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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Many cities have set aside land for use as "dog parks." They are designed to be open places where dog owners can let their pets off leash to run free.

Last Saturday, a woman brought her 18-month-old son into the dog park. Several of us suggested to her that it wasn't a good idea to let her toddler wander free among 20-plus strange dogs. She said he had been knocked down several times by their own dog, and always got up and laughed and chased after the dog.

I am glad their family dog is child-friendly. My dog is not. Children's quick movements, high-pitched squeals and tendency to hit, poke and grab all scare my dog.

Abby, a dog park is designed to allow dogs the opportunity to run free and socialize with other dogs. What might happen in an encounter between a child and the wrong dog terrifies me. Please pass on this request to parents: If you bring your dog to the dog park, leave your babies at home -- or at least keep them close to you and away from the dogs. -- CHILD AND DOG LOVER IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR C & D LOVER: Your letter may avert a tragedy. A wise parent will remember that not all dogs are friendly and will closely supervise a dog's encounter with a child until the parent is certain that both the child and the dog can be trusted.

DEAR ABBY: Yesterday for the first time in years, I stopped at a yard sale. As I approached, a man was examining a Colt model 1911 .45-caliber handgun. He waved it around, pointing it at everything in sight.

I asked the owner if the gun was unloaded. "Sure is," he said. "The clip is safely in my pocket." When it was my turn to look at the gun, I pulled the slide back and out popped a live round. I'll never forget the look of horror on the faces of the owner and the man who had been waving the gun.

I don't know what made me stop at that yard sale, but I feel if I hadn't, the gun would have eventually fired and perhaps someone would have been killed.

Abby, I have never felt outlawing guns is the answer. Education is. -- CLOSE CALL IN YUMA, ARIZ.

DEAR CLOSE CALL: I agree. That, and trigger locks and background checks.

CONFIDENTIAL TO BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE: You say you don't believe in divorce. The relationship you have described is not a marriage. One of the first signs of abuse is isolating the victim so that he or she has no one to turn to. Control -- withholding money or freedom -- is another warning sign of abuse.

It's understandable that you pray to die, but there is help. As soon as you can find a few minutes away from your abuser, you MUST call (800) 799-7233. It's the number of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. The counselor can direct you in devising a safe escape plan for you and your children.

Let today be the day you flee toward a life worth living. Do it for yourself and for your children.

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 in the price.)

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