People who take their dogs everywhere

I developed an amazingly severe dog allergy, through living with dogs nonstop for 17 years.  If I'm riding my bike and a car pulls up next to me with a dog in it, and the window's open, I'll get sick.  If I'm anywhere near a dog and I breathe any of the air around it, I get sick.  The allergist I see has an office in a building where dogs live, and people sometimes go through the door that opens into the rest of the building, although the door is usually shut.  When I go there, I have bad allergic reactions - my thoughts feel like they're struggling through mud, I start coughing like crazy as the mucus gets thick in my throat, I sneeze ... probably from the dogs living in the building. 

And I get sick, my thoughts are slow like they're struggling through mud and I can't do very much, for 5 days after each exposure. 

I developed these severe long term reactions because I got very sick living with my dog, starting at the end of 2007.  I felt like I was living at the bottom of a deep well, watching people go about their lives on the surface above, but I couldn't live myself. I was in a semiconscious daze.  I spent a lot of time watching Youtube videos. 

I didn't figure out what the problem was for many years.  So I spent YEARS SOLID living with a nonstop allergic reaction.  I gradually got sicker. 

Now, I'm living at a no-pets hotel, getting various medications and hoping to get out of this chronic inflammatory state.  I've been living in hotels for 5 months now.  I hope that if I can avoid allergic reactions, my body will recover from this chronic inflammatory state and my allergic reactions won't last as long (it used to be I would feel OK the day after being exposed to an allergen). 

But I keep on getting exposed to dogs!  People bring dogs everywhere ... They take them into grocery stores, even.  Store owners don't want to annoy their customers, so they allow dogs in.  I was even told in Walmart that they don't have the right to tell someone to take their dog out of the store.  No sooner do I get over one dog encounter than I run into another one. 

Parking lots are minefields because of dogs left in cars. I have to be careful where I park my bicycle because a car with a dog in it might pull up next to me, and make me sick. 

I probably have the same severe allergy to cats.  I got sick after walking past an SPCA outpost in the mall that had cats.  But people don't take cats everywhere with them, so that isn't so much of a problem. 

Most people with dog allergies just get congested.  If a blind person is going around with a service dog, and someone else gets congested because of the dog, they should just put up with being congested. 

HOWEVER, the situation is much worse than that - from both ends. 

Other people have severe allergies to dogs.  A friend told me he often has to take his wife to the emergency room because of her dog allergy, likely because she has breathing problems when she encounters a dog.  A cashier at the grocery store told me she gets all stuffed up when someone goes through with dog (dander) on their clothes.  I don't know what would happen to her if an actual dog came through, it would be a much worse exposure. 

That I would have met two other people who are severely dog-allergic, suggests to me that it isn't all that uncommon. 

Anyone with a severe dog allergy is in for a LOT of suffering, because more and more people are taking dogs more and more places. 

I understand the wish to take one's dog everywhere.  I used to feel the same way, and I would feel hurt by "No Dogs" signs, frustrated by "No pets" in ads for housing.  It seemed like random meanness. 

People violate "No dogs" rules ALL THE TIME.  Over Memorial Day weekend I got sick because I was staying in a no-pets hotel - but some people brought a dog to the room across from me! 

I think people figure "what's the harm, it's a well behaved dog".  Allergies never enter their heads. 

I've seen dog owners advising allergic people "just take your meds", as if they knew of a miracle drug that would make allergy symptoms disappear, and the allergic person was perversely not taking it.

But often medications are not a cure, they just make the symptoms a little less.  It's like that with me. I'm doing everything medically that I can, I've spent many thousands on it. 

I have the best facemask available, but facemasks don't filter out much dog dander (the allergen dogs put out). The dander particles are too small and a lot of them go right through the mask.  Masks are not an answer. 

People trivialize allergies.  They seem to believe allergies are just a matter of sniffles and watery eyes, but they aren't.  People can die from allergic asthma.  Allergies have robbed me of many years of my life - spent in an allergic daze. 

Allergies and asthma are getting more common. 

And there's a trend also for people to go around with fake service dogs. 

For awhile there were "service animals" of various sorts, but in 2011 the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) was revised to define a service animal as only a dog.  And the dog has to be trained to perform some task for the person.  A dog isn't a service dog just because someone finds it comforting or it helps their anxiety. 

Also, business employees can ask what task the dog performs. 

However, service dogs have been employed for more and more tasks.  It used to be there were only seeing-eye dogs for blind people, and this didn't cause much trouble because they aren't common.  But now for example some people use dogs to tell them when their blood sugar is low (somehow the dog can sense this) instead of having to prick their fingers. 

