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 2-year-old Yorkie has one ear that is upright and one ear that flops over. It's been this way since she was a puppy. The breeder said the other ear would stand up as she grew, but it never did. I read that if the groomer can trim the hair off the back and the edge of the ear and tape moleskin inside it, it may end up standing up straight like the other one. What is your opinion on this?
--Dorothy Richards, Wading River

A: Yorkies are a breed with ears that stand up naturally, and if the ears do flop as puppies they should prick up as the dog gets older, just as the breeder said. However if your Yorkie's ears are unusually large or the fur on the ear is very long, then the weight will keep pulling the ear down and eventually the cartilage will harden and the ear will stay like this. If the fur on the ears had been trimmed when the dog was a puppy, most likely the floppy ear would have pricked up naturally and the cartilage would have been strong enough to keep the ears up even when the fur grew back. However, your dog is now 2, and the situation is what it is. I suspect the ear is not going to stand up no matter what you do at this point, but you will never know unless you try.

To trim the fur on the outside of the ear and put a bit of moleskin inside it to hold it up is not a surgical procedure like cropping is and will not hurt the dog. If your groomer can do it, then you have nothing to lose.

Q: We have had a 5-inch-long Russian tortoise for the last six months. He is very active. I was wondering if we could put him in a pen outdoors for the summer. He would have a lot more room than he does in the fish tank. If this is a good idea, what should we make the pen out of?
--Terry Norberg, Lawrence

A: Your tortoise should be kept outside night and day only if you can build a very strong pen that is totally raccoon-proof. Raccoons love to eat turtles and tortoises. This means that the pen needs a secure cover, and you need to extend the edges of the pen under the ground for quite a way to be sure that a raccoon cannot dig underneath it. The tortoise can dig as well, and it seems that when they are in such a pen all they try to do is escape. The sides of the pen need to be solid or of a very small wire mesh. If the wire mesh has openings larger than a half-inch, the tortoise will get his head or a leg stuck in it. Unless you are very handy, such a pen is very hard to build from scratch. It is a much better idea to just put the tortoise outside to get some exercise and be able to eat some pesticide-free grass and weeds in a temporary pen for a few hours under your watchful eye.

I use a cheap wading pool and cut out the bottom with a pair of tin snips I'm left with a circle of the plastic sides about 14 inches high. Then I just place that on the lawn in a shady spot on a nice warm day and allow my tortoises to enjoy themselves in it when we are outside. When we go back in the house, we bring in the tortoises, and all is well.

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Q: How hot is too hot for my house to stay during the summer months when nobody is home? We have a dog and a cat and an African gray parrot. With the price of electricity now, I would like to know how cool I need to keep my house so that they feel comfortable.
--Brian Blanco, Hempstead

A: Cats have it the easiest in the summer as they are clever enough to find cool areas such as the bathtub or on a tile floor. Caged pets such as birds have it the hardest as they cannot escape from the situation. You do not have to keep the house at 70 degrees for them, however.

I have my air conditioner set at 80 degrees, and all my pets do fine at this temperature.

My fish aquariums usually register at 83 degrees when we get home as the motors from the pumps raise the temperature a bit, but this is fine for the fish.

Just be diligent and put out enough clean water to last the day for all your pets.