Thursday, April 30, 2009

Of Love Amidst Allergies

I rolled over in bed this morning, in that state-of-mind somewhere between so blissful slumber and alarm clock annoyance. I was greeted with a light kiss. I nuzzled closer, reaching instinctively to stroke his soft hair.

"Good morning, baby," I whispered groggily. Ringo thumped his tail in return.

(Yes, Ringo, my golden retriever-mix. Wait, where exactly did you think this story was headed?)

Ringo jumped off the bed, in anticipation of his morning ritual. The disruption sent two of the three cats piled at the end of my bed scattering.

I sighed. What part of "pet allergies" did this menagerie not understand?

I wasn't always allergic to cats and dogs. My lifelong allergies encompassed nearly every kind of weed, grass and tree in God's good kingdom, along with the dust found in amazing abundance throughout my house. But cats and dogs? Those are a recent addition to my repertoire of allergens.

"Remind me," the allergist said, as he analyzed the results of my last skin scratch test. "Do you have any pets?"

"Don't even say it," I warned him, anticipating his next words.

"Well, you're allergic to cats and dogs." He paused. "And cows."

I was momentarily disappointed about the cows. I've always thought they were rather adorable creatures, with those somber, big brown eyes. (My carnivore tastes aside, thank you, because I care not to dwell on my hypocritical nature.)

So, I'd never adopt a cow as a pet, I thought. OK, fine.

But cats and dogs? That was a bit of a problem, because currently a total of five of them live in my house. And not just live here. No, they own the place. They roam at their leisure through every room, and sleep in my bedroom. When I run errands, the dog is my co-pilot. (Dog is God spelled backward. A coincidence? I think not.)

Consequently, their dander and fur is everywhere I sit and breathe, even with impeccable housecleaning habits (of which, sadly, I will never be accused).

Despite the doctor's advice to: a) get rid of them, or b) keep them outdoors, or c) keep them out of my bedroom and living areas, my allergies have had no impact whatsoever on my pets.

I, on the other hand, am now getting allergy shots. In both arms, twice a week, for four to five months, tapering off to bi-weekly, for another four to five years.

But natural aversion to needles aside, I'll do that. Because besides the great joy my pets have given me, I've given them something too: a commitment to love them and to care for them. It's a commitment all responsible pet owners make. I'll do it until the day they each pass into the Great Backyard in the Sky. Even if I do so with a recurring sinus infection.

A little allergy issue? Meh. I can cope with that.

After all, there were days I swore I was allergic to my teenage sons. And as much as I was tempted, I didn't send them packing either.

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