A lot of the time, people with a service dog have alternatives, but they prefer the dog. 

But even with a legitimate service dog - it's considered a medical device.  But, medical devices aren't supposed to be hazardous to bystanders!  If the service dog were a machine, it would be considered defective because it can cause severe allergic reactions (just like a product safety issue).  The service dog concept was developed at a time when allergies were less common.  One would hope that people would become aware that they can cause harm by going around with a dog, and would work out other ways of getting around. 

So what is so wrong with our human relations, that so many people feel a need to take their dogs with them?  Are we getting so atomized, do we spend too much time on the internet to be close to people who are physically there?  People are so terrible at caring for others that many of us turn to a dog for unconditional regard, and become glued to the dog?

My own dog is in a boarding kennel ... while I try to make my allergy better so I can eventually spend time with her again.  I've been looking for a more permanent place to live, but it's very hard to find a place that hasn't had dogs or cats in it.  Last Monday I spent half an hour or so in a house to check it out for allergies, it was being offered for sublet ... But I got sick from the house.  Today, Saturday, I'm just starting to feel ok again. 

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Comment by Luara on June 23, 2013 at 7:12pm

I think I finally found a place to live that is free enough of dog/cat dander so I won't get sick.  It's in a mobile home park, which used to have a no-pets policy.  Now it's just no-dogs, but the owner said that only a few people there have cats.  He says he doesn't think the mobile home has ever had animals in it.

I spent a couple hours in there, and I DIDN'T get sick.  I felt a little bad the following day but it could easily be from other things.  I might get a good air purifier.  The mobile home is only a single-wide so the air purifier should keep the air pretty clean. 

finally ... I looked at SO many places, only to be told - we have a cat upstairs, or there was a cat there last year, etc. etc. 

I'm happy I can finally stop living in hotels and hemorrhaging money!

Comment by Luara on June 16, 2013 at 8:52am

I've wondered if there were some area that doesn't tend to have pets.

College students don't have many pets, they don't have time for them (although I guess cats don't use much time). 

The "Commons" in Ithaca where I live, doesn't allow dogs, and there are some no-pets apartments there, that really may not have had pets in them.  In apartment buildings I'm worried that people will sneak pets in.  If someone has a dog or cat living somewhere in the building, I would probably get sick, even if they sneak one in for few hours. 

I don't know how long it takes for the animal dander in a place to decay to the point where it wouldn't make me sick to live there.  10 years as a guess. 

I've thought of buying a new car, it wouldn't have animal dander and I could lease a small new car for $200/month.  Rental cars make me somewhat sick because they have all had pets in them, in spite of no-pets clauses in the rental contract.  But finding a place to camp that wouldn't have dogs roaming around might be difficult.  Pets are pervasive in the United States. 

Some countries aren't much into pets, I think Japan is like that. 

There's an "accidental" element to this:  whether dogs and cats have actually been in a place is a subtle matter.  No-pets rules are routinely violated - people don't see a reason for the rule so they don't respect it.  For example, the hotel I've been living most, has separate buildings, one building is motel-style and allows pets, the other building where I live, is hotel-style and doesn't allow pets, and has a nice threatening sign on the main entrance saying "no pets, no smoking, $150 fine if you violate these rules".  This building was recently built and has never allowed pets, and nobody has snuck a pet in it while I was here so far as I know.  When there's a pets-allowed building they can use, they're less likely to sneak one into the no-pets building.  So it's a subtle dynamic.  

I keep on thinking, surely my body can recover if I get away from allergens ...  Surely whatever it is that causes my allergic reactions to last for 5 days, will heal after awhile if I'm less-exposed.  Surely that isn't very long term damage. 

I'm taking a couple of medications, Xolair and Singulair, that may make one's allergies better over months, as well as helping with the symptoms. 

I've certainly been less sick living in hotels than I was, living in my house.  My allergic reactions aren't as severe as they were when I first started living in hotels.  But I'm not sure if that's because of healing, or just the new medications I've started.  

Anyway thanks for the suggestions - it helps to talk it over with people. 

Comment by Easton Le on June 16, 2013 at 3:11am

That is a terrible situation to be in. I really hope you are able to find yourself a good location soon. Too much of your life is being sucked away from you.

If you can afford it you could potentially move to another location in the country or state you live in. There is a website called metafilter that does a fantastic job of answering questions for people. It is like a Google search but instead real people answer your questions pretty much about anything. I would try asking there if there is a location that would be sensitive to your allergies.

Word of warning: don't move to San Francisco. Dogs and running are their culture there and they do both often and together.

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