Ever wondered what you would do if you suddenly woke up one morning to find your child’s ears acutely painful and it turned out to be your new puppy’s doing? Indirectly, of course, that’s exactly what happened to my neighbor and longtime client, Manny.

I work in a strip mall in South Miami next to a Cuban bakery that’s been there ever since I can remember. Manny is the owner and, like his dad before him, he serves me my traditionally Cuban, thimble-sized servings of syrupy-sweet black espresso a few mid-mornings a week.

Manny’s young family had been preparing for a dog for some time now. For years now, they’d considered getting American Bulldogs like Manny’d had growing up. Instead, they settled on a feisty rat terrier who seemed like a dream pup.

At eight weeks and all of two pounds, this little guy was housebroken, ate like a champ and proved clear of all major puppy diseases at his first well-pup visit.

But, of course, there was trouble in paradise. Manny’s son seemed to catch a cold soon after the pup was brought in. Then, four days later, an early-morning emergency room visit with a wailing child confirmed the severity of a painful, sinusitis-originating ear infection. Allergies, they said.

Manny’s worst fears had been confirmed. Turns out said child had previously experienced allergies to dogs but had done very well over the past year whenever he interacted with friends’ and family’s canine companions. They’d figured it’d be safe after testing the waters so carefully beforehand.

Now the dream pup’s got a new home with granddad—for the moment. Manny’s still hoping everything will somehow work out. 

His reaction is typical of most families whose pets and their immunological pathologies collide. There’s that moment when you’re already head over heels, blinded to the possibility of catastrophic clashes between what’s best for our bodies and what we want for ourselves and the pets in our lives. 

Now, I know what you’re going to say. But it’s easy to say that you’d never get rid of a pet in the event of allergies—but is that always the case?

In my opinion it’s always a matter of degree. Several years ago, after trying to live with two cats and a four year-old child with early symptoms of asthma and chronic sinusitis, I relented, too. I found them great homes and they’re happy now, but at the time it seemed like the world would end.

Sure there are things you can do: bathe the pets often, use acepromazine drops in their water, hyposensitization (allergy shots) for the humans, keep the pets out of bedrooms and/or build outdoor enclosures—but not all cases are amenable to such cautionary ablutions.

It’s always worth a try … but if an emergency room visit, severe pain, and the threat of more of the same have been your experience, I can understand why finding a new permanent home for your beloved pet might become inevitable.