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The Straight Dope


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Many people have tried to convince me chocolate is toxic to dogs. I even heard a news report warning people to keep dogs out of the Halloween candy for that reason. However, my four dogs have stolen chocolate cakes, pies, and candy bars without ill effects. What gives? --Jason Eshleman, Berkeley, California

You and the mutts got lucky. Chocolate is one of the most common causes of poisoning in dogs, according to the National Animal Poison Control Center at the University of Illinois' College of Veterinary Medicine. Dogs can't metabolize the caffeine and theobromine in chocolate and may get hyperactive or start to vomit if they eat more than two ounces of milk chocolate per kilo of body weight. (Presumably your dogs had less.) Higher doses can cause irregular heartbeat, respiratory failure, and death. While you're getting used to that idea, consider this: the most common cause of canine poisoning (after rat and mouse poison) is human medication, notably ibuprofen, the well-known pain reliever. Dogs apparently love the smell and taste, so they chew through the bottles, eat the contents, vomit their guts out, and die. OD'ing on chocolate and Advil might seem nutty to us, but it's pretty serious to the dogs.

Often when you put your clothes in the dryer you discover they stick together because of static electricity. But if you put a sheet of Bounce or Cling Free in the dryer, somehow it neutralizes the static electricity. Maybe I should just be glad my clothes don't stick together, but I'm curious. How precisely do Bounce and Cling Free work? --Michael T. Preston, Washington, D.C.

They, uh, lubricate. I know, doesn't seem like a very direct approach to the problem. That's the way science is. From the point of view of drama what you want is New and Improved Cling Free with Antimatter, in which the static electricity particles are annihilated by the antistatic antielectricity antiparticles, leaving only a hint of April freshness. In your dreams, pal. What really happens--and imagine devoting the best years of your life to figuring this out--is that static electricity is created when stuff rubs together. As much as 12,000 volts' worth, in fact. If only we could harness this resource. I'll get on it as soon as I perfect the wintergreen Life Savers reading lamp.

Anyway, if you can create static electricity by rubbing, you can not create it by not rubbing. (Work with me on this.) Assuming (a) not drying the clothes or (b) hanging them on the line to be dried by God's healing sunlight aren't viable options, you can eliminate rubbing by means of strategically applied lubricants. A quart of 30-weight during the rinse cycle might do it, but the stains are a negative. Better to use the waxy compound impregnated in sheets of Bounce or Cling Free and liberated by the dryer's heat. Look, you wax skis, you wax floors, you wax poetic (sorry), so why not clothes?

Here's why not: after a while you get dingy wax buildup. In the oh-what-a-tangled-web-we-weave way of high technology, you can try to minimize this latest problem by means of "optical brighteners." (I get this from a back issue of Consumer Reports.) This is not a new idea. You ever hear of bluing? You know what the idea behind it was? You make your clothes whiter than white, or at least not yellow, by dyeing them blue. Sounds wacky to me, but whatever works.


Would one be physically better off, proportionally, with big feet or little feet? --Bigfoot II

What's the nutritive value of boogers? If I eat enough can I stop taking my Flintstones vitamins? --Barbra S., Olney, Illinois

When my eighth-grade health teacher taught me sex, she explained how the sperm swim and swim their little tails off until they find the ovary of delight. So how come when I masturbate the semen just sits there in a puddle? Why doesn't it swim away? I washed up before writing. --Handy in New Jersey

Handy, meet Barbra and Bigfoot. You want I should arrange a three-way date?

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Slug Signorino.

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