In my dream I was in an animal shelter. Just walking through the door set a heavy anchor
onto my heart. This was a place where people came to adopt dogs and cats that were not wanted. I don't know why I was there. But I noticed the dirty floor. The dark green rug was full of animal hair.
I found a sweeper in the corner and immediately went to work vacuuming up dog and cat hair as tears ran down my cheeks. The door opened and the head volunteer walked in, returning from yet another call to help a deserted animal. She saw what I was doing and smiled at me in gratitude. I had just made her day a little easier.
Flash back two and one half years. I had been in a new relationship only two and one half months. After the passing of my late husband one year and a half before that, my remaining immediate family consisted of Ranger, my Aussie blue heeler/shepherd dog, 10 years old, and my sweet black Jessica cat, who was then three years old. I loved them both.
But something unexpected had happened... I had fallen in love with the man I am with now, and unfortunately he couldn't be around my pets.
Cat dander was the culprit. Additional allergens that cats are partly responsible for include those produced by their parasites. In particular, fleas contribute to the allergen load found in household dust.The quantity and potency of cat dander and Fel D 1 allergen mean that your best control option is to remove the pet entirely. Even then it can take six months or more for allergen levels to subside enough to see relief.
According to an article from the Mayo Clinic about lifestyle and home remedies for pet allergies, avoiding exposure to pets is the best remedy.
But even if you do find a new home for your pet, your allergy symptoms won't disappear immediately. Even after a thorough cleaning, your house may have significant levels of pet allergens (dander) for several weeks or months.
The following steps can help lower pet allergen levels in a newly pet-free home:
Clean. Have someone without pet allergies clean the entire house, including a thorough washing of the ceilings and walls.
Replace or move upholstered furniture. Cleaning won't remove all pet allergens from upholstery. Move upholstered furniture from your bedroom into another area of your home.
Replace carpets. If possible, replace carpeting, particularly in your bedroom.
Replace bedding. If possible, replace sheets, blankets and other bed covers, because it's difficult to wash away pet allergens completely. Replace bed pillows. If you can't replace your mattress and box spring, encase them in allergen-blocking covers.
Use high-efficiency filters. High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters for your air ducts may trap allergens in the air, and HEPA vacuum bags may reduce the amount of dander rustled up by your cleaning. HEPA air purifiers may also reduce airborne pet allergens.
If you decide to keep your pet, you can help minimize the allergens in your home by bathing your pet frequently( on a weekly basis).
Establish a pet-free zone. Make certain rooms in your house, such as your bedroom, pet-free zones to reduce allergen levels in those rooms.
Remove carpeting and dander-attracting furnishings. If possible, replace wall-to-wall carpeting with tile, wood, linoleum or vinyl flooring that won't harbor pet allergens. Consider replacing other allergen-attracting furnishings, such as upholstered furniture, curtains and horizontal blinds.
Enlist help. When it comes time to clean your pet's kennel, litter box or cage, ask a family member or friend who doesn't have allergies to do the dirty work.
Use high-efficiency filters. High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) air purifiers and vent filters may help reduce airborne pet allergens.
Keep your pet outside. If your pet can live comfortably outside, you can reduce the amount of allergens in your home. (Of course, this option isn't appropriate for many pets or in certain climates.)
I had to make a choice. I was ready to find a new home for my dog because Ranger had become distraught after Ethan's passing and was also jealous of my new relationship, plus my dog had developed severe anxiety because he was left alone more now than when Ethan had been alive. He and my late husband had been together 24/7.
The burden of satisfying my dog's need for attention had created stress in my life and
slid a wedge between me and my new partner.
Long story short... I made up flyers to put around town and was lucky enough to find an
excellent home for my dog. It happened quickly and the people really wanted him.
As heart-renching as it was for me to give up Ranger after 10 years, at least I had the satisfaction of knowing he was going to be better off. They even let me come visit him, if I wished, and I did... only twice. I think of Ranger often and my memories are happy ones when we were a family of two commited humans with pets.
Jessica is another story. Even though my boyfriend suffered miserably being around her, he told me he really liked cats and did not make me find another home for her right away. As a free spirit, Jessica could come and go as she pleased through the pet doors and spent much time outside. She was a good cat and I loved her. It was another two years before I had to say goodbye.
When my boyfriend and I decided to put our homes up for sale and move away somewhere together, I knew we couldn't take Jessica with us. Finally I sought a new home for her as well, and again I was very fortunate. It wasn't long before I received a phone call from a woman in New Mexico who had seen Jessica's picture on the flyer and had recently lost her own beloved black cat. After conversing with Kim for a long time, I was convinced I had found Jessica's new owner.
After sleeping on it overnight, I decided the next morning to give Jessica to Kim. I remember how sad it was for me to place my beloved feline into her travel cage and drive to Durango where Kim had agreed to meet us. Then, saying goodbye...
Six months later... I feel lucky to have found good homes for my four-legged family members, and it has been better between my partner and me since the animals left. Yet there is an empty pit in my heart and tears come easily. I made a sacrifice for my relationship, and probably not many people would do it. But I did it. It wasn't easy, but it was necessary because I cared about my partner's health and comfort more than my desire to keep my pets.
I love all kinds of animals. I grew up with dogs, cats, hamsters, birds... and I've had chickens and even mules. When I see people's pets now, I want to hug them and fuss over them. And my partner has said that one day, when we move and have our new home, we might be able to have outdoor animals... a cat or two, for sure... and possibly a dog, and that he'd even build a shelter for them with heat in the winter time.
Sometimes love involves making sacrifices. He was willing to let me keep my cat and suffer. But I didn't want him to suffer. It had come to the point where I wouldn't touch Jessica, for fear of dander being on my person and contaminating my partner. Medicating him was not an option either, due to his pharmaceutical sensitivities. Bottom line: My relationship and my future were more important to me than my pets.
Back to my dream... I believe the dream I had is telling me that I am a responsible, caring person. I took the trouble to find the right homes for the animals I cared about. Any guilt I have felt over giving up my pets is unfounded because I did what I knew was necessary for the benefit of the man in my life.
In an article published in April 2011 by Norene Gonslewski on relationship problems
involving pets, she talks about the different types of people and how they view animals. For instance, dominionists are those who see their pets as useful helpers that are beneath humans. They may be beloved but they are ultimately replaceable.
Humanists are pet owners who see their animals as their children and may pamper them, cooking them special meals, providing them with therapy, and even allowing them
into their beds.
Protectionists are people who wish to be the animal's advocate and have strong views about animal welfare and how pets should be treated.
My boyfriend and I have opposite views on how pets should be treated. He is a dominionist and I tend to be humanist, although I did draw the line about having my dog in bed. We have decided to agree to disagree on how we look upon pets.
For more insight on the problem, check out this article from the Portland Relationship Center... "Relationship Problems: When Pets Come Between Us"