Allergies Bring Out the Animal in Us


Its hot, and my allergies are acting up. I am allergic to eastern cottonwood and short ragweed, Russian thistle and yellowdock, which is unfortunate for a dog whose native career is to herd sheep. As few sheep are raised and grazed on Astroturf, herding is not what I do. I am a journalist. When I am not writing my column I accompany my person as a seizure alert dog.

I see a lot just by being in the same room with people, and I guess I am privy to more conversations between humans than the rest of my pals. Your words give me much to think about. One thing that I ponder on is how utterly dependent you humans are on us when you express yourselves. References to animals are ingrained in your day to day communication.

A person who is really fancy is the cats meow. You refer to someone working industriously as busy as a beaver. How about snug as a bug in a rug? Then there are fat cats, old goats, and bookworms. Humans can be as happy as a clam, horsing around or living a dogs life. And what does its raining cats and dogs mean?  Wouldnt be a little strange if I were to get together with my female friends and have a hen party.

Right now we are in the dog days of summer, which is a period from about July 3 to August 11. Thats because the star Sirius,  the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major, (Latin for greater dog) is also the brightest star in the northern hemispheres summer sky. Did you know that there are 88 constellations and that 42 of them have animal names? Wow! This is fun. On behalf of my fellow named animals Im feeling pretty important.

I could stop with the constellations and get to some matters of substance, but I think Ill go just a little bit longer before I do that. Did you know that this is the Year of the Rat in the Chinese Zodiac? The rat is the first sign of the Chinese Zodiac.  I was born February 23, 2002, in the Year of the Horse. The other signs are Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snakes, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Boar.

Now that I have established the fact that you cannot function without animals, let me raise an issue of immediate importance. As you know by listening to the news and reading the paper, the economy is taking a hit. Many people are caught up in the mortgage crisis and are moving out of their homes either to downsize or because of foreclosure. When that happens every member of the family, including non-humans, is affected. The Animal Welfare League of Alexandria, can help.

I spoke with Dolores Murray, manager of volunteer services for the AWLA. We have a safekeeping program here at the AWLA that is for extraordinary circumstances during which the owner cannot take care of their pet. When there is a fire, hospitalization and yes, foreclosure, we can take in the pet for safekeeping until the owner is able to take over once again, Dolores told me. If you or a neighbor or friend needs a place of safekeeping for a precious pet, please remember the AWLA.

My featured rescue group this week is the Shih Tzu & Precious Paws Rescue. My friend, Nina, was rescued by them. Nina  is about 3 years of age. She, her mother, Nuala, and 31 other dogs were found dumped by a puppy mill owner on a highway in North Carolina. Visit for photos and information on Nina, Nuala and the other rescues.

Shih Tzu & Precious Paws Rescue is a nonprofit organization that provides safe, loving, permanent homes for abused, abandoned and neglected Shih Tzus. A good friend of mine, Darlene, who lives in Del Ray is one of the private volunteer foster homes for the organization. You can read about one of her fostered Shih Tzus, Molly, on the organizations Web site. Darlene told me that she likes helping this small organization because every penny goes to the animals and that the foster homes are so carefully selected. Many organizations wont take the really senior dogs; this group does. Darlenes dogs are rescues from this organization, including her first, Moe who is a very senior dog now.

I volunteer because someone did it for me, and if I can help someone else find a wonderful companion both their lives will change for the better, Darlene said.

I am running out of column, but I would be remiss if I did not remind you to keep us out of the intense heat, give us plenty of water and watch that hot pavement on the pads of our paws. If you would not go barefoot, it is too hot for the bottoms of our feet, too.

Well gentle reader, keep your feet dry and your tail high.