LOVE IS A MIXED BAG

I think I’ve developed an allergy to Harry. That’ll teach me to have a night of debauchery with a dog.

One night a week ago I couldn’t sleep, tossed and turned for several hours. So Harry jumped on the bed and did what he’s always done, pushed against my body and stretched his head right towards my shoulder and cheek, nuzzling me and looking at me with big, brown, sweet eyes. He’d done this before many times and that particular night, nervous and lonely, I dearly appreciated his closeness.

“You’re such a good boy,” I murmured to him again and again.

The next day my skin felt funny. By nighttime a skin rash covered me from the top of my chest up to the chin and all along the left arm that had stroked Harry.

Who said love isn’t a mixed bag?

From the beginning, Harry was such a cuddler. On the very first January day, when my friend, Genro, and I picked him up from the Brattleboro SPCA, he jumped on the bed and, rather than staying a safe distance away, instantly pushed himself against me, snuggling against my shoulder and cheek, practically burrowing under my body.

I was charmed.

Not Aussie. “I have more self-respect than that,” she informed me, “not to mention that I have better things to do.” Like planning her next escape.

But Harry has always been the lover, the one who comes back again and again to check up on me when we walk in the woods, unlike his older sister, whose motto seems to be: Out of sight, out of mind.

I started being more mindful and restricted my love, petting him only with the palm of my hands and then washing them with soap and water, not letting him brush against the rest of my body, shutting the door of the bedroom. Once or twice we fell off and I felt him against my lower arms, where the skin started crinkling  just an hour later.

He looks at me a little confused. He can’t understand why I’m so careful, he doesn’t understand the vigilance that’s come between us.

The eczema is still there. I will see the dermatologist tomorrow and ask him if, after nine allergy-free months, I have developed an allergy to my short-hair dog. I’ll ask him if it’s possible to love someone in your heart and find resistance in the body. It’s a source of stress, I’ll tell him.

He might ask me if there are any other places of stress in my life, and I’ll say: Well, as a matter of fact I’m traveling on Wednesday night. He might ask: Where to? And I’ll say: I am taking my husband’s ashes to Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland and leaving them there, as he requested. And he’ll say: Well, that might do it, too.