When I was a kid we had a black lab. She was a great dog. Her name was Cindy. We never once put her on a leash outdoors. She would run off into the woods, often times with one of us kids, and she’d always come home. I’m pretty certain she loved us as much as we loved her.
As a kid, I was allergic to dogs
My asthma was really bad as a kid, and no one gave it a thought it might be the dog. Of course, there were many other things in the house that could trigger asthma too, such as mold spores in plants, dust mites in the basement, etc. So, it wasn’t like getting rid of the dog would solve my problem.
My asthma kept getting worse and worse. As I noted in my post “My Asthma Story: The Pithy Version,” by 1985 my asthma was so bad I was admitted to an asthma hospital for six months. While I was there, these experts came to my parent’s house and studied it for things I might be allergic to. They made a list of things to get rid of for my sake. On that list was Cindy, our dog.
By the time I was back home, there were a few changes. However, a missing dog was not one of them. Cindy was among the first to greet me when I came through the front door. She was as happy to see me as I was to see her.
Those experts recommended, that should you keep the dog, that it be given a bath frequently. But we never did that either: it’s too much work. Cindy fought baths. She hated them with a passion. And we did not make her get them.
That’s one of the things about asthma, is that you have to weigh the risks of doing things with the rewards. In our quest to live normal with it, we sometimes have to make decisions. Our goal is to be normal despite asthma, and normal people who like pets have pets.
10 years later, I was no longer allergic to dogs
Ironically, ten years later (it’s 1995 now) I had another allergy test, and dogs did not come up. This is a testament to the fact that allergies can change over time. It’s also a testament to the fact that allergy tests can also present with false positives, where dogs come up but you are not allergic to them. In either case, I am no longer allergic to dogs.
Fast forward to 2000. I got married. We bought a house. My wife and I wanted a dog. We got a dog. I was a little leery of this. But the dog did not pose any problems for me. Like Cindy, she was a black lab. Her name was Riley. She was a black lab/cocker spaniel mix. She was lightweight enough that I taught her to walk on her hind legs. I also taught her to play hide and seek. She was a good dog. She loved me as much as I loved her.
Giving up on pets altogether
We eventually had to get rid of Riley (sad day), but it had nothing to do with my asthma nor my allergies. However, considering I struggled to keep up good asthma control for most of my life, my wife and I have finally decided just to forswear pets altogether.
Sometimes it’s difficult to really know what the cause of an allergy/asthma attack is. Animals, especially dogs, need to go outside to do their thing. When they are outside they crawl around in the dirt and leaves. They pick up mold spores and pollen. Then they come back into your house and bring those things into your home. They crawl around on the carpet. They jump on your bed. They jump on furniture. Those little microscopic substances get into the air and are easily aerosolized. And this can happen even if you have the doors and windows closed because you have a pet.
So, just to be on the safe side, we have given up pets.
But, now it appears that we can’t have a pet even if we wanted to. You see, we now have an 8-year old girl named Laney who also has asthma. She can thank me for sharing my asthma genes. We do not know what she is allergic to, but it’s highly possible she shares the same allergies as me.
And then there’s my teenage daughter Callie, who also has asthma. And then there’s Myles. We have not seen any evidence that he has asthma — yet. However, he does have pretty severe allergies to peanuts and — you named it — dogs. We go to visit my wife’s aunt who has dogs, and his eyes swell shut. We go to visit my neighbor who has dogs, and his eyes swell shut.
This is kind of not fun for Myles. Not only can we not have a pet in our home, but he can’t go to the home of anyone with a pet. So, that’s something he’s going to have to deal with the rest of his life. It’s something I deal with, now he has to deal with it too.
If he decides to visit someone with a pet or have one himself someday, it’s going to be one of those “risk/rewards” decisions. At this point, he doesn’t seem to mind. He’s a pretty laid back guy. Mr. Myles is happy just to wrestle with me on the floor (for some reason, he always gets the superhero powers) and plays video games on his iPad.
4 reasons not to have pets
Anyway, in my home, we have four reasons not to have pets: Me, Callie, Laney, and Myles. The only people in my home unaffected by allergies and asthma are my wife and oldest son Jordan. They can do whatever they want. Well, unless they are around asthma/allergic family members. Jordan’s off to college now, so he can do whatever he wants regardless (well, within limits, I suppose).
Up until a year ago, my Laney was scared to death of dogs, even the little one down the street. She was so scared that, even if that little fearless, harmless, dog was outside, Laney shot straight at our house, sometimes in sheer panic. Now she is proud of herself that she’s over her fear. Now she pets dogs. Now she loves dogs. Now she wants a dog. Sorry, Laney, no dog.
She knows, just as well as Myles knows, that we can’t have one.
So, bottom line, even though we all love pets, there are no pets in this house. It’s my fault. It’s because I carry asthma and allergy genes, and I shared them with my children. Wait! My parents gave me these genes — so it’s their fault.