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Some people have pets. I have allergies.  

As a boy, I was allergic to grass and trees, bushes and bees, chocolate and cherries and pineapple. I would break out in rashes, blow up like balloons, wear hats in the summer and Noxzema in the fall.  

Believe me, it was no fun. I really liked pets. Mostly, I liked dogs. But dogs made my eyes run and closed my throat. As a non-dog boy, I felt left out of things. It was a life I never knew. And a reason I couldn’t whistle.  

It all came to bite me one day in Miss Smeader’s first grade class. Miss Smeader was a cranky old woman. She looked just like Eleanor Roosevelt. If Eleanor Roosevelt had swallowed Bess Truman.  

“Today, boys and girls, we’re going to talk about pets,” she said. “If you have a pet, stand up and come to the front of the room.” 

And, one by one, they rose. Lois Krepliak went up. Bobby Finklestein went up. Even Diane Pitts went up. And so on. I looked around the room. The only kids still seated were me and Bruce DuBois. And he had ringworm.  

And so, in a snap decision I will always regret, I slowly stood up and walked to the front, like all the others.  

Mrs. Smeader started asking each kid about their pets. There were dogs and cats and turtles and toads. Soon enough, it came down to me.  

“And Maury, what kind of pet do you have?” Oh no, I really didn’t think this one through.  

“Um, uh, a dog. I have a dog.” Nailed it. She never saw me sweat.  

“And what’s the dog’s name?”  

Name, name. Name?  “Um, Spot. His name is Spot.” 

“You idiot,” I said to myself. “Of all the dog names in all the world, you pick Spot. The name of Dick and Jane’s dog. See Spot. See Spot run.”  

I was mortified. But it got worse. 

“Hey,” barked Bobby Finklestein, “I never saw a dog at your house.” 

I looked at him. I looked at Miss Smeader. She was giving me the dog-ate-my-homework stare. 

“Well,” I said, “um, uh, he ran away from home.” Ran away from home? Really? Did he leave a note? 

“And nobody ever found him?” Miss Smeader asked. 

“No,” I said. “We never found him.” 

By now, I didn’t want a dog. I wanted a fire drill. An air raid siren. Anything to get me out of this mess.  

I came home crying that day. I think my parents actually felt bad for me. The next night, my father brought home a dog. Wrapped in brown paper. It was a ceramic cocker spaniel. It was about 10 inches long and had a pleasant smile. I put him on the floor next to my bed. He was so loyal. 

And then there were cats. In high school, I started dating a very cute girl. One Saturday when her parents weren’t home, she invited me over. I went out and bought a brand new brown Ban-Lon, just for the occasion. Oh boy, I thought. I’m getting to second base today. 

We sat on the couch, and I went to put my arm up around her. At that exact moment, her cat – whose name was Fluffy – jumped on the sofa and then on my Ban-Lon. I tried pulling my arm away, but threads from my shirt got caught in Fluffy’s paw. What resulted was the biggest pull I’d ever seen. From my sleeve all the way across the front. My Ban-Lon was ruined. I walked home that day a dejected man. And I never saw that girl again.   

As time went by, I would try other pets. My gerbil died. My frog croaked. I was hopeless. Except for my ceramic cocker spaniel. He lives to this day. I call him Spot.

July 2018
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