How Do I Love Thee?

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.

Crazy, huh?

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, ButtercupRita 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.

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26 Responses to “How Do I Love Thee?”

  1. Edie says:

    Hairless rats — who knew? That’s so sweet on all counts! Hope you’re having a wonderful memorial day weekend.

  2. Thank you for letting us see these great pictures!

    Stopping by on today’s blog hop – go see my video today called “The Bad Dog Blues.” Love to have your comments!

  3. Thanks Edie :) Yup, they were pretty great, those silly rats!

    So far so good! Hope you are too! I liked your post today from Dr. Laci and pet travelling!

    Thanks Cherie! Good to see you! I hopped by earlier but couldn’t see your cute video! Now I am on the “real” computer and can – so cute!

  4. Russlmnop says:

    Huuuuuuuuuuh, Whoooooooooo. I think that is the sound of a deep breath. I have loved each of our pets, especially the rats. I like my poem, and I love you more than breathing :)

  5. Sage says:

    I never thought of being allergic to rats, but it makes sense. Loved your poem–it says it all!!

  6. Hi Sage! I have heard that anyone who spends time at work or home with rats will develop allergies within a matter of years – don’t know how accurate that is but it seems to be true.

    Thanks! It was a fun one to write :)

  7. Roberta says:

    This is so great! I can relate to this post on multiple levels. You have an amazing husband and you are an amazing woman. It would be so much easier if pets weren’t so wonderful to have. :)

  8. Other Mom says:

    I’m sooooooooooo glad you love my son! And I love you!

  9. Erin says:

    I saw your comment today from the blog hop. I raise with Have Paws Will Travel club in Littleton and a lot of people from my club go to Companion Animal Vet. I bet we have a few friends in common!

  10. Thank you Roberta-Friend and Mom-Karen! Love you both!!

  11. Erin – That is so great! Companion Animal Veterinary Hospital is where I worked for over four years. I fell in love with the Guide Dogs in training and “grown-up” working Guide dogs who were patients there. I LOVED Companion and the people there! They are what I miss most about Colorado :)

    Coming BACK to your blog now to say “Hey, do you know…?” So good to meet you!

  12. Russ’ reply is so sweet! You’re both very lucky! Will all these allergies, when will you start getting non-mammalian pets? :) :)

    • Russlmnop says:

      We had an Iguana, Baxter. When we were expecting our first daughter, he went to live with a friend because of the possible salmonella issue. We had fish too, but they are not easy to pet and they don’t like it.

  13. Bob Nelson says:

    Russ, I know the feeling and I also know where Shawn got her strong will. Betsy told me the same thing (don’t make us choose) as we “enjoyed” two cats for over 20 years. My allergies never changed but my feelings for cats did. I understand why people like them even if they always want to sit in the lap of those who are allergic to them!

    Shawn, while you are making Elizabeth Barrett Browning smile, don’t forget Dr. Suess. I bet he could comment on all of the above as well! Happy Memorial Day! Love, Dad

    • Dad…I do believe I did that to you too – the please-can-we-have-a-pet-you-are-allergic-to thing. I will stop doing that to you AND Russ!

      Oo good idea! Dr. Seuss rhyming might even be easier cuz you get to make stuff up. If I recall, Dr. V did a super cute tribute post already – probably with Brody the Puppy in it!…I will try to find it for you :D

      HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY! I am so proud of you Navy Captain!

  14. Shawn Finch, DVM says:

    Thanks Dr. Burcham! I do love lizards…and turtles…and…We thought we would stick with two dogs and a cat for a while, like normal people. Our home does seem to be filling up with fish though!

  15. Mary Haight says:

    Ha – loved that “don’t make her choose” warning and the fact that your husband is willing to make himself physically miserable to keep you happy. Pretty great for all those animals!

    I don’t think Barrett Browning would have minded the, um, different use of her famous poem given it’s expressive of how you love your husband…and trying to scare him to death at the end with all the little critters that might be possible in your lives? Well, that could be considered poetic license =) Thanks for blog hop.

  16. Your husband is A Saint. As I remember, he’s pretty sexy too. [YOU said it, yes you did!. When I want to, I have the memory of an oliphant].

    Lucky Dr Finch. That’s all I have to say today :)

  17. Pup Fan says:

    Your mom is a wise woman… I’m glad that your husband didn’t make you choose. :) Love your poem!

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