All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thanksgiving Turkey has reason to be THANKFUL!

Dear Marie
My son’s school is having a raffle to raise money for a class trip to science camp. Most of the parents have donated prizes for the raffle. However, one family will be giving away a live turkey that they will butcher, and dress for Thanksgiving as their donation. My son, as well as the majority of the other students are appalled at this, especially since the Turkey in question has been brought to school on a number of occasions and allowed to mingle with all the kids. It’s actually very cute and very friendly. It is like a pet...not dinner!

Well, to make a long story short, it has been decided that whoever wins the turkey is going to give it to my son who has promised to take care of it for the remainder of its natural life. I’ve agreed to this but I don’t have a clue about how to care for turkeys. What can you tell me?

Dear Eleanor:
What a wonderful mom you are to have stepped up to the plate (no pun intended) on this issue. Even if children are not vegetarians, it is hard for them, if not impossible, to look at live animals and picture them killed for food. I think there would be many more vegetarians if people had to meet
and fraternize with cows, turkeys, and other barnyard animals prior to the slaughter of these highly social animals.

You should understand, however, that turkeys are indeed livestock and you must live on a parcel of property zoned for such animals if you plan on maintaining it on your property. Check with your city hall for more information about their rules and possible exemptions.

Turkeys are fairly easy to care for. They enjoy grassy areas, but should also have access to dirt for daily dust bathing. This helps them stay parasite free. They also need a waterproof and well ventilated shelter. Line the shelter with straw four to six inches high and change it daily.

Turkeys love to perch. You can make a suitable perch within the shelter by using a two by four board secured to the walls. You can purchase all the supplies for making the shelter at your local hardware store. Go to the library and check out a book that has plans and diagrams for building sheds or coops.

Once your turkey arrives, be sure to put him inside his shelter every night to protect him from predators and cold weather. You can purchase special turkey food at most feed stores. Check your yellow pages to find the closest location. You can also feed your pet a mixture of corn, oats and sunflower seeds in equal parts. Add a spoonful of grit and oyster shells to help with digestion and satisfy calcium requirements. Place the food into a feeder. Avoid feeding him from the ground. This will keep him healthy. Turkeys also need greens and enjoy fruits; however, keep the fruits to a minimum.

With good care and attention, turkeys live six to eight years or longer! Females weigh between 25 and 35 pounds, while males are usually 35-45 pounds by maturity. With daily interaction, they become affectionate and playful. They actually enjoy companionship with people. You will enjoy your unusual pet.

For more information about pet turkeys, contact the Farm Sanctuary at

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Big Bear Alpine Zoo

Dear Readers,
Frequently, I receive letters with questions and concerns about urban wildlife. Here in Orange County, many residents don’t expect to see coyotes, opossums, skunks, raccoons, bobcats, deer, rattlesnakes, mountain lions, etc. But the fact is, they are all here, along with many other amazing species and unfortunately, the first reaction most people experience is fear; and that usually leads to problems.

Nevertheless, the most basic rule of thumb for safe and harmonious co-existence regarding the wildlife we share our cities with is to learn about them. Alas, there are very few places one can go to get up close and personal, from an educational perspective, with indigenous animals.

Most zoos are not interested in local wildlife. Their enclosures and habitats are filled with exotic animals such as tigers, giraffes, polar bears and penguins. Though learning about all the animals of the earth is enjoyable and interesting, I believe it is equally important to learn about feathery, scaly, and furry next-door neighbors as well.

My favorite local zoo is the Big Bear Alpine Zoo. The facility, which is located at Big Bear Lake, serves as a type of foster home for wild animals that have been injured, or kept illegally as pets. When possible, the zoo personnel rehabilitate and release the critters that luckily end up on their doorstep. Sadly, however, many of these animals have been seriously maimed by human beings and can never be returned to the wild. In these cases, a permanent home with wonderful care will be theirs, and by living at the zoo, these creatures provide humans the chance to learn about how special and integral to the balance of nature all living things are.

The zoo is a relatively short drive out to the San Bernardino Forest, and makes a great day trip or mini-vacation. It is open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM, with general admission being only $12. Children 3-10 years old, active and retired military (with ID), and senior citizens are only $9.00, and kids under 3 years old are free. It is located right across the street from Bear Mountain Ski Resort at 43285 Goldmine Drive, Big Bear Lake, CA.

