Monday, February 08, 2010


Lately, I have wanted a dog.

Folks who know me will be surprised. Not because I dislike animals, but because I am highly allergic. I am go-to-bed-for-a-month allergic, not just watery-eyes-and-sneezing allergic. When I am around cats and dogs, I choke up, my asthma goes nuts, I lose my voice, my head stuffs up and feels like a big hot air balloon, I have vertigo and I can't stand up. I am quite sick and it lasts for weeks, not days.

So I don't have inside animals.

But I used to.

Growing up, we had lots of dogs. I am not sure I can recall all of them. There was Prince and Princess, two Dalmatians. I think one of them was run over by a milk truck (this was when I was very small and we lived in Salem for a while). There was a German Shepherd whose name I can't remember. Lady? Maybe. And there was a dog named Jinx in there somewhere. Seems like there was a parade of dogs before I was six years old.

We had a dark poodle named Heidi for a very long time; she had puppies, and one of those was Major. We had him for a long time, too. He was white. He died in my brother's arms one day; he had been chasing me in my car as I left for one of my first solo drives. I was 16.

Schooner was a collie or maybe a collie-German shepherd mix. He was around for a very long time, too. He died after I married and left home, I think.

Trixie was my mother's dog; she was a black mixed mutt, rather small. There was another at my parents house about this time whose name escapes me as well. These two dogs came about the time I was leaving home.

My dog, the one that was mine alone, was Ginger, and I purchased her at a flea market in 1984. James and I hadn't been married but a year. I was home alone much of the time and I thought a dog might help.

Ginger was part Eskimo Spitz and part something else, maybe terrier. She never was very big, and unfortunately about this time my allergies worsened (or maybe I finally figured out their cause) and we had to keep her outside on all but the coldest nights. She had her own little house and a blanket, though. I kept the house filled with cedar shavings and I bathed her and combed her, but I did all of that outside. And I had to wear a mask.

She moved with us up the hill from the little house we'd rented from my husband's grandmother, but she didn't like her new home. For a long time I had to drive down the hill and gather her up because she kept going back to the old house. We finally had to pen her up, which I hated, but it was better than letting her wander to the road where the cement trucks raced.

Every day when I came home from work or school, she jumped up and down and greeted me like I'd been gone for weeks. When I began working at home, and we could let her out of her pen because I was there to watch her, I would rise from my desk periodically and tap on the window glass to draw her attention. She would wag her tail and bark at me and sometimes she would put her two front paws on the house and stand on her hind legs, her tail wagging, while she looked in at me. Often I went to the door and bent down and petted her. Then I washed my hands. Damn allergies.

Ginger lived for 17 years, or 119 years in doggy years, which was a very long time for a small dog. I like to think we took good care of her even if we did make her stay outside. She became very feeble and arthritic and when she seemed to be in so much pain that it made us cry to watch her, we put her to sleep. That was in 2001; a double whammy because my mother had passed away about seven months prior.

We did not get another dog. For months I would go to the window and look out, expecting to see her waiting for me. I looked for her every time I drove home. Finally, I stopped hoping.

These days, I have the deer, the rabbits, and the cows, but they are not the same. Some days you want to be licked. You want to feel fur. You want to feel a cold nose under your arm. (Ginger used to poke her nose under my arm, asking me to rub her.) You want to see someone waiting for you. You want that unconditional love.

I know I won't get another dog; my allergies are too bad now. They are worse than they ever were. I can't even visit the homes of friends who have pets, I don't care how much they dust and vacuum. I couldn't love on a dog, couldn't have it inside. I couldn't properly care for a dog and that would be unfair to the animal.

But some days, I want a dog.


  1. Sorry. It is painful longing for something one can't have. Allergies suck.

  2. Obama has a daughter with allergies to dogs. They got a breed that does not affect people's allergies. You could always look into such a doggie. Everyone deserves a loving lick on the face from time to time and they are such good company and hilarious to be around.


  3. I've heard of non allergy doggies too but I'm not sure of the breed.

    I feel so awful that you have to go without a pet. Allergies are terrible things. I have some as well, not as bad, but I do understand how they could make you so sick.

    I hope you can find a solution someday.

  4. I think Monsanto made a dog that is non-offensive to allergies but could irritate other conditions so you have to be careful. :D

  5. You forgot Miss Priss, mother of Trixie and Clipper, Cocoa, the stray Lab who was so smart, but got distemper so we put her down and then Prissy, who passed away about 5 years ago. We had alot of dog's growing up as kids didn't we??


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