Imagine you’ve had a rough week. Your kid’s been sick again with the same darn upper respiratory thing he’s had since he started preschool and you’ve had almost no sleep since. This is the fourth long course of Augmentin since the start of the school year. And today you received results from the allergist your pediatrician recommended.

The news isn’t good. Strong positives were registered for cat allergies, suddenly explaining all the nasty infections the other kids at school never came down with. The next thing you know you’re on the phone, tearfully scouring the earth for a good home for your cats.

This happened to me about five years ago. My two young cats had to find homes. I finally found the perfect place, one that would take them both—in Michigan. I still get the occasional email with a cute pic attached, but this was a terrible blow back then and, gratified as I am to see how comfy they look, it hurts to see them in print, even now.

So yesterday when one of my clients called, begging me to take in her eleven year-old small-breed dog after her asthmatic child tested positive for dog allergies, I knew just where she was coming from.

You’d think a small dog could find a home in the length of time it takes to learn to spell Chihuahua, but that isn’t always the case. Chicho is slightly snappy and suffers from arthritis, chronic periodontal disease and the occasional skin infection. He needs a home that will provide the kind of care he’s grown accustomed to.

The scenario is not unusual. My own son tested positive to dogs, but only mildly. I knew I’d dodged a huge bullet on that one. A no pets rule might have floored me forever. Yet so many parents get suddenly thrust into this situation that it’s hard to imagine how they’re left to cope. To make matters worse, there’s precious little sympathy for their plight in the public realm.

In spite of research indicating that breast-fed, pet-keeping households yield children less likely to suffer allergies and asthma, mine managed it anyway. There’s no avoiding genetics, or whatever other factors we’ve not yet discovered.

The incidence of allergies and asthma in children is alarming and the growing trend seems unstoppable. Is it diet? Is it toxins? Is it our scrubbed-clean kind of living? Who knows?

Low-allergen pets help. These include certain breeds of dogs (Bischons and poodles, for example) and that newly-marketed $5,000 cat. But there are no guarantees. Allergies are just so random and unpredictable; there’s just so much we don’t yet know.

In the end, heartbreaking though it may be, a human child takes precedence and the family and its pets must often part ways, depending on the severity of the child’s disease.

In my case it was a no-brainer. Our small, old house made cat-keeping an environmental hazard no matter how you sliced it. An outdoor enclosure was considered—then  discarded. I couldn’t afford it at the time and my kitties wouldn’t have had the life I felt they deserved, anyway.

My heart goes out to Chicho’s owner. I’m doing my best to ask every high-quality client whether they know of someone able to give him a loving home. Personally, I can’t foster him right now. I’m overwhelmed as it is. So I listened to her cry and offered as much comfort as I could, but I’m not sure anything could help her right now—except for the perfect home. I know just how she feels.