When I was young, I was severely allergic to dogs, cats and virtually everything outside – mold, pollen and even Christmas trees. The only pets I had growing up were a turtle and goldfish! I am not alone — according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, allergies to dogs or cats occur in approximately 15% of the population. I took allergy shots for 25 years and had a lifetime of itchy eyes and a runny nose. Kleenex and I were best friends.
To make matters worse, my Mom had been bitten by a dog when she was young and had to have rabies shots. I have heard those are extremely painful. Therefore, she passed on to us an unnatural fear of dogs, big or small. Every time I approached a dog I would just stand still and almost quake with dread. Would he bite me? Would he jump on me? Dogs, especially those that are not well trained, can be unpredictable.
However, I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything because I didn’t know any better.
Then I married a man who loves dogs and the playing field changed.
My husband has had a dog since birth and definitely treats his dogs like they are his children. At first I did not understand his attachment to his dogs. He particularly loves Labradors and apparently he is not alone – the American Kennel Club reports that for the 24th year in a row, the Labrador retriever is the nation’s top dog. Sure I could have asked him to give up his dogs, but that would be like asking a mother to give up her children. And as a mother, I knew that couldn’t happen.
So in the spirit of every good marriage, we learned to compromise.
At first, the dogs lived outside in a heated kennel. However, slowly but surely, their cute faces at the front door would tug on my motherly instincts. We started out by restricting them to the first floor, because our bedroom was on the second floor. Before I knew it, they had the run of the house and my heart.
Here’s how an allergy sufferer with a dog can cope:
- We bathe them once a week with a special allergy shampoo.
- My husband brushes them weekly to get rid of the excess hair and dander (dead skin that is continually shed).
- The dogs only ride in my husband’s car – not mine.
- I vacuum the carpeting twice/week with a special vacuum for pet hair.
- I put a HEPA filter on the furnace.
- The dogs are not allowed in our bed or on the furniture, but they have comfy pet beds all over the house. I wash the covers of their pet beds every week.
- After I pet the dogs, I always wash my hands.
- I use a nasal spray and a daily antihistamine to combat my allergy symptoms.
The biggest change? I get what pet owners have been telling me for years – I have learned to LOVE our dogs. I can’t imagine our family without “Buddy” and “Oscar”. They greet me at the door when I am gone as if they haven’t seen me in years. They are always happy to see me (unlike my teenagers). When I am feeling sad, they are a great comfort to me and when I am happy, they playfully share in my joy.
Plus, I was introduced to Bark Busters three years ago, and in addition to helping me train our dogs, they have helped me overcome my fear of dogs!
So if you are allergic to dogs, with some adjustments you may be able to coincide with a dog or cat without suffering if you are willing to make some lifestyle changes. And the few runny noses I get from them are well worth the happiness they bring!
P.S. Oscar is camera shy. This is the best picture I have of the two of them!