DEAR DR. FOX: I just read your article regarding lawn chemicals. I'm sure my neighbors hate us, because they all have lovely green lawns, whereas ours has some dandelions. One neighbor regularly tells me how inexpensive it is to treat the dandelions -- hint, hint -- but our local PBS gardening program recently pointed out how many critters are fed by the dandelion leaves and flowers, so I just smile and ignore him.
We bought this house because it has a fenced backyard for the dogs and lots of trees. We also feed the birds. This year, I have noticed that only a resident robin has been visiting my feeding area. I've been putting out apple slices and bread for her. I told my sister about it. Her retired husband works part-time at a wild bird supply store, and he told her that because so many people are poisoning their grass, there aren't enough bugs left for the birds to eat. My sister said her robins have begun eating the peanut butter cakes they put out.
When we retired, we moved from California back to Nebraska. During a three-day drive through all kinds of country, one bug hit the windshield. I remarked to my husband, when we were kids and traveled around with Dad, he'd have to stop and clear all the bugs off the radiator. In three days, we hit one bug. That's pretty scary. As a family, we've started planting milkweeds. My mom's yard is full of them. I finally got some started, and I am seeing them in a few of my neighbors' yards and at the nurseries.
I guess we've got to keep hoping. We, too, remember growing up surrounded by fields of wildflowers, birds and bugs. If we don't stop, it's going to be a pretty lonely place. -- P.S., Lincoln, Nebraska
DEAR P.S.: Many readers will appreciate your observations, and yes indeed, the dramatic decline in the insect populations in most communities, with the exception of disease-transmitting mosquitoes and ticks, is a serious issue.
Young people have no memory of our bug-, butterfly- and bird-rich seasons and plethora of reptiles and frogs and other amphibians in our nature playgrounds. We must add light pollution as a factor in the insects' demise, in addition to habitat destruction and pesticides, the complex consequences of which we are not immune from -- yet wholly responsible for.
DEAR DR. FOX: My 8-year-old beagle has "cherry eye." The vet suggests we do surgery. This would cost $2,000, which we do not have.
Do you have any suggestions of what could be done with home remedies, or at least nothing so expensive? It appears very mild to me. Our vet has given eye drops, which seem to keep it contained. Your advice would be appreciated. -- C.J., Fairfax, Virginia
DEAR C.J.: Veterinary services, especially those involving preparation for and administration of general anesthesia and doing the micro-surgery required for the safe removal of this gland in the corner of your dog's eye, are not inexpensive. You might seek a second opinion and quote from another veterinarian who does relatively minor, yet delicate, eye surgery.
I see no alternative if the gland gets larger. But if it remains relatively small, with appropriate eye drops to reduce inflammation and infection, and dry-eye does not develop with possible risk of corneal ulceration, which some eye medications may trigger, surgery could be postponed. The veterinarian should examine the eye every four to six months, and immediately if the dog starts to wipe at it or blink a lot.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
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