Growing up, my first memory of dogs was when my parents’ Cocker Spaniels had a litter of 5 pups. My sister & I were anxious to play with them – let’s see, I was almost 5, my sister was 3 – bugging our parents daily.
Finally, when the pups turned 4 weeks old, we were allowed into the play area. The usual mayhem ensued: kids – screaming, yelling, giggling, laughing, falling down, twisting, grabbing; pups – yipping, yapping, licking, needle-teeth biting, chewing, bouncing, tumbling. My sister and I were having the time of our lives, the classic connection, the moving mass of the ‘puppy pile-up’.
I laughed and I gasped, and I giggled and I gasped, and I cried and I gasped, and I fell down and I gasped, and I didn’t get up and I gasped…my mom, an RN, recognized the symptoms immediately!!! Believe it or not, I was having an extremely violent allergic reaction to the pups and, having passed out, I was almost comatose within just a few minutes from the start of ‘puppy play’. Dad rushed us to mom’s hospital where I was treated in the ER. They said it took too long for me to wake & stabilize, so they kept me overnight for observation.
In the morning, my symptoms were gone and I was glad to be released. However, arriving at home – NO dogs in the play area!! My parents had sold &/or given away ALL the dogs – due to my ‘condition’. In other words, it was MY FAULT the dogs were gone – what else would a 5 yr. old think??!
Not only that, mom took me to an allergy specialist in Honolulu for 10 days. I underwent a daily battery of 6-on-each-arm skin-scratch tests to determine the extent of my ‘condition’ – do the math, that’s 120 tests! Results revealed extreme allergies to the following: of course, dogs, but in the more general category of “anything with hair or feathers”, therefore, no cats – even IF I ever wanted one – birds, rabbits, ponies, ducks, well…you get the picture; grass – yeah, grass, like at the playground [my parents paved the driveway for me to play on]; milk; CHOCOLATE; eggs; and ANY citrus – pineapple was irresistible [I was born & raised in Hawaii, am 1/2 Native Hawaiian], so I ate it anyhow & willingly paid the price.
No matter, a few weeks later my folks got me a small aquarium with 2 Angel fish. I’ve always thought of them as ‘no pet’ pets. They were temperamental & hard to keep.
However, over the years, I became adept at keeping some interesting species, especially the Sword-tails & the Tetras, both Cardinal & Neon – not too many varieties available at the time
Although “anything with hair or feathers” was officially OFF LIMITS, I paid that price also whenever the carnival came to town and I, mysteriously, ended up in the saddle on the back of a pony – laughing and wheezing and gasping. I can’t remember how many times my dad came to my rescue and ‘saved me from myself’, as mom used to say.
For the most part, I avoided the things that caused an allergic reaction ’til I was in my late teens. What changed? Well for one thing, I was in the USAF & had been sent to Viet Nam!!!
Once after accidentally eating some Egg Foo Yong at the base cafeteria – I was famished that evening & really wasn’t paying attention – I realized that I hadn’t experienced the usual allergic reaction symptoms. More time lapsed & still nothing. It had me guessing…what else should I try? Hot chocolate! Back to the cafeteria. It was right there…that would get me going – 2-for-1 – milk & chocolate! I sipped eagerly, enjoying my first deliberate tasting in over 14 yrs. No reaction after 1/2 hr. What next??
As Fate would have it, the entrance to our bivouac had a Sentry Dog Team. (I was stationed at Lackland, AFB, Texas undergoing USAF Basic Training when I saw my first Sentry Dog & Handler Teams – the base did double-duty as Central Training Facility & Kennel for the DOD.) My next challenge, more than just allergy…let’s start with courage – I saw these dogs while they were undergoing their Basic Training and was in awe &, I won’t lie to you, a little fearful of their capabilities; if that wasn’t enough, I had an almost complete lack of knowledge regarding dog-greeting manners. Fortunately, ‘Rusty’ & his handler, A1C Travis, were conditioned to tolerate, even accept, US military personnel and could easily differentiate between them &, well, anyone else! This led me to my first encounter with their amazing team. Travis put ‘Rusty’ thru his paces, showing off for a while before I was introduced. Then, I got my chance for a real close-up look at my first dog in 14+ yrs…Travis said ‘Rusty’ was approx. 110 lbs. – and bigger than most VC!! Then, shortly thereafter and before I knew it, I was petting & very gently wrestling with ‘Rusty’, without a care or worry in the world. I asked Travis if he ever felt that way with ‘Rusty’ by his side. “Always & affirmative”, he snapped, then more brotherly, “always & affirmative”…After about 1/2 hour of ‘exposure’ = a minor miracle ~ NO REACTION!!!!!!!!! I was cured – actually, I learned much later, I had merely ‘outgrown’ my childhood allergies…
Stay tuned for my next exciting ‘flashback’ episode –
In the meantime, help me “Improvise, Adapt, OVERCOME!” ~ LEAVE A COMMENT!!