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DEAR HELOISE: My Shih Tzu, Tillie, has always needed help to get up on the couch or bed. The pet stairs I have tried had steps that were too high for her, so she had to try to jump from one step to the other. I was afraid she would hurt her legs or strain her back, so I looked for an alternative.

I found a pet ramp online that is adjustable to many heights and fitted with carpet for good traction. Tillie took to the ramp in no time and can now go easily from the floor to the bed. I have recommended the ramp to a friend with an older dog with back issues, and she loves it!

-- Marilyn in Arizona

DEAR READERS: Vinegar, as you know, is my go-to household helper. It's cheap, environmentally safe and readily available. Vinegar is made of acetic acid, and you'll typically find it in the grocery store at strengths of between 5% and 9%.

You can also find vinegar in a whopping 20% concentration in home improvement stores. This vinegar is NOT for cooking or general cleaning around the home. It does, however, make an excellent, safe and nontoxic weed killer.

You'll need a pump sprayer and a mixture of 1 quart 20% vinegar and 4 ounces lemon juice. It may take a couple of treatments to kill the roots of the weeds. Of course, spray only the weeds you desire to eliminate. Weeds are hearty, so be patient.

Although 20% vinegar is safe, use rubber gloves and a mask, just as a precaution.

DEAR HELOISE: I love that the reusable shopping bags come in so many different colors and designs. When I see one I can't live without, I buy extras to use as gift bags. For my brother's birthday, I found one with his favorite team's logo and I filled it with goodies I knew he would enjoy. He loved it!

-- Chrissy in

Massachusetts

DEAR HELOISE: I was about to toss out an old road atlas when I remembered a hint I read in your column a while back about laminating calendar pictures.

I chose the pages with the states where my extended family lives and laminated them to make placemats for family get-togethers. They make great conversation pieces.

-- Dave in Minnesota

Send a money- or time-saving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, Texas 78279-5000; fax to (210) 435-6473; or email

[email protected]

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