third warning, I was told they were sorry and they would pay for the damage. Then they offered to give Petunia to me.

We live three miles outside the nearest town and we're not governed by animal-control laws. (The animal-control people know Petunia because she often crosses the highway and makes it into town to forage.) Their advice was to shoot the pig.

As an animal lover, I find this advice unacceptable. I have two dogs that I keep in a fenced yard and a kennel. They are not allowed to run unsupervised to tear up other people's property.

These neighbors claim they "want" to put up a fence, but can't afford to right now because they just purchased a new Cadillac. Four other neighbors in the path of destruction have also complained. How can I get through to them that Petunia is a pest before someone flies off the handle and starts taking potshots at the pig? -- PEEVED AT PETUNIA IN ELGIN, OKLA.

DEAR PEEVED: Since Petunia continues to roam unrestricted and her owners have told you they'd be willing to give her away, contact the nearest animal rescue group and ask if they can find a home for an adorable potbellied pig who needs love, attention and supervision. If the answer is yes, the next time Petunia wanders, a committee of neighbors should visit the owners and tell them a suitable home has been found for their problem pet. It shouldn't take a crystal ball to see that if she remains where she is, Petunia's future could be pork roast.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 23-year-old female hairdresser with a clientele of mostly young and middle-aged women. I like my job very much, but I'm just a hairdresser -- not a psychiatrist. You wouldn't believe the things people tell me. I wish they would leave their personal problems at home. At the end of the day, I'm so stressed out from listening to other people's problems I am a nervous wreck.

How can I get it across to them without hurting their feelings or losing their business that I really don't want to hear about their personal lives? -- STRESSED-OUT HAIRDRESSER

DEAR STRESSED-OUT: Women have confided in their hairdressers since the dawn of history. Most of them are venting, not seeking anything more than a sympathetic ear. Telling a client you don't want to hear about their personal lives could be interpreted as rude and uncaring. And a hairdresser who is perceived as rude and uncaring is a hairdresser with an empty chair.

A diplomatic approach might be to subtly shift the subject to something else if possible -- or even to tune out. Do you remember the old slogan, "Only Your Hairdresser Knows for Sure?" Well, here's another: "A successful hairdresser does a lot of listening but very little talking."

Abby shares more of her favorite, easy-to-prepare recipes. To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, More Favorite Recipes, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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