Family Pets


“Daddy we want to have a little kitty to play with. Hulda next door has one and it’s so cute, when you put it on your lap it vibrates.”

Father Jock looked over the top of his newspaper and glanced at his wife who, like any woman had her ears alert to sounds coming from her brood and understood instantly what reaction Jock would be having without even glancing to the side as she concentrated on darning holes in her cherub’s sox.

As Jock’s eyes studied Clarissa’s face for her reaction to the request Clara, Jock’s pet name for her, engaged her peripheral vision to study him in return without missing a stitch or registering any interest.

Jock sighed and lowered his newspaper placing it carefully on the side table to his favourite chair. He’d spent the last two hours on the floor of their room while they played with their dolls and other sundry delights while Jock read to them. The kids knew all those stories by heart, but it was part of the evening ritual before they were permitted another hour sitting quietly in the family room to wind down from days school and after school activities before being hustled to bed and tucked in for the night.

Jock hated cats! He’d had an allergy to them from the time he was a child and suffered greatly whenever they visited relatives who had cats. As if cats were aware of this fact they’d single Jock out and follow him around rubbing themselves on him to make sure their treasure was carried home with him on clothes he wore. If he found a place to sit keeping a careful eye out for them they’d sneak in when his attention was diverted and settle on his lap momentarily. Knowing that history Clara kept silent and busied herself with her stitching.

It was so unfair. As he grew up and saw the fun other kids had with their dogs and cats he was the one who suffered acute allergies from being around them. Sometimes his unguarded moments with animals would result in days of anguish and an occasional trip to the doctor. So, it was understood when he began to court Clara their future home would not include dogs or cats. Dogs seemed to understand the visual warning when they came bounding up to him and would divert looking over their shoulder as they spied another human to try and bond with instead.

Jock beckoned to his two small girls and each one settled comfortably in his lap.

“I’m sorry girls, Daddy gets very sick when he’s around dogs or cats. If you play with Hulda’s cat Daddy may get sick if he touches your clothes unless they are washed clean. Where are the clothes you had on when you played with the kitty?”

Clara looked up at last.

“I was visiting Maryam next door and noticed the children playing with a cat, so I bathed the kids and put their clothes in the wash as soon as I got home. Girls you must tell Mom if you touch that cat in future. We don’t want to see Daddy get sick, do we?”

“No,” chorused the girls in unison as they snuggled into their father’s lap.

“Time for bed now!” Clara extracted the protesting girls from Jock’s lap and shepherded them into bed.

Jock sat in his favourite chair lost in thought. How he’d envied the other kids as he grew up watching them play with their pets. Why should his own kids have to be denied that pleasure? He struggled with the unfairness of that and the reality of his allergic reactions.

Clara returned from the children’s bedroom and began to do a final clean up of the kitchen. This was a signal to Jock she was ready for bed. He was grateful for that. His job as a construction engineer was not an easy one and he had to be at work early each morning to see workers were all present. If there were any absences he had to get on the phone and pull workers from other sites as his current job was behind schedule and every day over schedule cost the company big bucks. It was such a pleasure to put that stress aside and come home to Clara and the kids each evening. He particularly valued the intimacy of his pre-sleep conversation with Clara, it strengthened him to have that closeness.

So, the conversation opened that evening with his lament about the unfairness of his allergy problem, how it had affected him as he grew and how it was robbing his own children of the pleasure of owning pets.

“Stop that nonsense Jock.” It was said gently but with firmness and Jock rolled over to look at her in surprise.

“It’s not healthy to feel sorry for yourself. I understand, and the kids understand too in their own childish way, so no one is blaming you. The way I see it is you need to live with this problem which we will be happy to continue to support you, or you look for some way to make this happen without you suffering. Surely the medical profession has moved on from the puffer to deal with severe allergies. I think you need to consult a specialist and see if we can solve this issue.”

Jock stared at his wife and smiled. “Now that was a reality check if I ever heard one.” He began to chuckle.

“You’re right, I need to put on my happy face and stop feeling sorry for myself. Have I been a real pain expressing my frustrations?”

Clara leaned over and gave him a big kiss. “Yes, you have! Now turn over and go to sleep. You have enough stress to deal with tomorrow, so you need sleep.”

Both turned over to their respective comfort spots laughing and Jock was soon asleep.

“I love you,” whispered Clara to her snoring partner. She thought over the evening conversation with their children and then began to chuckle. “Vibrating cat, how on earth did the kids come up with that word?” She gave a contented sigh and was soon fast asleep herself.

Next day as Clara bustled around the home getting things done she reflected on the previous evenings conversation. It was such a shame Jock had this distressing health problem. He was a man’s man tackling the toughest jobs and not being frightened to get dirty in the process. He loved sports and family camp outs in the mountains and it was distressing to see such a man occasionally in need of an emergency medical intervention after contact with pets. She knew it was demoralizing for her man to have to deal with, but men are such babies when it comes to visiting a doctor she thought. They feel it is uncool for a man’s man to confess they need any help. She shook her head at this thought.

Clara decided to do something about it. Putting the dusting cloth aside she moved to the office and typed in pet allergies on her computer. She pursed her lips in surprise as she saw pages and pages of entries on the subject and after scrolling down the menu selected one and began to read under severe cases long term interventions. They hadn’t tried the injection recommendation. Looked like it was a progressive intervention. Would Jock agree to that? She began to read.

