My Pet World: Greatest hits of reader questions

November 02, 2010|By Steve Dale

After 15 years of writing this column, I've answered more than 3,100 questions from readers. It's impossible to choose a favorite, but I have managed to select a few of the more unusual questions from the archives:

Q: When Harley the hedgehog is in bed with me he sometimes spits on his quills. What's wrong? — L.M., Orland Park, Fla.

A: What's wrong? How about the picture of you sleeping with your hedgehog? I have no issue with people sleeping with dogs or cats, but move the wrong way, and the result might be a quill where you don't want one. Or worse, what if you crush your pet? By the way, Dawn Wrobel, author of "The Hedgehog: An Owner's Guide to a Happy, Healthy Pet" (Howell Book House, New York, N.Y. 1997; $12.95) explains that when hedgehogs like a scent — such as the smell of you — they literally lick it up. They create foamy saliva in their mouths and then wipe that scent on their quills.


Q: My year-old dog doesn't lift his leg to urinate. This is a problem because he piddles on his own front legs. His beautiful cream-colored coat is turning yellow. The vet says everything is OK, and my dog may catch on eventually. Any advice? — J. A.G., Peoria, Ill.

A: Some guys just mature slowly, as my mother has been known to say. It's a good guess that your dog is on the shy side or may be generally submissive. A little confidence boost could help him out. Enroll your pup in a dog training or agility class. Teach him little tricks, and reward him for success.

Veterinary behaviorist Dr. Karen Overall, of Philadelphia, shared her own story of an Australian Shepherd named Flash who never grew cocky enough to cock his leg. She trained Flash to look at her while he piddled, changing his aim to smack between his legs instead of on himself. It's unlikely you'll need to go that far. Meanwhile, buy dog shampoo by the carton.

Q: Why does our cockatiel shake his head like a woodpecker? Is Mo-Jo-Jo-Jo just happy to see us? — L.M, San Diego

A: Yes, your bird is happy to see you, according to Diane Grindol, columnist at Bird Talk magazine and author of "Cockatiels for Dummies" (Hungry Minds Inc., New York, NY, 2001; $16.99). Mo-Jo-Jo-Jo is offering real Mojo, expressing courting behavior. "Don't worry, you're a part of his flock, it's OK," Grindol assures.

Q: Of course, Collies were originally bred to herd sheep. My Lassie has only seen sheep on TV. Why does my dog smell like sheep? — A.F., Phoenix

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