Q: We have a stinky bunny. He is a house bunny that is now almost 9 years old but he just does not groom himself anymore. He is no longer the clean and sweet little bunny that he was when we got him 8 years ago. We tried to give him a bath but he splashed water all over us and the bathroom and two days later he was a stinky as ever. We took him to the vet last week to get his nails trimmed and asked her if we could use baby wipes on him but the vet said that it was not a good idea. She saw no physical reason why he does not groom himself the way he used to. Do you had any suggestions? -- Sharon Foster, Riverhead
A: I agree with the vet that baby wipes are not a good idea and I can identify with your description of the drama in bunny bathing. I have discovered one thing that works well in temporarily cleaning up a stinky bunny. Rub dry cornstarch into his fur and then brush it all out. Most of the dirt in his fur will stick to the cornstarch and then come out as you brush him. If he licks off any cornstarch that may be left in his fur, it will not affect him as the soap in the baby wipes may do. As a dry bath, cornstarch works well with dogs and cats also.
Q: We adopted a 3 1/2-month-old puppy six years ago. He weighs 85 pounds now, has regular vet checkups and is healthy. The thing is, he used to get along with other dogs and allowed people to pet him when he was about 2 years old. Now, four years later, he does not like most dogs, except some smaller ones. He hates other animals, like squirrels and cats, except our cat at home. We can’t take him to dog parks anymore because he gets too hyper with the other dogs. We were told to leave the park because he was so hyper. He does not like people or being petted by them. If a person were to extend a hand to pet him, he would lunge at them. He loves all of us (his family), and loves to play with us. Sometimes he gets pretty rough, but not to hurt us. Is there anything that can be done to have him be less aggressive? -- Richard Freda, East Islip
A: There is no miraculous and happy answer I can give you. Four years ago your dog decided that he did not want to socialize with other life-forms on planet Earth except his human family and feline housemate. So what can you do in this situation? Nothing really, except revolve your life around it.
I do not know what breed combination he is, but many large breeds were selectively bred to be wary of strangers as they got older — the classic watchdog. There was a time when such suspicion was a valuable asset, but in this day and age a large dog that thinks this way just does not fit in very well. When you first noticed his feelings changing at 2 years of age, had you used positive reinforcement training methods with an animal behaviorist, then you may have been able to change his mind. Perhaps a very talented trainer may be able to do it at this age as well . . . however, if a dog like yours that you think has been rehabilitated suddenly forgets itself and does bite a stranger, then your whole life can be altered for the worse.
My best advice is for you to just be realistic and responsible with him. Enjoy him as the family pet that he is, keep him away from strangers and be sure that your yard is secure with a proper fence and gate so that he cannot get loose and cause any stress to your neighbors. Since you have had him in this frame of mind for the last four years, then most likely you have learned to revolve yourself around him anyway. If you just need my blessing that he is what he is, then you have it.
Q: We want to get a lizard for our son as a pet because he is allergic to fur, but we are not sure what is better for him — a bearded dragon or leopard gecko? What do you think makes a better pet? -- Joe Williams, Hempstead
A: I am fascinated by all living creatures, so the idea of one animal being a better pet than another is something I cannot fathom, as I want and have had them all. However, there are some differences in these animals that may make one or the other more suitable to share your home.
Both of these species live for many years and are very intelligent for a coldblooded creature and can recognize different people. They both seem self-aware to me. They also seem to enjoy being handled, and that is a big plus for a reptile pet.
The main difference is their adult size. Dragons can get to be quite large, as long as 24 inches, and need a glass enclosure that may be too big for many living situations. The gecko is much smaller, so, if space is an issue, I would go along with that. A full-grown gecko is fine in a 20-gallon tank. However, the bigger size of the dragon does make it easier for children to relate to, so if you have the space, then that would be my choice.