Something in the Water, Part 1

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Oct 8, 2014

Filed under: Personal 80 comments

So we moved. You know this already, because I complained about it a thousand years ago, before my five-day internet blackout. Why did we move after only living in that place for a year and a half? Telling this story requires a bit of bellyaching on my part. Sorry about that. Also there are a lot of barely-justified digressions. I’m less sorry about those.

To sort things out properly, we have to go back to…


Not taken in March. I mean, OBVIOUSLY.
Not taken in March. I mean, OBVIOUSLY.

It's been a brutally cold winter, but the world is starting to thaw. I allow myself to indulge in the daydream that I might actually see the sun again.

It’s been a year since we moved into this apartment after that whole unfortunate business over the last twelve years. Things are quiet. This isn’t the best place I’ve ever lived, but it’s not the worst either and we’re finally living within our means.

This house must have been glorious when it was built, which was probably sometime during the Taft administration. It was no doubt a proud house in its day. It's got fancy roof work and a lot of space. Now it’s a sagging thing of rotting wood and shabby windows. The front porch steps are gone and the paint is peeling off the outside like it’s too ashamed to cling to the structure anymore. It’s been split into an upstairs and a downstairs unit. Even though we only have half the house, we still have three bedrooms, plus a living room and an office. Those house-builders of 1930 sure didn’t mess around when it came to living space.

Not actual size.
Not actual size.

After years of scoffing at silly videogame worlds where you have to traverse every room in a house to get through it, I find it kind of funny to find myself living in such a place. To get to my bedroom I have to walk though every other room that isn't a bedroom or bathroom. The vast majority of places I've lived have been built so that the downstairs is a loop. Others are built around a major hallway. Some have both a hallway and a loop. So this business of walking through rooms feels odd to me.

So the linear videogame house isn't as implausible as it's seemed. Having said that: The house in Gone Home is still goofy pants.


Nothing says "welcome home" like a staircase bolted to the side of the house.
Nothing says "welcome home" like a staircase bolted to the side of the house.

The earlyEarly for ME, anyway. morning roar of machinery tells me that they’re back. Squinting in the bright sunlight, I step out on the porch. Sure enough: The water company seems to be conducting a strip-mining operation right in the middle of the street. They did this same thing last year. Now spring is here and they’re at it again.

My downstairs neighbor walks by. Let's call him Fred. We wave. Fred is a nice guy. He’s the brother-in-lawOr something like that. of our landlady, and she sends him up to our place once in a while when something needs fixed. He moved in last fall, and keeps to himself. Sometimes I forget he’s down there. I hope my kids don’t bug him too much. I’ve got three teenagers, and I can only imagine what their stomping around must sound like on the other side of these old wooden floors. If it bothers him, he never says anything about it.

I make fun of the dilapidated outside, but the truth is we’re really lucky to have this place. Even with the traffic headaches, the sketchy neighborhood, the frequent police visits to the apartment building across the street, and the water company's total war on the city roadways, we would be hard pressed to do better.

See, we chose this apartment because it had and a strict “no smoking, no pets” policy. I’m ludicrously allergic to both. A vast majority of apartments around here allow pets, and of the few that don’t, lots of tenants are jerks and sneak an animal in anyways. So it’s always really scary trying to find a place to live. I don’t want to sign a year-long lease and then turn on the heat for the first time to suddenly get blasted with animal dander that’s been lurking in the duct work since the last tenant moved out.


Maybe I should explain how animal allergies work. I want you to understand what a pain in the ass it is to find a place to live, and most people seem to intuit allergies very wrong. They act like pets give off this Shamus-killing aura around them, like kryptonite vs. Superman. I tell people I can't visit them because of their pets and they'll say, “Oh, no problem. I'll put the dog in the other room where he can't bother you.” Or maybe, “Don't worry about it, my dog barely sheds at all and I vacuum all the time.” But then I'll be outside and a dog will come within five meters of me and they act like it's a suicide bomber that will kill me on contact. This is wrong. All wrong.

