“You could try just being nice to him” suggested one friend, after a lengthy conversation about how to encourage a reluctant husband to consider getting a dog. “If I start acting strangely he’ll see straight through me,” I replied. And so the conundrum. How to persuade my allergic other half to ‘give dogs a chance?’
The husband had known for sometime that I was keen to have a canine companion in our lives. Years before on a Sunday evening when we were reading the papers I began to contemplate the future and a life when the children had left home. Even the thought of it left me feeling bereft and lonely. “I am going to need something to lavish all my love and affection upon,” I said. He briefly, and entirely without expectation, glanced up from his paper. “That’s it. I’ll get a sausage dog and call her Pam,” I announced joyously.
Pam has always been my go-to, back pocket, plan B. Way back when Mr Right was proving elusive I would comfort myself with the thought that I could always find Pam. In contrast to Bridget Jones, who envisaged being single, alone and eaten by Alsations, my Dachshund and I would watch quality box sets together, eat ice cream, go for walks on the beach and enjoy fireside cuddles. The very sight of a sausage dog fills me with joy and makes me laugh out loud. I figured that if I owned one I’d basically be in a constant state of delight.
The arrival of Mr Right and three children put a temporary halt to my Dachshund dream, but when my smallest went to school I found myself returning to the idea of owning a dog. The fact that I work from home and that I’m surrounded by beautiful green parks made this dream seem within grasp. The one stumbling block is that my husband has recently developed lots of allergies, including it seemed grass and animals.
And so this is the stage of my life when I forced my long suffering husband to have little needles inserted into him in the name of allergy alleviation. My friends wept with laughter as I told them his reaction to being informed he was booked in to see a Chinese acupuncturist. When he refused to attend the second session the compromise was a trip to the doctor, a series of blood tests and intense conversations with a number of pharmacists. At one point he actually asked the doctor to write me a note saying that he wasn’t allowed a dog.
With medical options proving futile I researched various hypoallergenic breeds, googled hairless dogs, rubbed his reluctant face into our startled neighbours’ dog and considered enrolling him into a six month dog allergy clinical trial based in Mexico. That last one isn’t true.
It began to take a toll on our marriage. One lovely friend counselled me one night. “The way that you are going it might even seem to him that you are saying its the husband or the dog. You really need to take a breath, remind him that you love him and just chill out for a minute.” She had a point.
So the next day I reminded him that I really, really loved him. And the day after that I got a dog. My friend had helped to crystallise things. I realised that I needed to put the pooch thing to rest. My husband had to actually try and see if he could live comfortably with a dog in the house. I had to accept that if this was not the case I would abandon hopes of dog ownership.
After careful consideration I had narrowed down our choice of canine to one that was a part poodle mix, supposedly one of the more “allergy friendly’ dogs. Even then there are no guarantees and every dog and human react differently to each other. I bought myself an industrial size air purifier from Argos and prepared with bottle of Petal Cleanse, a solution that traps the dander and allergens on the coats of furry creatures. Then it was a case of fingers crossed.
The lovely home breeder was patient and responsive to my many questions and worries. I could not in good conscious begin the process of adopting a dog if I did not give her the full picture and have in place a plan should things not work out. The breeder agreed that we could trial the dog over a weekend and if things did not work out she would take her back. I told the children that we were simply looking after the dog for a few days. Both to remove unfair pressure on the allergic one and to avoid heartbreak if she had to go back.
Driving to pick up the puppy I had butterflies in my tummy. I have not felt this excited since I was a child examining the outline of my stocking in the very early hours of Christmas morning. This time the bundle was small, furry and with large anxious eyes. I assured this gorgeous creature that I would do everything to look after her and give her a happy life.
(my tail is wagging a little but I am still feeling most anxious)
Back home my husband gave the crate a withering glance. I carefully set about pouring him a glass of fine Merlot and serving up a slow cooked shoulder of lamb. The whole house then went into watch mode. Closely scrutinising the hairy depths of both the puppy and my husband’s nasal passages. It only took two hours, and another two glasses of Merlot, before he conceded that of all the dogs in the world she was probably one of the sweetest.
Forty eight hours later and the old man was still breathing. He actually had no ill side-effects at all. She could stay. We were all in the living room and my middle girl, my eccentric, curly-haired dog-lover, who is bravely battling issues at school, was gazing in concentrated bliss at the small pup on her lap. I asked her what she would wish for if she could have any wish in the whole world?” “That this dog was ours and that we could keep her forever,” was the reply. I will never forget her face when I was able to say. “ OK you can have that wish come true.”