Marc Morrone Newsday columnist Marc Morrone

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

Q:  I have a 5-year-old golden retriever that has been eating his own poop since he was a puppy. He will not eat the poop of other dogs, only his own and only when it has been out for several hours. I have read that this can be due to something missing in his diet, but we give him the best brand of food and our vet says he is perfectly healthy. I have tried pills from the pet store that are supposed to make his poop taste bad, but it has no effect. Is there anything else I can do? --Dale Jennings, Huntington

A: This is a management issue. From the dog's point of view, his poop tastes good and is available, so he sees no reason why he should not partake of it.

I am assuming that you allow your dog to poop in your backyard, as you say he finds it afterward to eat at his leisure. If you picked up the poop as soon as you saw him go, then the problem would never happen. Dogs that are walked on a lead for elimination never have the opportunity to do this.

If you just do not have the time to manage the cleaning up after the dog every time he poops, then you are going to have to live with the situation.

One other tip: Sometimes the enzyme papain, when added to a dog's diet, will affect the poop in such a way that it no longer seems familiar to the dog. Those pills that you bought probably contain papain. I've seen them work when fed to smaller dogs. Larger dogs usually need more papain than the pills contain. Papain is also found in dried papaya. Some pet keepers with larger dogs have told me that when they add chopped dried papaya to the food of a poop-eating dog, the issue has gone away. It is worth a try.

Q: We set up a wild bird feeder in our backyard for the first time. We enjoy seeing the chickadees and other small birds, but there never seems to be any of their favorite sunflower seeds at the feeder as the blue jays swallow as many sunflower seeds as they can fit into their mouth and then fly away. I know that nature is not fair, but is there any way we can balance things out a bit? --Alice Nicholls, Smithtown

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A: Just like humans need more than one restaurant in town, a flock of wild birds needs more than one feeder. Chickadees, nuthatches and the smaller birds that like sunflower seeds are best served from one of those hanging feeders that just serve the sunflower seeds out one at a time. Hang this feeder as close to your house as you can. Jays are more shy than chickadees and will prefer the general feeder that you first set up. The smaller birds can then eat in peace from the specialized feeder.

Q:  I just saw a pretty black squirrel eating at my bird feeder. I have lived here for 20 years and never saw one before. Is it a different species l from the regular gray ones? In upstate New York, I've noticed squirrels are smaller and red. --John Wilson, Lakeview

A: Here in New York, we have two species of squirrels -- the gray ones that are so common and adaptable and the smaller red squirrels that live in the more rural areas up north.

The black squirrel that you saw just has a color mutation of the gray squirrel. There are even albino squirrels here and there. Spontaneous mutations are quite common. In most cases natural selection wipes out any mutation that causes an animal to look or act different from the norm. However in the case of some animals -- like squirrels -- that have had their food supply or predators altered by human encroachment on their habitat, the mutation can flourish as the black mutation in these squirrel populations seems to have done.