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 husband is going to be having transplant surgery and we were told that we have to have our dog and two parrots out of the house when he gets home from the hospital, as his immune system is going to be compromised. We have friends who have offered to take care of the animals for the months that it will take for things to get back to normal. Is there anything we can do to be sure that our pets do not forget us during this time? As silly as this sounds, we were thinking that if we talked with them on Skype, that would help. --Jane Robinson, Huntington

A. I really do not think that you have much to worry about in this respect. During superstorm Sandy, I had to board pets of all species for people who were displaced from their homes, and some of them were with me for many months. I was amazed how the animals all recognized their keepers when they finally were reunited, though many of them had no contact with each other in all that time. Skype may be a good idea -- it will surely make your husband feel better to see the pets doing well in their temporary homes -- but do not feel too badly if the animals do not respond. Not all animals will pay attention to video. Some do, but most do not.

When I was on TV, my wife would always put the animals in front of the set when I was on to see if they recognized my voice or my face, but not one of my pets ever even looked at my image at all. Some of my readers, however, have told me that their pets do watch TV intently and even react to their keeper's voice when they hear it on the telephone -- so you really will not know it until you try.

 

Q. Our Yorkie gets all sorts of mats in her fur. When we take her to be groomed, the groomer has to work twice as hard to get them all out. She told us that if we combed and brushed the dog every day, then the mats would not occur and the cost of the grooming would be lower. However, when we try to brush the dog, she gives us such a hard time that we cannot do it at all, and she always wins the rodeo. Is there some way to brush her without any drama? --Gail Reid, Wantagh

A. Without seeing the dog, the best advice I can give you is to have her shaved down so her fur is very short and mat-free. You need the fur short so that it does not tug in the brush or comb anymore -- that is what is setting her off.

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 Use a stainless steel grooming comb rather then the brush, as the brush tickles some dogs too much. Then just sit with her on the couch every night with the comb and run it all over her body. You do not even have to use the teeth at first -- just use the back of the comb so there is no stimulation. Praise her and give her treats throughout so that she thinks this is a fun game and not a rodeo anymore. As time goes on, she will become desensitized to these sessions, and her fur will grow back so slowly that, gradually, she will not mind the passing of her fur through the teeth of the comb. And since there are no mats forming, there will be no tugging or pulling. By the time her fur grows back, you should be able to comb her out every day with no drama at all.

 

Q. We live on a corner lot and we have a chain-link fence that is 4-feet high around our property line. Our 2-year-old sheltie has gradually gotten obsessive with barking and running after people who are walking past the fence. She is ever watchful of them. She never takes her eyes off the sidewalk that runs along the fence, and her running along it scares people. She is creating a gully in the dirt along the fence, and our neighbor is complaining about the noise of her barking. When we are with her, we do our best to call her off when she does this, but we cannot be with her all the time. Can you tell us how to train her not to do this anymore? --Ben Aviles, Freeport

A. This is a hard problem to help with, as she is just doing what shelties and other herding dogs were meant to do -- chase after sheep and bark at them. Since sheep are rather hard to find in your neighborhood, pedestrians are a good substitute. The fact that the people all leave as she is running and barking after them just reinforces the idea in her head that she is doing what she is supposed to do.

In a perfect world, you actually could teach her not to do this by spending lots of time having pedestrians stop when she runs up to them and just stand there quietly until she leaves in disgust. Eventually, she will give up the whole idea as a waste of time. However, if she is alone in the yard with a world full of people who are walking along your fence, then the only suggestion I can offer you is to block her view of the situation with a solid PVC or vinyl fence that she can no longer see through. Most herding dogs are visually oriented, so blocking her view of would be the best thing to do.