I have a parakeet in my yard -- of course, by the bird feeders and baths. I saw a lost- and-found ad in Newsday and called the woman. It may be hers, but I have no way to catch it. Any ideas? -- Lynne Denis, New York City

It seems as if humans have been trying to catch birds for one reason or another since the beginning of time. Since the bird is obviously a pet and is familiar with cages, you need to get a cage and attach some fishing line to the door in a way that you can pull the line and close the door. Load the cage with seed and place it where the feeders are with a door in the open position. Then take the seed out of the feeders. (Do not worry about the wild birds; they will not starve this time of the year.) The parakeet will fly down to the feeding area, see the cage full of seed with the door open and then should go right into it. If all goes well, you then pull the string and close the door and you have the bird.

If you are not seeing the bird in your yard when you are out there holding the string and ready to pull it, then just remove the string and wire open the door so that it cannot close. Leave the cage there. This way, when the bird does come to the area, it will still go into the cage to feed and thus become used to the situation so that you can try again later on when you have the time to wait outside sitting in a chair and reading as you are holding the string.

I remember when I was a kid, there was a loose parakeet in my backyard and I was trying to catch it in a similar manner for a few days. The poor bird was being bullied by the local sparrows and was having a hard time. Finally I timed the situation perfectly and the bird went into the cage and started to eat as I was sitting about 30 feet away holding the string. Of course, when I pulled the string it got tangled on a bush and the part leading from the bush to my hand broke off. The part leading from the bush to the cage was still holding the door open, and, since I could no longer close the door, there was no point approaching the cage, as I was sure the bird would fly right out of it. As the parakeet was eating, a gang of sparrows landed on the cage, glaring angrily at the parakeet. The parakeet kept glancing nervously upward at the sparrows and then obviously came to some sort of decision. It went to the door of the cage and tugged at it hard enough so that the string leading from the cage door to the bush came off and the door then slid closed. He then calmly went back to his meal.

This was one of the few times in my life I actually saw an animal use a cognitive thought process. I kept that little bird and named him Pete and had him as a cherished pet for another six years, but he never showed off his cognitive skills like that again.

My kids finally broke me down and I agreed to get a dog, the first either my husband or I ever had. Of course we went on the Internet to research the breeds, and we are 100 percent confused as to which we should get. Should we get a pure breed or a mixed breed, contact a breeder or rescue a dog from a shelter? -- Grace Simpson, Massapequa

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This is not an easy question to answer, as all dogs make good pets. That being said, some dogs have physical and mental abilities that make them easier for some humans to raise. Note I say easier and not better. If you do not have time to comb a dog daily, then do not get a dog with long hair unless you are prepared to take it to a groomer regularly. Better to get a short-haired dog to begin with. If you do not have time to take a dog outside to be exercised two or three times a day and cannot afford a dog-walker, then do not get a breed that needs lots of outdoor time. Instead, get a small dog that can tire itself out by chasing a ball around the living room. If you are a control freak and need a dog that pays attention to your every command, then do not get a breed of dog that was selectively bred to think for itself and make its own decisions.

These are the things that you should be doing research on. The dog does not have to be a puppy, either. An older dog that is down on its luck and in a shelter for whatever reason is such a good option. After you adopt the dog, you just take it home and walk in the door with it and feed it and let it pick out a place to sleep and, presto, you have a dog. You do not have to housetrain it or do anything else.

The best dog I ever had was Barney, a medium-sized mixed-breed setter-looking dog, 5 or 6 years old, that I just happened to find in a shelter. He had been dumped there because he had chronic gingivitis that even my vets could not fix. And he had horrible and expensive dental problems for the 10 years that I had him. There was just something about him that appealed to me. Our connection was instantaneous, and he never stopped going out of his way to help me and did his best to do whatever he could to make my life easier. I never felt worthy of his adulation.