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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Last summer, my husband and I visited a zoo. In the petting area, we saw a group of young children on a field trip. The teachers had made name tags out of construction paper and hung them around the children's necks. I remarked to my husband that the identification tags were not a good idea.

As he approached the teachers to express my concerns, I heard a "gasping" noise behind me. I turned and saw a goat chewing the cord that had twisted around a small boy's neck. The name tag was already eaten, and the goat was working its way up the cotton string. I frantically pried enough of the string out of the animal's mouth to free the strangling child.

By then, another goat was jerking a little girl around by the string on her name tag. My husband rescued her.

Abby, it's unwise to hang anything around a child's neck, especially when the child will encounter animals that may be attracted to dangling objects. Also, some animals routinely eat plant products. Cotton of any kind, paper and jute -- which are made from plants -- are considered "food" by goats.

Those unwitting teachers were sending the children into the animal pen dressed like a salad bar! I know they didn't realize the danger, but they should consider it in the future.

Thanks for helping me caution parents and teachers who take children to petting zoos. -- COUNTRY GAL FROM SACRAMENTO

DEAR COUNTRY GAL: You're welcome. And now I'll add a thought of my own. A small child wearing a tag that reveals his or her name on an outing is all the more vulnerable to being approached by a stranger. All the person has to say is, "Hi, Suzie. I'm a friend of your mommy's." I think they're a bad idea entirely.

DEAR ABBY: My niece married a few months ago. A month before her wedding, I gave her a wedding gift of eight Waterford goblets in her pattern. Because I had purchased them somewhere other than where she was registered, I asked her twice if they were what she wanted. She assured me that they were "perfect." I also gave her a gift of cash. Several weeks after the wedding, she sent me a gracious thank-you note.

She recently informed me that the goblets I had given her were shorter than she wanted. She told me the store where she had registered would take them back and give her credit toward taller goblets for half the price I had paid. Then she asked me to pay the difference.

Abby, I love her dearly. I do not want to upset our relationship. But I am hurt that she thinks the gift she assured me was perfect is no longer good enough for her. I could pay the difference to save face, but I would be unhappy with myself for allowing myself to be manipulated. Is it proper etiquette for her to ask me to come up with the difference for a more expensive set of goblets than those I gave her? -- EAST COAST AUNT

DEAR EAST COAST AUNT: Your niece's greed is as crystal clear as the goblets you gave her. Stand your ground and refuse her attempt to flatten your pocketbook. Assure her that you love her and value your relationship, but breaking the bank for her to have taller goblets isn't in the cards. The responsibility of exchanging the goblets should be hers and hers alone.

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

Abby shares her favorite recipes in a two-booklet set. To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $7.90 per set ($9 per set in Canada) to: Dear Abby Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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