When we were newly married and I was trying to convince my husband that we NEEDED Max the Cat, my Mom said the words that got Max’s paw in the door. ..
“Russ, Do Not Make Her Choose.”
Russ is allergic to cats. And guinea pigs. And their hay. Oh, and rats. Mostly rats. We have had them all.
By the time we had Fuzzy and Wuzzy (our 4th and 5th rats) he honestly could not breathe in their presence. He just did not go into the living room, and if he did, we ended up in urgent care. “You NEED to breathe, Finch,” I said, in a rare moment of logic over emotion. He ended up on pretty strong allergy medications for the remainder of the rats’ lives. He could not breathe well, and he ALWAYS felt miserable, but he did not die.
You know what would be crazier? If I insisted on a 6th rat…or a 6th and a 7th. (You know, so Six wouldn’t get lonely.)
We adopted Fuzzy and Wuzzy (Hairless Dumbo Rex littermates) with the misguided hope that they would be less allergenic than their furry predecessors, Buttercup, Rita and Cookie. Cookie actually ended up living with Mom and Dad because…yup, Russ could not breathe in her presence.
Fur does not cause allergic reactions.
Allergic reactions are caused by protein in dander, spit and pee.
HOW MANY years have I been telling friends and clients that very thing when they beg me to approve of their Sphinx Cat/Chinese Crested Dog-adoption-to-be because they are just sure hairless pets (or low-shedding pets, like Poodles) are hypoallergenic? *sigh* We were just sure hairless rats were hypoallergenic.
Not that that notion is totally misguided. Some pets seem to cause less intense allergic reactions in people than others: those with less hair slough less dander, are easier to keep clean and probably have a genetic predisposition to being less allergenic.
We knew better. But we sure loved those rats. I am grateful Russ coexisted with them for almost three years. I will not ask him to do it again.
Thank you for not making me choose, Russ.
In honor of Russ’ kindness, I have written this poem. My apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I am quite sure this is not what you meant your poem to be.
How Do I Love Thee?
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
If we live sixty more years more or less
And you stay on your meds and hold your breath,
To the very end of our married days…
I love thee more than all the future pets
We’d get if we filled our house like we do–
Got one of each color or maybe two.
I’d love all these Finches-to-be, and yet…
I love thee more than all of our future pets.
We could have two or four rats at a time!
And rabbits and piggies, kittens and cats,
Just a rough guess, that’s about ninety-nine
Pets we could have were we crazy like that.
But we’re not, and I promise, I’ll be fine.