My soon-to-be six-year-old son can be a whiny, grumpy mess when he wants to be. He is also sweet and oh-so affectionate. And though he may be quick to anger, over the past year he has proven that he has patience to spare.
Pretty much since he was a baby or, at least, as far back as I can remember, my eldest son has been constantly stuffed up. I mean ALWAYS. To him, not being able to breathe clearly was his normal. Day or night. Summer or winter. Inside or out. So when he was four and a half years old we finally took him for allergy tests. Looking back, I wonder what took me so long to clue in that this might be an issue bigger than a cold-that-never-ends. But I’ll save the mommy guilt for later.
Apparently he has a ‘strong’ allergy to birch (as do I. And never mind that we have the ONLY birch tree within a 100km radius in our backyard. Seriously.) He also has a ‘moderate’ allergy to cat, dog, horse dander and hamster and ‘mild’ allergy to plantain (huh?) and alternaria (okey dokey). Now, while we don’t have a horse, we do have a cat. However, [insert aforementioned mommy guilt here] we maintained the status quo. We’ll call it…Denial.
A few months later at a regular business luncheon I mentioned my ongoing concern to the resident naturopathic doctor and she immediately suggested that my son’s stuffiness might very well be related to his gut. After all, a healthy gut is a happy gut. She set me up with a Nutritionist where the boy underwent non-invasive biomeridian testing. This test revealed he had a high ‘sensitivity’ (not to be confused with an out-and-out allergy) to dairy (i.e. cow’s milk), sugars, wheat flour, chocolate (oh, dear), bacon (what?!) among others.
We immediately set forth on a mission to transform my son’s diet. He did not complain. Then came the steady stream of naturopathic remedies, some with odors and tastes more offensive than others (I mean have you TRIED quercetin or oil of oregano?!) Still, he was a trooper. Frustratingly, though we noticed a small improvement in the beginning, none of these concoctions yielded any long-term, positive results. Last week, on a regular follow-up with our Naturopathic Doctor and after ten months of mixing and matching remedies (none of which are covered under our drug plan, I might add), Dr. B admitted she had tried everything. “I hate to say it,” she went on, “and I know you don’t want to hear it. But, I think it’s the cat.”
[insert dramatic pause while gazing into the distance and biting back tears]
Why the theatrics? Well, as any animal-lover and pet-owner will agree, your pet becomes part of your family. We’ve had Bailey for over 12 years. Since before we were married! And though there are days I want to strangle the sweet little (well, not-so-little) fur ball, his companionship, his affection and his calm demeanor have always been a constant in my harried life. I love that he waits for me to sit on the couch so he can curl up on my lap. And that he hangs out with me in the bathroom, waiting for me to turn on the tap so he can drink the water that is so obviously better than the water I just put in his bowl. And that he will sleep at the foot of my bed, nestled in close to my leg, purring contentedly. I also love that my husband, who professes his profound dislike for the feline (affectionately referred to as ‘the rat’) on a daily basis (incidentally, he’s very allergic) will actually contort his body so as not to disturb the cat should he be lying on his side of the bed.
But…I love my son more.
By now, you’ve probably joined me in the inevitable conclusion that we will need to find our beloved Bailey a new home. It’s a no-brainer, really, to choose the health and well-being of your child over an animal. And from the outside looking in, it’s the obvious solution. But there are a lot of emotions tied to this decision, not the least of which is how to explain to your children that, without faulting anyone, the cat needs to go…soon. The slightly morbid/selfish part of me actually thought that since our cat is almost thirteen, why not hold on until his eventual demise? I mean, a cat’s life span is usually what…14…18 years? But, that’s just not fair. Bailey is still in good health and if he can provide companionship to someone who can wholeheartedly enjoy it for another few years, then it’s best we do this now.
I’m a firm believer in all things in life happening for a reason. If I didn’t believe this, I’d have given up a long time ago. And in speaking of this situation with a coworker last week, a potential new home for Bailey was found. The transition will happen in the next few weeks, giving us time to mentally and emotionally prepare to say good bye. I will sneak in every little cuddle, belly rub and scratch behind the ears that I can between now and then. If I didn’t know better, and I do believe cats have a sixth sense, I think Bailey knows something is up because he’s been my little shadow. I’m so sad to think of Bailey leaving but I’m heartened by the fact that he will go to a good home and that, after a thorough house cleaning, my husband and, above all, my son, will breathe a little easier.