Dear Readers: We praise our dogs, but do we use a happy tone of voice when we do so? A small sample of dogs was studied, according to Science magazine (, and the research showed that dogs' brains responded best when they heard encouragement in a friendly and upbeat tone of voice!

So, your dog can tell what mood you're in — give him happy praise, and use happy words!

Dear Readers: Cheryl and Al, via email, sent a picture of their 6-year-old cat, Sparkey. When they got her, they were told that she was a boy, but much to their surprise, Sparkey is a girl! Once you love them, Cheryl says, it doesn't matter what they are — it's who they are!

Meow! They love her dearly! To see Sparkey and our other Pet Pals, visit and click on "Pet of the Week."

Do you have pets posed in their holiday finest, or around the Christmas tree? Share a picture at

Dear Heloise: It is holiday party season, and I wanted to share some hints about dressing up without busting the budget. These work for me! Here we go:

● Basic black is a good starting point, but I go easy on "pops" of color.

● "Subtle" is the key word. You can use a basic black dress or pants set over and over just by changing accessories: a scarf, blouse, shoe or earring.

● Trends — I avoid them. A ripped neckline doesn't look chic at a party.

● I look in the men's department for upscale T-shirts — they are cheaper than in the ladies' department.

● Party clothes have to be comfortable. Chances are, you'll be on your feet for a long time, and itchy clothes are a no-go.

● Look for bargains at secondhand and resale shops. I can find high-quality designer pieces at good prices.

Shelly S. in Chicago

Dear Readers: Let's get your home in shape for friends and family with a deep cleaning of your living areas. Here are some major areas to cover:

Vacuuming under all furniture and rugs is a good way to start. Wipe down and dust the baseboards, and dust the ceiling fans.

Following the manufacturer's instructions, moisturize any leather furniture, and buff and dust wood furniture.

Check labels and refresh window treatments and draperies. If you have them, wash artificial plants to make them pretty again.

Flip the mattress (if it flips), and consider new pillows, pillowcases and sheets.

These hints should refresh your home for company!

Dear Heloise: Very often, I would run out of the house without my phone, because it was charging in another room. Now I put a sticky note on top of my purse that says "phone" to remind me to grab it.

I also have one for "water" to remind me to take the water in the fridge.

Jeri G., Washington, D.C.

Heloise's column appears six days a week at Send a hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Tex. 78279-5000, or email it to

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