Sunday, July 10, 2011

Man's best friend

Sadly, dogs, cats, horses, guinea pigs, or anything else with fur is not my best friend. I am horribly allergic to pretty much any household pet. This is not to say that I don't like animals. I wish I could have a pet. If I had a dog I would never have to clean up my kids' crumbs. I would have an excuse to take daily walks. When my kids tire of playing with each other, they could play with the dog or cat. It would be a creature in my house that doesn't talk back or need diaper changes. I think pets are a wonderful addition to a family. They teach love and responsibility. They provide comfort and emotional security.

When I go to someone's house and my allergies flair up, this does not mean their house is dirty. This means there is a furry animal that sheds. Studies have showed that there really aren't hypoallergenic animals. At best, they cause slightly less severe allergic reactions. I've learned how to cope. I take medicine before I leave the house. I find chairs that don't have fabric to sit on. When we come home, furry clothes go right in the wash and we all bathe.

My allergies are not a case of mind over matter as some people have suggested to me. I take shots and pills. They help marginally. That is to say, I can be in your house for a while but have to go home, my whole family has to shower and change clothes. Then I spend the next 2 days in a Benadryl coma and clutching a Kleenex box. Luckily, my family and friends understand this and are more than willing to let me host family dinners and play dates. My house is messy (often dirty) but pet-free.

When people learn I am allergic to most animals, they think I'm not an "animal person" and that I don't like animals. This is not true. I like animals. Being around them is difficult for me. I've been told that my allergies "aren't so bad". Really? Try spending hours sneezing, blowing your nose, and rubbing your watery, itchy eyes.

I feel terrible every time my daughter asks for a pet. She knows I'm allergic and tries her best to find animals that I'm not allergic to. No such luck. Her latest suggestion was a boa constrictor. She could tell from the look on my face that it was a no-go and quickly dropped the subject. She comes home from friends' homes with tales of playing with their dogs, cats and iguanas and begs me to find a way to make a pet work in our house. So, we compromise. She can have giant stuffed animals sleep in her bed. She can play for hours on end with other people's pets. When she comes home she has to settle for the stuffed variety. This weekend, Paul's brother stopped by for a visit with his 2 dogs. I don't know who had more fun but they played outside for 4 straight hours. She was kind, patient and gentle with them. She made sure they had lots of water and snacks. It was nice to see her get much enjoyment out of playing with them. She showed a high level of responsibility, maturity and consideration. I was very proud of her. I understand that not having a pet is not the worst fate a child can endure. However, I feel bad that my allergies are the reason she cannot have one. She is clearly an animal person and would love to have a pet. She has already announced that the minute she becomes a grown up she is going to have 2 cats, 2 dogs, 4 horses, 1 bird, 1 guinea pig, iguanas and a pet rabbit. Guess I'll be hosting family dinners for a very long time.

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