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You & Your Pet

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If your dog wants love, it’s fine to give it

By Marc Morrone
Newsday
Pets Dog Talk
Tamara Leifer - AP
One-year-old Van Leifer-Nau cuddles with Neiko, a yellow lab-Saluki mix, at their San Diego home. Tamara Leifer-Nau says of her dog and son Van, "Neiko loves this baby, it's like Van is his baby. They love each other and Neiko goes in for as many kisses as he can get. They are inseparable."

Q: I am owned by two dogs, a 9 1/2-year-old bichon and a Maltipoo who just turned 2. They are both wonderfully sweet girls and the joy of my life. My question has to do with the Maltipoo, Fiona.

About six months ago, Fiona became very clingy, wanting to be picked up and cuddled like a baby whenever I am sitting down. When I do pick her up she makes a little noise and gives a contented sigh and puts her head on my shoulder and falls asleep. If it were up to her, she would stay like that all afternoon or evening. I hold her like that for a half-hour or so, then put her down.

Both dogs get plenty of love and affection, and they even sleep in our bed with us at night. My husband says I’m spoiling Fiona by picking her up and cuddling her whenever she wants. Is there such a thing as giving a dog, or any animal for that matter, too much love?

A: There can never be too much love in the world. If what was going on here compromised the dog’s ability to handle life’s random events, there would be an issue. For example, if the dog whined and begged to be picked up before you left the house and you did it every time, that would be bad because it would reward the dog’s anxiety.

The Maltese breed was created just to entertain us, be picked up and cuddled, but I have seen cuddly behavior in every dog breed or breed combination. So just keep on with your cuddles and love – you do not need to apologize for it or justify it to anybody.

Let little bunny go

Q: I saw my poodle carrying an odd object in his mouth in our backyard the other day and it turned out to be a teeny-weeny bunny. It was not harmed by the dog and its eyes were open, but it was so small I thought for sure it needed to be bottle-fed. So I went to PetSmart and bought a nursing bottle and some goat’s milk from the health food store. The bunny refused the bottle, but started to eat the rabbit pellets and lettuce I had in the cage with it. Can I keep the bunny as a pet?

A: It may be cute now but it is not a domesticated pet bunny, rather a wild cottontail rabbit. When it grows up, it will be a nervous twitchy creature that runs and jumps at the slightest thing and scratches wildly when you pick it up.

These rabbits are not at all related to pet bunnies, which are the domesticated form of the European rabbit.

As you see, they are weaned and self-sufficient at a small size. Since you did save its life, you should also preserve its future by turning it loose. Just try to find an area with lots of cover and thorn buses to protect it from other predators, like dogs and cats.

Mourning a beloved cat

Q: My beloved cat died after 18 years of us being together. She was with me through some very bad times and was the only thing in my life I could count on. My heart is broken and I do not know what to do. My nearest and dearest all think I am silly to mourn a cat and suggest I just get another. But I do not want to be disloyal to the memory of Molly.

A: I have loved many animals in the last half-century, and I have lost many of them. My own heart is pockmarked and twisted from all the losses.

There is one thing I can say with complete authority: Go out as soon as possible and get another cat. Taking care of a pet again will fill that void in your life.

Molly’s memory will always be in your heart, as the memories of all my pets are in mine.

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