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by Abigail Van Buren

Driving Under the Influence Covers More Than Alcohol

DEAR ABBY: I don't drink and have always despised alcohol and drunk drivers. On New Year's Eve in 1982, my 26-year-old brother was killed by a drunk driver.

Well, to my shock, I had a terrible car crash that has left me hospitalized for the last three weeks. I am missing one-third of the muscle and tissue in my leg. I cannot get skin grafts and reconstructive surgery for several more weeks.

The reason for the car crash was that when I decided to run to the store late one night, I misjudged how my tranquilizer medication would affect me because I was unusually tired.

Now I am charged with DUI! Not only am I in excruciating pain, I am emotionally devastated about being charged with a DUI. I never would have thought in a million years that something like this could happen.

Please print this, Abby, so people will realize that you can get a DUI for reasons other than drunk driving, and that the warning labels on your prescription bottle are there for a reason. If even one person is spared what I'm going through, it will be well worth sharing what I endured.

I thank God every day that I didn't kill someone or hurt anyone else. -- PAINFULLY WISER IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR WISER: You are generous to want others to learn from what could have been a fatal error, and I hope your recovery is swift and complete. Those little labels on prescription bottles warning consumers not to take the medication in combination with driving or operating heavy equipment are there for a reason, as your experience clearly illustrates.

DEAR ABBY: I am the owner of a beautiful 1-year-old St. Bernard. She is very loving, playful, protective and weighs approximately 140 pounds. She stays indoors the majority of the time, but we allow her to run in a fenced-in yard.

Yesterday, while she was in the yard, three children were walking down the street. Two of the children were about 14 years old and the third child was about 8. The older children were laughing because we have a sign posted on the fence that says, "Beware of Dog." The youngest child picked up a long stick and started swinging it at the dog inside the fence. Luckily, this story has a happy ending. The dog just barked at the children and we took her back into the house.

Abby, I am pleading with parents to teach their children never to tease an animal. My dog is 140 pounds. A dog that size can cause a lot of damage. A dog bite from even a small dog can be serious. Children should be taught NEVER to approach any animal (especially one that is barking or growling); never swing a stick at an animal, or bark back -- even if the dog is fenced in, because it could jump over. One should just walk away.

I realize this is long, but I hope you'll print this important message. -- CONCERNED DOG OWNER, MARYVILLE, TENN.

DEAR CONCERNED: Your message is well deserving of space in my column. I would like to add that small children should be warned never to play with a dog who is eating, because the animal may think the child is trying to take its food away. Also, a dog who is nursing should be approached with care, because of her maternal instincts to protect her young.

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