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by Abigail Van Buren

Cute Chicks and Ducklings Make Foul Pets for Kids

DEAR ABBY: In years past, you have warned parents that it is inappropriate to give young fowl or baby animals to small children as Easter gifts. Not only are the children too young to properly care for them, but they pose a health risk.

Many chicks, ducklings and other young fowl shed salmonella bacteria in their feces. Humans become infected from direct contact with the birds or when feces-contaminated food, hands or objects are placed in the mouth.

Children have more frequent hand-to-mouth contact than adults and are less likely to wash their hands properly after handling chicks or ducklings. Infants, children under 5 and immuno-compromised persons are at high risk for severe infections and diarrhea.

Abby, please stress to your readers that if they handle young fowl, they MUST thoroughly wash their hands with soap and hot water. -- KAMMY JOHNSON, DVM, PHD, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION, ATLANTA

DEAR KAMMY: Thank you for the timely warning. Parents who want to give their children chicks and ducks should buy the cuddly "stuffed" kind. Not only do they not have to be fed, they also don't pose a health risk.

DEAR ABBY: My father, now in his late 60s, seems to enjoy upsetting people. For many years, he has given gifts with the intention of deliberately shocking the recipient. When the package is opened, he breaks into a big grin if the person is reduced to tears.

He sent my sister's rooommate insulting literature because he doesn't like the way she manages her money. He doesn't like my niece's husband, so he sent him a pair of dirty socks.

As he ages, it appears that my father's desperate attempts to hurt people have accelerated. The last straw came a few weeks ago when I was a passenger in my father's car. He purposely stopped across three lanes of oncoming traffic -- on my side of the car! I became hysterical. My husband wants to sell our home and move me as far away as possible from my abusive father.

Abby, our family is planning to get together again soon. I feel like excluding my father. What should I do? -- HURT IN VIRGINIA

DEAR HURT: Whether or not to invite your father to a family gathering is the least of your worries. Your father's behavior appears to be escalating from eccentric to dangerous. One definition of serious mental illness is, "The person is a danger to himself or others." By stopping his car across three lanes of traffic, he placed you in serious jeopardy. Talk to a lawyer and to his doctor about his behavior. Your father must be evaluated for dementia or mental illness.

DEAR ABBY: Returning home from a small dinner party given by some close friends, I remarked to my wife that the gin had been watered. She observed that so was the scotch.

How can we delicately call this to the attention of our hosts? They don't read Dear Abby. We're concerned that their housekeeper may be nipping and refilling the bottles of expensive booze with water. -- BOMBED IN BEVERLY HILLS

DEAR BEVERLY HILLS: (Far be it from me to call anyone "Bombed.") Since you're afraid you'll offend these close friends if you approach the subject directly, the next time they entertain you, bring your own bottle as a bread-and-butter gift.

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

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a 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, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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