Dear Max,

Our life was nice. We had a young child, two cats and a puppy. I had at least one cat on the bed with me at night (usually you) and I found a job at a clinic that really taught me the value of family and work-life balance.

After I’d been working as a small animal veterinarian for a few years, I got a cold I couldn’t shake. The cough wouldn’t resolve, and I starting to have trouble breathing. It was bad enough that I went to the emergency room. My chest x-rays were clear, so I was sent home to rest and let it run its course.

Two days later, I was sleeping in an armchair (with you on my lap) and couldn’t climb one flight of stairs. Back to the doctor, where he diagnosed asthma and started me on medications which helped right away. He also referred me to the local pulmonary clinic for those terrible breathing tests in the plastic box, and to an allergy specialist for testing.

Guess what the allergist found? I was and am allergic to cats, dogs, horses and cattle. My dear Max, not only was I allergic to you and all my pets; I was actually, literally, allergic to my job. I hadn’t even paid off the student loans yet.

The allergist gave me the advice he should have given me. He told me to get rid of all my pets and change my job. I suspect he knew that he might as well have told me to leave the planet or go live inside that terrible plastic box. Maybe not. Needless to say, I didn’t exactly take his ‘gold standard’ advice.

What did I do? Well, I banished pets from the bedroom and added a HEPA filter. My boss installed a HEPA filter at work and I kept taking the asthma medications like clockwork. I became more aware and fastidious about hand washing at home after petting or cuddling with one of my pets. I was already washing my hands after every animal contact at work.

Why did I choose that course of action? Well, I can’t imagine any other job or life for myself. I also can’t imagine our home without the interaction that I got from you and my other pets and the lessons you taught my children. When I was considering the advice of the allergist, I absolutely knew I could not give up my pets.

I never regretted the decisions I made during that time, and I cherish the lessons I learned from you then as well. You went from cuddling beside me every night to suddenly not being allowed in the room. I don’t remember a lot of drama about the closed door, but I think that’s because we just made the change and never gave in once.

I still got my evening lap cat time, and you were always there in the hall to greet me in the morning.

What did you teach me when I became allergic to you?

  • Less time together doesn’t mean less affection.
  • Cats can adapt to changes in the house, maybe more easily than we give them credit for.
  • Sometimes people won’t follow my advice because of reasons that are important to them. And I should respect that, as long as they aren’t harming their pets.

(Oh, and please remember, dear readers, this is a story of choices I made for myself about not following the excellent medical advice I received. This is not in any way an example you should follow.)