My sister's dog's a sweetheart -- except don't you dare touch her feet! If you just touch her foot, she'll glare at you, pick it up and she'll snap! Sunny, our new pup, is a loveable friendly little guy, but I notice that even if he tries to pull his feet away if you pick them up, and we don't want him to turn out like she did! How do we avoid it? -- M.B.

In order to keep his disposition sunny, whether you're handling his mouth, his tail, feet, or whatever, start now. Begin with normal petting procedures, then extend them gradually to include first the upper leg, then the middle section, and finally the foot. If the process is gradual and the first contacts of a sensitive area, i.e., a foot, are brief enough, he won't mind. Then praise him liberally and as time goes on extend the process to where you're actually holding the foot and then briefly picking it up, finally holding it an indefinite period and even massaging it, spreading the toes, etc.

As he accepts this, the session is followed with liberal praise and affection so he is getting continual positive reinforcement. With a very young puppy, you start out by simply handling all parts of the anatomy frequently, and it never becomes a "big deal". One procedure that can spoil such bliss however, is a carelessly done nail trimming. Should the young animal be subjected to a painful pedicure (when the nails are cut too close), it may quickly become "foot shy". DEAR DR. MILLER:

Let me get this straight. Do cats have tear mites or termites? -- M.J.

You wouldn't find a feline wooden-headed enough to be attacked by termites. While there are problems in cats that frequently can cause tearing, tear mites aren't one of them. Mites may afflict felines, however, and by far the most common are the ear mites, otodectes. These mites might be suspected when the ear canals become dirty-looking and/or the cat frequently shakes his head or digs at his ears.