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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am a professional whistler and bird caller. Whenever people ask what I do for a living, my reply is often met with the question, "What is that?" About the best I can respond with is, "Someone who whistles."

My art is not at the height of its popularity, as it was in the early part of the last century. Whistlers are no longer featured with big bands as they once were; the late, great whistler Fred Lowery no longer headlines at Carnegie Hall or whistles the national anthem at Yankee Stadium; Elmo Tanner is not whistling "Heartaches" with Perry Como and the Ted Weems orchestra; and Muzzy Marcellino isn't whistling the sweet and plaintive theme song to "Lassie" that we all remember.

Abby, it's hard to deal with the fact that the art of whistling has become so far removed from the public. Could you kindly print my letter as a reminder to your readers that whistling is a beautiful art form with a rich heritage in America and elsewhere? (No name, please. This one's for the art.) -- THE WHISTLER, JENKS, OKLA.

DEAR WHISTLER: I'm pleased to do so. It's the truth. And I'm not whistling "Dixie."

DEAR ABBY: I read the letter from "Lifeguarding Mom" who had a "close call" with a near-drowning accident she will never forget.

My child had a close call I will never forget, either. He also survived, but he is NOT fine. Media coverage is extensive with drowning accidents, but you do not always hear the follow-up stories of the results of the accident. Many people hear that a child survived and went home from the hospital. What they do not realize is that many children go home with severe disabilities.

My child survived a near-drowning accident 13 years ago. He cannot walk or talk. He is fed using a tube in his stomach, needs oxygen, has seizures daily and requires 24-hour care. In less than five minutes not only did his life change, but so did many other lives as well. These past years have been an unending emotional roller-coaster ride. I would not wish this on anyone.

DO NOT THINK THIS CANNOT HAPPEN TO YOU. I have spoken to many parents of children who have survived a near-drowning experience. Their stories are not all the same. The common link is small children and a water source. It takes only 2 inches of water for a child to drown. It happens in buckets, fountains, toilets, pools, canals, streams, lakes, etc. And it often happens when the adults are distracted for any of a thousand reasons.

Most parents have temporarily lost track of a child at one time or another, especially if there is more than one child. Most of the time the child is safe. Of course, drowning is not the only danger from which we need to shield our children. Accidents WILL happen, but if you are careful this may not happen to you. -- ONE PHOENIX SURVIVOR

DEAR SURVIVOR: Your letter is a chilling reminder to parents of small children. I hope they will take heed.

And now I have a question: Parents, where is your child RIGHT NOW?

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

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600