Taking a trip up to the local mountains and spending an afternoon at the zoo is always fun, but if you can, plan on being there any Saturday in December between 11 AM and 2PM. You will be in for a treat. The animal park is having a special holiday festival, complete with "Santa Claws."

For more information about this upcoming event, call the Friends of the Big Bear Alpine Zoo at
909-878-4200 or visit

Many of you may recall that I have written about the Big Bear Alpine Zoo (formerly the Moonridge Animal Park) before. This amazing facility has lost its lease on the land where they have been located since 1959. They are working hard to raise enough money to build a new facility on the North side of Big Bear Lake and transfer all of their orphans. Few organizations have taken on the huge responsibility of helping to educate the public about indigenous wildlife, and fewer still offer a refuge to those animals who have suffered the consequences of venturing too close to human beings. If you are interested in volunteering or helping the zoo in any way, please write to the Friends of the Big Bear Alpine Zoo at or call the number mentioned above.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Military Pet

Dear Marie,
My best friend was just called to active duty in the military and will be gone for quite some time. He had asked me to take care of his dog while he is overseas and I agreed. Most likely, he’s not going to be able to take the dog back when he returns because he suspects he’ll be shipping out pretty regularly over the next few years and won’t really be able to provide a stable home. I told
him that’s OK with me. It’s been a long time since I had a dog of my own – not since I lived at
home with my parents. And to be completely honest, my mom was the person who really took care of “my” dog. Now that I have my friend’s dog, I realize how much work is involved.

Frankly, I haven’t been the best dog owner because I just don’t have the time and I feel really badly about it. My wife and kids are way too busy too. Between work, school, soccer, homework, and everything else, there’s no time left for the dog. This is where my question comes in…my mom, who will be 80 in a few months, has offered to take care of the dog. When she comes over to visit, it seems to sense that she is an animal lover and spends every second of the visit right by her side. And my mom loves this dog. She lights up around him. She seems like she’s 20 years younger when she’s playing with him. Last week she asked if she could keep him at her house. My wife thinks it’s a bad idea because the dog is really big - almost 90 pounds - and my mom, who is a widow now and lives alone, is fairly small and frail. It’s not a bad mannered dog at all. As far as I can tell, he’s completely obedience trained and never jumps up on anyone. I think the dog would be much better off with my mom but I don’t want to put her in any kind of danger. What would you suggest?

Dear Tony,
First let me commend both you and your friend for making arrangements for this dog. Too frequently, pets belonging to military personnel who are called to active duty are relinquished to shelters. I am very pleased to hear that the two of you worked together to ensure this dog would always have a home.

Now to the matter at hand – though your mother is nearly 80, she sounds as though she is quite capable of handling a dog, no matter what his size. By you own admission, she is the expert dog owner in the family, and by virtue of being a senior citizen, she has plenty of time to dote over a companion animal.

I understand your wife’s concerns. I would suggest having a test run with your mom and your friend’s dog. Ask her to come over during the days - preferably on a weekend when you can be there to observe – and have her be in charge of the dog. Make some mental notes of what goes on.

For example, can she easily put on and take off a leash? Can she take him for walks? Does the dog get too excited when she is holding a bowl of food for him? Does the dog respond to her commands?

If everything seems OK at your house, there should be no difference at her house. Furthermore, it has been well documented that senior citizens who care for pets live longer, healthier lives and remain physically active. You noticed that your mom seemed years younger and very happy when she was visiting with this dog. That type of joy is invaluable. It fosters a sense of well being that in turn triggers many positive physiological responses. Your mom would love a buddy around her home. I’m sure that her visits with you are nice – but eventually, she has to go back to her own home, alone.

Having a companion animal in the house will be a wonderful change of pace for her. She’ll have someone to talk to, who will always listen without interruption, and never think her ideas are irrelevant. He will give her as much—if not more love—than she gives to him. And best of all, your mom will feel needed on a daily basis.

Believe it or not, that’s really important and that’s what’s going to make you mom feel happiest. You did say that most likely your friend would not take back his dog when he returns. That may be something you should discuss with him further to confirm. If your mom opens her heart up to this dog and then has to give him up 6 months or so down the road, it may be very traumatic. Perhaps
your friend will give you the go-ahead to permanently place the dog with your mom. That’s what I would try to arrange before taking any other steps.

Good Luck.