Who knew that dog movie star Marley and those Beverly Hills Chihuahuas could draw the ire of mild-mannered, ever-cheerful pet expert Marc Morrone?
“Television and movies are making life miserable for real dogs,’’ says Morrone, who is bringing his animal expertise to a new season of his show, “Petkeeping with Marc Morrone,’’ which airs at noon weekdays on the Hallmark Channel. The problem?
“If you remember the classic Disney films, like ‘The Incredible Journey,’ the animals acted like animals,’’ says Morrone. Back then only cartoon animals, such as Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse, acted like people. “But now we have these computer-generated animals, such as Beverly Hills Chihuahuas, and the lines are not so distinct anymore.’’
Our expectations for our real animals are becoming unreal, says Morrone, who features top animal behaviorists and veterinarians, along with everyday customers in his show, filmed in Parrots of the World, Marc’s pet shop, in Rockville Centre, New York.
Morrone sees a changed perception in dog owners who seek his help. “When a dog pees by the back door and I say, ‘He peed by the back door because you didn’t open it in time’ they don’t like that reason. They would rather think he peed by the back door out of spite.’’
“We watch ‘Marley and Me’ in the movies and we think the animal is deliberately making us miserable. The animal is conniving like Wile E. Coyote. What more can he do to make our lives miserable?’’
In an interview with DogChannel, Martha Stewart’s go-to guy in the world of four-legged and winged beasts, from cats to rabbits, parrots to canaries, says owners should try to see the world from the dog’s point of view.
“We are coming to think of our dogs as human beings. But it causes so much grief and anguish from the dog’s point of view. We have to give them all a pass, we have to realize that not every dog is Lassie. And actually there never was a Lassie,’’ he says with a big laugh. “Lassie was a character. The dog that portrayed Lassie was well trained but it could care less if Timmy was in the well.’’ Another big laugh.
“People expect too much out of their dogs. Any dog can be trained to do anything if you have the time to do it. However, most people don’t have the time and they are content that the dog doesn’t poop in the house. As long as he is wagging his tail when we come home, that’s really all we need him to do.’’
Morrone says the answer to some pet problems is simple. “Keep the dog in a crate when you are not home. If you prevent the dog from doing a behavior that we don’t want it to do, it will never think it is an option. When I tell people to train and put the dog in a crate they say, ‘Oh, that’s cruel.’ Well if he ends up in the dog pound he is going to be in one anyway.’’
To say that Morrone, with his large menagerie, is an animal lover would be a vast understatement.
“I have everything. If I could have a zoo I would. All life forms fascinate me. The amount of knowledge I want, I have to actually experience it.’’
Never mind the birds and lizards and guinea pigs and reptiles, how many dogs does he have on this day?
“There’s Dixie, the Dachshund; Murphy, the little Mixed Breed who is always on TV with me; Garfield, the big dope; Buddy, a Cairn Terrier who was left on my doorstep. Then there is Piper the Pug, Calvin the Bull Terrier ; and I have Flag the Beagle.’’
Morrone is a big proponent of using pets to teach.
“Children have the capacity to learn about their pets and they want to learn about their pet, but we have to encourage it. If we don’t encourage it the children will just go on the internet and learn about Pokemon creatures. They know where it comes from, what it evolves into, what its powers are. They satisfy their need to learn about creatures that way.
“But there is a story behind any pet. Did you know all hamsters are descendants of three individuals from Syria. Where is Syria? A country in the Middle East. Where is the Middle East? Well, let’s look at a map. Every dog is a representation of a particular culture, a particular time period in that culture and a point in geography. So there are all sorts of stories to tell about history, about geography, about social studies.’’
He especially encourages having pets in the classroom.
“My second-grade classroom had a white mouse, the class next to me had a parakeet, another classroom had a guinea pig. That made me appreciate school so much. I always wanted to come in and see what was going on. The science room had so many animals in it, they had a beehive, rats and all sorts of animals. I just wanted to go to school to see if there was anything new in the science room.
“That’s the best thing in the world.’’
Editor’s note: Morrone has written several books, including four books for DogChannel’s parent publishing company, BowTie Press: “Ask the Dogkeeper,” “Ask the Catkeeper,” “Ask the Birdkeeper,” and “Ask the Fishkeeper.”