By Kathy P. Behan
Awhile back, I was facing a milestone birthday. Nothing like one of those to make a person take stock. Yes, I had a great husband and three amazing kids, but there was still one thing I had always longed for – a dog. For me, it was a bit more complicated to get a canine companion because unfortunately, I’m allergic to dogs. Undeterred, I decided that it was time to find out if I could make my wish come true. I was convinced that I’d be able to find if not the perfect pet, at least one that wouldn’t make me too sick.
The first step was to do some research. I learned about “hypoallergenic” breeds and was encouraged by this tantalizing concept. I pored through books at the library and on weekends, visited kennels of promising pets. My husband was the only person I confided in about my not-too-practical plan. He knew I was doing “research” when I’d show up hot pink, welt-covered and swollen after one of my visits.
Just when I was about to give up, I chanced upon a litter of schnoodles (schnauzer/poodles). One of the traits that made them so attractive to me was their looks. Many of the so-called hypoallergenic breeds looked a little too precious, like delicate, temperamental, froufrou creatures. But schnoodles, ah, they resembled rakish, devil-may-care, unmade beds and, they had attitude.
There were four in the litter and I sat amongst them letting them climb all over me. I rubbed my face into their fur and checked my skin after their licks. For the first time in all my days of testing, I only had a minor allergic reaction. Suppressing my elation, I put them through some puppy tests that I’d read about, and carefully made my selection. The first one eliminated was the male the staff referred to as “Mr. Energy.”
The next day, I took my husband to meet the schnoodles and triumphantly showed him my pick. After playing with them in turn, he said, “No. I want that one. He seems to be the healthiest!”
He was pointing at “Mr. Energy,” who was wildly hopping up and down in his pen. I was so thrilled at the prospect of finally being able to have a dog, that I immediately agreed. And the breeder, knowing my situation, promised to take the puppy back if my allergies flared up.
Just to be on the safe side and prevent some broken hearts, when we returned home we decided it would be best to fib to our children. What if it turned out that I couldn’t tolerate the pet’s dander? The children would be devastated, and so I told the kids that I was baby-sitting the dog for a friend.
When it became clear that despite spending the whole day with the puppy, I remained remarkably allergy free, I couldn’t wait any longer and gathered the kids together to tell them the good news – “Cody” – as I decided to name him, was ours.
That was the beginning of what would be a 15-and-a-half-year love affair.
More “tails” to follow…