Dear Readers: Today's Sound Off is about the grieving process when you lose a pet. -- Heloise

"Dear Heloise: We recently had to have our beautiful 17-year-old black Lab put to sleep due to kidney disease. I can't even begin to explain the grief and pain we feel at the loss of this sweet pet. I just wish people would stop saying things such as, 'You can always get another dog.' Yes, we can, but nothing takes the place of a beloved pet. Or 'Time heals all wounds.' Sure, but right now, I'm grieving the death of my dog, and I don't want to hear things like this.

"I wish people would just listen when I need to vent about my sorrow. I don't want to hear about the death of someone else's pet; I'm too consumed by my own loss. Please, just let us grieve when we lose a dear pet. Listen without offering advice, and don't brush off our loss, because it's very real and very painful to us." -- Mavis G., Marietta, Georgia

Fast facts

Dear Heloise: I have some rubber shelf liner left over, and I've found several more uses for it:

  • I cut out a square and placed it under a sofa cushion that kept slipping forward.
  • I put it under my pet's bedding to keep it from sliding across the kitchen floor.
  • I cut a small square and used it to remove pet hair from my furniture.
  • I wrapped a few delicate things in the liner before shipping them by mail. -- Loretta W., Springfield, Missouri

Cast care

Dear Heloise: As a nurse, I've seen many casts put on people who've broken a bone, and there are a few things we normally tell the patient to help them avoid injuries. First, don't use a wire hanger or any sharp object to scratch an itch under the cast. Try sprinkling baby powder under the cast. If a cast gets wet, use a blow dryer set on low heat to dry the cast. You also can use an old sock or knit cap to keep your toes or fingers clean and warm. -- Lois G., Livonia, Michigan

Very last drop

Dear Heloise: I generally buy 32-ounce jars of mayonnaise, and the last inch or more is so difficult to get out. I discovered that a frosting spatula does the job easily. -- Leslie W., Alexandria, Virginia

Jigsaw puzzles

Dear Heloise: I make a lot of jigsaw puzzles. When I first open the box, I pour all the pieces into a colander and shake it over the trash bucket, thus getting rid of the paper sawdust. -- M.Z.S., Santa Ana

Easy email

Dear Readers: When sending email to someone who might have trouble with his or her eyes, enlarge the font. Size 12 to 14 or bigger is easier to read. Your recipient will thank you! -- Heloise

Monster management

Dear Heloise: I supervise and let my grandkids use spray air freshener under the bed lightly as "monster deterrent" when they spend the night. They can be afraid of the dark. -- Grannie Annie in Ohio

Fingers and toes

Dear Heloise: When I have a slumber party, we like to give each other manicures and pedicures! We've made it extra fun -- we polish each toenail and fingernail a different color.

And making designs is easy -- with a toothpick, it's simple to make polka dots, and two dots with one underneath can make a heart. Dots in a circle can look like a flower. Pull a dot down with the toothpick to make a swirl or a leaf design.

We have tons of fun with our magical mani and pedi parties! -- Fallon D., age 12, in Illinois

Water warrior

Dear Heloise: I live in a condo high up. I have a nice-size balcony, which I use mostly to grow flowers and veggies. I save all usable water and give it to my plants.

I learned this from a friend who grew up in an area prone to terrible droughts. -- Joyce P., Colorado Springs, Colorado 

Food to go

Dear Heloise: I have empty, hard-plastic gum containers, about 5 or 6 inches tall, but I didn't know what to do with them. Since they have attached lids that snap shut, I thought it was a shame to toss them out, so now I use them to pack trail mix or some type of dried fruit for my kid's lunch. I've used them for "munchies" on a plane. These containers fit in a lunchbox or purse, and they can be washed and reused. -- Claire M., Hanover Park, Illinois

Stained blouse

Dear Heloise: Help! I have a beautiful white silk blouse that has perspiration stains. Can I use chlorine bleach to get the stains out? -- Lola W., Melrose, Massachusetts

Lola, no, don't use chlorine bleach on silk, as it ruins the fabric over time. First, pretreat the stained area or soak with a product containing enzymes. Next, hand-wash with a mild soap and an oxygen bleach, if directions on the box say it's safe for silk.

Removing stains from clothing can be tricky, and if done incorrectly the garment can be ruined. If you'd like information on how to remove stains from your clothing, you can send for my pamphlet Handy Stain Guide for Clothing, which tells you how to get stubborn stains out. To get a copy, send $5 to: Heloise/Stains, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio TX 78279-5001. Or you can order it online at You'll find easy-to-use ideas to remove stains and save money at the same time. Why throw out clothing that can be as good as new with just a little care? -- Heloise

In a pickle

Dear Heloise: I have a window garden and a compost bin. Is it OK to use pickle juice to irrigate my plants, or should I pour it onto the compost pile? -- Cliff S., via email

Cliff, pour it on the compost pile. Pickle juice easily could burn the roots of delicate plants. -- Heloise

A healthy budget

Dear Heloise: I'm always looking for ways to save money, and a big expense for me is my medical bills.

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Here are some hints I use to help my budget:

  • I stay on top of my health with a yearly physical. The doctor can see potential problems and cut them off at the pass.
  • If the doctor finds anything, I always talk to another doctor -- a second opinion is important.
  • Prescription medications can be expensive. I ask the doctor for samples, and I always get generic medications when available, and a three-month supply by mail is a great way to save.

I hope these hints will help your readers like they've helped me! -- Hilda H. in Texas

Screaming 'fire'

Dear Heloise: People get used to hearing the squealing of children in the neighborhood; they may not respond to kids hollering if they feel threatened by a stranger.

But if the kids scream "fire," that would get the attention of nearby adults. Kids are smart -- they understand. -- Carola D., via email

Not delighted

Dear Heloise: I don't like when a company says, "If you're not happy, we'll give you your money back, no questions asked."

I want them to ask questions, like: "What can we do to satisfy you?" "Why aren't you happy?" "What can we do to secure your business?"

This would show that they care about developing and keeping relationships with their customers. -- Alice B. in Pittsburgh

Paint it clear

Dear Heloise: I paint base-metal rings and the back of base-metal pendants and bracelets with clear nail polish to avoid, or to reduce the chance of, the ring turning green or black. -- Barbara G. in Indiana

Remote problem

Dear Heloise: After being awakened to strange noises in the bedroom, I learned this lesson: If you have pets, don't leave your TV remote or cellphone lying face up on the nightstand, dresser or bed.

Turn your remote away from the TV or put it in a drawer. Stand your phone up or lay it face down. That way, if little paws step on them, they won't turn on the TV or dial the phone. -- Marty in San Antonio

Toeing the line

Dear Heloise: I had trouble keeping track of how many times I used my razor in the shower. I took an old toe separator used for pedicures, and now I put the razor in the hole on one side, and move it to the next hole after each use to keep track of five uses! -- Clover in Houston

Send a great hint to: Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio TX 78279-5000; fax: 1-210-HELOISE; email: