Marc Morrone Newsday columnist Marc Morrone

Marc Morrone was born in 1960 in the Bronx and, when he was 2, his family moved to

My husband just had a severe heart attack and required heart surgery. Now all seems OK and he is home. Of course, this brings about all sort of lifestyle changes with his new drugs and the dietary changes and exercise that has been prescribed. My friends tell me that keeping a dog can lower a person's blood pressure, so getting one may help out with my husband's condition. Neither of us ever felt we had the time for a dog, and our cardiologist said that if we want one then get one but that there is no scientific proof that having a dog will help prevent another heart attack. -- Francis Anderson, New Hyde Park

I have had not only dogs but lots of other animals all my life and yet I had a heart attack as well a few years back. I still have to take so many pills every day that I rattle when I walk.

While there is no scientific evidence that you will live longer if you have a dog, there is substantial proof that the quality of your life will be enhanced.

It is a proven fact that interacting with a dog -- or cat or any other pet, even watching an aquarium full of fish -- can make your blood pressure drop, heart rate slow and sense of anxiety diminish. There has been some comparative research done in the United States, England and Australia that demonstrates that pet owners as a rule do suffer from fewer health issues than those without pets. However, there is nothing as yet to suggest that pets are directly responsible for these health benefits.

Science and common sense firmly imply that if you have something to care for and to play with, to love or to just even watch, then the quality of your life will improve. Everyone who knows me understands that I admire and respect all animals on planet Earth, but there is no wavering in my mind that dogs are the superb companions. They play significant roles in every culture all over the world, and the benefits from having a dog cannot be overstated.

That being said, there are dogs and there are dogs, and getting the wrong dog for your lifestyle can certainly raise your blood pressure rather then lower it, especially when you bring a puppy home. You did not describe to me your free time or housing situation, but if both are limited, then an older dog that is content to lay around the house all day and be petted and happy with a few walks will do a fine job.

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We have had two female indoor-only cats now for seven years. We just brought another cat into our home that was owned by a relative who passed away. This cat is 10 years old and was declawed as a kitten. We were worried about our cats hurting him. Much to our surprise all three get along nicely and sleep together in a big pile on our couch as if they grew up together. One issue that we notice is that, in the living room is a big cat tree that our two cats use as a scratching post for their claws. The declawed cat will go up to the same area on the scratching post and reach up and rub his paws along the post as if he had claws and then he walks away with almost a smug look on his face. Does he know that he does not have claws anymore? -- Linda Helms, Brentwood

I am really not sure what goes on in the mind of a declawed cat. Declawing is such an invasive and unnatural situation for a cat that most likely it cannot comprehend it at all. Yet they must know something is not quite right with their paws. I have been bitten many times by declawed cats in situations that a whole cat would never think to bite. However, cats do have scent glands on their front feet, and, when a cat is running its claws over a surface, it is depositing its scent there as a calling card to other cats. So what your cat is doing may be more of an olfactory function rather than an instinctive scratching behavior.

We found the first dandelion flower of spring on our front lawn today and my daughter picked it and fed it to her Russian Tortoise before I could stop her. The tortoise certainly enjoyed it. We do not use any chemicals at all on our lawn and we do have lots of dandelions, and we wonder if this is OK to give to the tortoise as a treat? Normally he is fed an assortment of greens that we get from the farmers market. -- Kelly Morris, Long Beach

Chemical-free dandelions -- both the flowers and leaves -- are among the best items you can feed to any herbivorous pet. Every spring I walk everywhere pulling them up and I so enjoy watching my birds, reptiles, bunnies and guinea pigs eating them. This time of the year there is lots of chickweed that is also great for those kinds of pets. In the hot summer months, there is a weed called purslane that grows everywhere that all my pets enjoy as well. All of these have a lot more nutrition to offer than anything that you can buy in a store for your pets to eat.