“Each injection contains small amounts of the allergen so that your body builds up immunity to it over time. The process works much like taking a vaccine, where your body creates new antibodies to combat the invasive substances. Allergy shots also improve the way other immune system cells and substances function in response to allergens. Eventually, successful immunotherapy helps the body fight off allergens and reduce adverse symptoms. Allergy shots aim to decrease overall allergy symptoms over time. Decreased asthma symptoms are also possible if you have allergic asthma.”

Clara bookmarked the item and then shut down the computer while she sat thinking. Then on impulse picked up her phone and punched in Jock’s cell-phone number. She was greeted by a voice inviting her to leave a message and he’d get back to her when he could. She shrugged and replaced the phone heading back to finish her tasks for the morning. No sooner was she back in the kitchen than her cell phone trilled. Irritated, she returned to the office.

“Did you call me Clara?”

Clara’s brain raced as she chose the right words to get her man to agree to visit a specialist. Then she blurted out what she’d been researching and tensed for what she anticipated would be excuses and a gentle refusal.

There was silence for a minute as Jock processed her report. He’d secretly researched the same potential treatment long ago but the thought of making multiple visits to be injected with the very thing that made him so sick had him opting for a no pet policy up to this time. But then he remembered the disappointment on the faces of his children the evening before and his heart went out to them in their disappointment. He remembered how he’d felt left out of something special in his growing up days. Then he spoke.

“OK we’ll look into it an see how I can fit a long-term treatment into my busy schedule.”

Clara teared up as she completed her call. It would be so disappointing if after urging Jock to do this and the expense involved there was not a positive result.

But Jock hung in there often at a disadvantage as he tried to fit doctor appointments in with his heavy responsibilities. And there were times when he ventured near a pet animal he was disappointed with the results, but still he persevered and over time the allergies lessened to a point where he felt he could handle those contacts.

About a year later Jock and Clara were enjoying one of those rare moments without people or children. Jock put his arm around Clara and she snuggled in quickly.

“Clara I’ve decided to give the pet thing a try, but can we try a dog? I don’t seem to be having severe attacks as I used to, so the specialist must have done me some good. It certainly cost us a lot of money so it’s just as well!”

Clara nodded. “Just to make sure can we get one of those dogs touted to be hypoallergenic?”

Jock laughed. “The only pets proven to be hypoallergenic have scaly skin—like iguanas and snakes, but there are a few touted—but not proven—to be better for people with allergies. I suppose we could look at that.”

“What about a Bedlington terrier?” Jock could sense the excitement in Clara’s voice.

“You’ve been researching again on your computer, haven’t you?  How long have you been planning this and when were you going to work on me to agree to having a pet?” He grabbed her and tickled her, and she jumped away laughing.

So, a Bedlington terrier was found at enormous price and Clara deposited it with neighbour Maryam before collecting her children from school. She could hardly wait for Jock to come home from work, so they could surprise their children together. The children sensed her excitement, but she tried to divert their attention by playing a game with them.

When they heard their father’s car coming up the driveway they went to the door to greet him, but Clara was through the door and beside the car even before Jock braked to a halt.

Jock emerged looking worried. “what’s the problem Clara?” He ran around to meet her.

“I got the terrier today. It’s with Maryam next door. Can we take the children over to collect it now?”

Jock laughed a relieved laugh. “Sure, let’s do it!”  He hugged Clara and called to the children who came running out to join the hug.

Maryam had been watching from her porch next door when she heard Jock return from work and went in to collect the dog leading it on a leash as the family walked up her driveway.

“What a nice doggy, is it yours Maryam?” The children ran to pet the dog then remembered their father’s health problem and drew back.

“You can pet the dog girls because Mom bought it for you today. I don’t have to worry about getting very sick from pets anymore.”

Jock laughed as the children looked at him in disbelief, then he went to pet the dog. His children needed no second invitation, they sat down and hugged the dog as it licked them all over and gave a small puppy bark of joy.

“I should have done this long ago.” Jock smiled happily as the adults watched the children at play with their new pet.

“Can we come out to play too now Mom?” Maryam nodded and beckoned her children to join them.

That evening as they had their bedtime pre-sleep chat Jock found his wife’s hand and gave it a squeeze. “Thank you for pushing me into having those injections, I’ve been putting it off for years and your encouragement helped me make a decision to go through that tedious treatment.”

Clara turned to him innocently. “I have quite a large list of other things I’d like to spend money on Jock, would you like me to read it to you now?”

Jock spun his head around to look at her to see if she was serious and was met with a cheeky smile.

“Go to sleep Jock. Relax, there’d no list!”


“© Copyright Ian Grice,

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16 thoughts on “Family Pets

      1. Of course! It also reminded me of my husband always being allergic to cats, which is why we’ve had dogs, no problem with them. But as he’s grown older, it seems the allergies have disappeared. Strange, but nice for visiting other family. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I didn’t know that this type of therapy was available. When we had dogs we went to a local vet who gradually developed an intense allergy. It was an odd experience for us as we watched him progress from seeming rather spacy to wearing a gas mask and eventually closing his practice. My daughter has a milder version and can tolerate her children pet sitting the neighbor’s dog. It has turned out to be a great arrangement for all involved. Thank you for a heart warming story with the usual Ian signature happy ending!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. When I read the story to Georgine and came to the part when he asked in the bedtime chat if he was being a pain with his complaining and she replied “Yes your are!” my dear wife laughed and said “that was me and that was you in those statements.” 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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