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: My mother, who suffers from asthma, is moving in with us. We have two dogs, two cats and two parrots. We are afraid the allergens and dander from our pets are going to compromise her condition. Do you have any suggestions to help us keep Mom happy and keep our pets as well? --Monica Norberg, Bay Shore

A: Every one of these situations is different, so what works for one household may not work for another. I can tell you that apart from the obvious -- such as frequent bathing of your pets and not allowing the animals on furniture and in certain rooms -- the best thing to invest in is a high-quality vacuum and electronic room cleaner.

A vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter will help a great deal. The machines are expensive, but they are built to really deep clean rooms for people with environmental allergies. A poor vacuum can actually make matters worse by stirring up the dust and allergens that settle in the carpet.

Air purifiers are another good idea, but some work well and some do not. I have tried many of them with mixed success. The one that worked best for me has no fan and works on the negative ion principle. It emits no noise and we have to change the filter only about once a month -- even in my house with lots of critters.

No matter what kind of technology you use, these situations usually involve a bit of compromise from all sides. The results are rarely perfect.

Q: The yellow nape Amazon parrot I have owned for 43 years suddenly died yesterday, and it was a great shock to us as he was fine the day before. He was never sick a day in his life, and I have no idea what could have caused this. I thought these birds could live for 80 years or longer. --George Frank, Lindenhurst

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A: I am very sorry for your loss. To lose a companion that has shared your life for almost half a century is a great tragedy. However, you will never really know why your parrot died unless a veterinarian performs a postmortem on the bird.

You must understand that your bird was up there in years, and birds, just like any other living creature, can suffer sudden heart attacks and strokes out of the blue. There is very little you could have done to prevent such a thing from happening.

The idea that parrots can live into their 80s is more anecdotal information than anything else. King Tut, the cockatoo at the San Diego Zoo, did live that long -- but most are pretty geriatric by the time they are 40.

A yearly visit to an avian vet for a blood test and culture can predict and help avoid quite a few problems in pet birds, but there are certain things in life that owners cannot prevent at all.


Q: My backyard is full of dandelion and chickweed this time of the year, and I was wondering if these were OK to feed my bearded dragon lizard and Russian tortoise. It seems silly for me to be buying greens for them from the grocery store when I can see pretty much the same things growing right next to my house. --Martin Jones, Uniondale

A: As long as you do not use any chemical weed killers or fertilizers in your yard, then those greens are among the most nutritious foods you can feed your pets.

Whenever I am walking anywhere, my eyes are always on the ground to see if I can locate a particularly nice dandelion or patch of clover growing in a safe place free from chemicals that I can pull up and take home to my vegetarian pets.

There are many websites and books that say what type of weeds are safe for human foragers to eat and those same plants are safe for pets to eat as well.