Thurber’s Tail: Answers to questions about your pets

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As a relatively new dog dad, I have many questions daily about why my Labrador, Thurber, does some of the many funny things he and other pets do. To that end, I have begun doing a lot of research and am posting my findings at This column summarizes recent discoveries.

Dear Tom: Why does my dog love sticks so much? – Stuck in Peoria

Dear Stuck, different sticks have different tastes, textures and smells, which are real gastronomic delights to our canine-crunching companions. Note that sticks can be dangerous to your pup — they can splinter and cause cuts and you certainly don’t want your pup eating splinters — so it’s best to replace your dog’s preferred stick with a safer chewable alternative.

What is the difference between a pet crocodile and a pet alligator? – Flustered in Florida

Dear Flustered, such reptiles do not make good pets for a number of reasons and you should know that in many states it is illegal to keep them as pets. That said, the primary difference between a crocodile and an alligator is that you’ll “see one in a while” and you’ll “see the other later.”

Dear Tom: My puppy seems to hiccup a lot. Is this normal? – Worried in Wisconsin

Dear Worried: It’s entirely normal for puppies to have hiccups from overexcitement or eating and drinking too fast. To reduce hiccups, give your puppy smaller portions to eat, plenty of water to drink and regular exercise. In time, your puppy will outgrow the hiccupping habit. However, if the hiccups are excessive and seem to never end, be sure to consult your veterinarian.

Dear Tom: My wife and I have taken in many stray dogs over the years. We just took in a large mixed-breed, but we are puzzled by his excessive shedding, his rock-hard paws and his preference for eating hay. – Harried in Houston

Dear Harried, thank you for being kind to our canines in need, but you’ve made a common mistake. Your “dog” is a Shetland Pony.

Dear Tom: My boyfriend doesn’t like dogs and gave me an ultimatum: Either I get rid of my beloved Fluffy or he will leave me. My question is, where can Fluffy and I get a better boyfriend? – Conflicted in California

Dear Conflicted, let Fluffy choose your next boyfriend at the dog park or somewhere else where wonderful people — people who love pets — congregate!

Dear Tom: I am burned out on politics and all the anger in our world. What can I do to overcome my depression? – Down in Delaware

Dear Down: One of the best solutions for your woes is to get a pet. The companionship and pure joy of having a dog share life with you is incredibly beneficial. Several studies show this. If you are able to spare the time to love and care for a pet, the love, joy and laughter you receive back will be 10 times greater than whatever you give to your furry friend. Note: With the economy down, more people have turned their pets back into shelters, so start your search there! Good luck!

Send your pet-related questions to Tom at [email protected]. Visit for well-researched articles on why pets do what they do, as well as funny pet videos.

Copyright 2023 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Tom Purcell is creator of, which shares helpful pet-care tips and funny stories and videos featuring Tom’s beloved Labrador, Thurber. Email Tom at [email protected].