Dear Readers: Interested in your dog's DNA? Want to know which breeds your dog descended from? The particular traits of that breed? What to expect health- and behavior-wise from your dog? A dog DNA test may work for you.

Kits range in price from about $50 to over $200. A simple mouth swab is usually all that's required, then you mail off the swab and wait to hear back.

These kits can provide good information, but for the most part, they are used just for entertainment and fun. Your veterinarian can provide good information about your dog's health and behavior profile. — Heloise

Pet pal

Dear Readers: Meet Manny and Penny! All dog mom Peggy Z. needs to say is, "Who wants to go for a ride?" and open the door. They're always ready!

To see these two eager travelers, visit and click on "Pet of the Week." Do you have a funny and furry friend or two? Email a picture and description to — Heloise

Round peg, square hole

Dear Heloise: It's tree-planting season. I've discovered a great hint. I dig my hole for the tree in the shape of a square.

Why? The roots will not wrap around each other like they would if planted in a round hole; the roots will spread out deeper and wider. The tree will also grow more quickly.

Experts also recommend refilling the hole with its original dirt instead of expensive fertilizer. The tree will do better in its native soil.

Also, I trim away any matted or stuck-together roots. This will encourage growth. — Donald G. in Alabama

Mid-century modern

Dear Heloise: I'm hearing the term "mid-century modern" a lot these days. What does it mean? — Angie R. in Oklahoma

Angie, "century," of course, refers to the century that's passed, the 20th century, and "mid-century" is anywhere typically between 1935 and about 1965. The phrase refers to architecture, interior design, photography, even clothes and jewelry.

You must be doing some remodeling or decorating! Mid-century modern designs feature clean, uncluttered lines, sparse and spare furnishings without a lot of detail work on them — just pieces that invoke a feeling of simplicity and freshness. Nothing fancy or frou-frou, for sure! Enjoy your decorating; email me a pic! — Heloise

Boiling water down the drain

Dear Readers: Pouring boiling water down your kitchen sink may not be a good idea. If your kitchen plumbing is made of PVC piping (PVC is plastic), the hot water can potentially damage the pipes.

How to clean the drain? Sprinkle a generous amount (about 1 cup) of baking soda in the sink, dampen and buff gently. Then rinse with warm, not hot, water.

Baking soda is a workhorse in the home. Nontoxic, safe, cheap and readily available, I keep boxes on-hand. I've compiled a collection of my favorite baking soda hints, hacks, recipes and helps into a handy pamphlet. Would you like to receive one?

It's easy. Visit to order, or send a long, stamped (75 cents) envelope along with $5 to: Baking Soda, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, Texas 78279-5001. Add a generous glug of warm vinegar to amp up the cleaning power. — Heloise

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