Dander seems to have the same root as “dandruff”. It’s microscopic sloughed off skin cells. More to the point: It’s dust. It comes from you and (if you have them) the pets in your house. Assuming you're indoors, then it's all around you, all the time. It hangs in the air, getting breathed in and out. It gets into clothing. It works its way deep into your hair. It settles in the duct-work, in the curtains, and the carpets. It clings to wood and paper. It finds its way into the tiny imperfections of painted surfaces and worms its way deep into the moving parts of household appliances.

After a while it will settle on horizontal surfaces, and if given long enough it will become so thick you'll be able to see it with the naked eye. “Oh, it's dusty in here,” you'll say, and then you'll wave a feather duster at it, kicking it back into the air again. “There, all the dust is gone. Now my friend Shamus can come over!” Every time you take a step on carpet, or flop down on the couch, or move the drapes, or change clothes, you're stirring that dust around and keeping it in the air.

It's usually harmless. People breathe it all the time. But for some reason, a few of us have immune systems that have incorrectly identified animal dander as something invasive and dangerous and will (ironically) harm us trying to kill the lifeless dust.

In my case the allergies inflame my asthma, which is where your airways swell until air can’t pass through them. Like most mammals, I have this powerful hankering for a regular supply of oxygen. It’s always seemed really stupid to me that the mere presence of a small furry animal could interfere with this process.

If you and your pets vanished this instant, dust would continue to settle around your home. Which means you’ve got dust in the air right now. I don’t care how clean your pet is, how fancy your furnace filter is, or how often you vacuum, there’s no way you’re cleaning that stuff out of the air with conventional means. Which means it’s physically dangerous for me to go inside. Sorry.

Perversely, this means that if you have a pet, the object in your house that I'm most intensely allergic to is your computer, because a typical computer holds a phenomenal amount of dust. It's even more dangerous to me than the pet itself. Sure, the pet is making dander all the time, but the fans and crevices of your PC hold more dander than your pet could make in a week. (I found this out the hard way a few years ago, when a friend brought his computer over so I could fix it. Now this gives me a really great excuse to refuse to fix people's computers.)

This is my computer, so it just contains regular people-dust and not deadly animal dust.
This is my computer, so it just contains regular people-dust and not deadly animal dust.

Where was I? Oh right, apartments…

See, this place was about the best we could possibly hope for, allergy-wise:

  1. Wood floors. Carpet can hold onto animal dander at Shamus-killing levels for a long time. The half-lifePart of the reason people misunderstand dander is because of terrible metaphors like this one. of kitty dander must be years.
  2. No sign of previous pets. The last tenant left a huge mess behind, but there wasn't any sign of animals.
  3. New duct-work. The owners gave the upstairs and downstairs isolated heating systems, and in the process replaced the ducts and installed a new furnace. That's one less place for dander to hide.
  4. When we moved in, our landlady warned us severely that if we snuck a pet into the place that she'd have us evicted, no second chances. On one hand, this was kind of annoying because it meant she wasn't listening when I explained that pets were literally hazardous to my health. On the other hand, it meant that the house would stay pet-free and she wouldn't let another tenant slide.

Our strict “no pets, ever” requirement, along with the usual space / price / location concerns, meant that our apartment search was really rough. This was basically the only place suitable for us in the entire city. It might be kind of dumpy, but it has the most important quality of all, which is that it won't kill me. And for that, I can put up with some peeling paint.

Still, I hope the water company moves on soon. I think two straight summers of deafening construction is more than my sanity can take.



[1] Early for ME, anyway.

[2] Or something like that.

[3] Part of the reason people misunderstand dander is because of terrible metaphors like this one.

From The Archives:

80 thoughts on “Something in the Water, Part 1

  1. syal says:

    If you really cared, Shamus, you’d go buy an SCBA with a couple of oxygen tanks so you could visit your dog-dandered friends.

    Also poor eyesight led me to wonder why you guys had a drugstore right next to your son’s bedroom.

    1. Ivan says:

      Ah! The old (mis)read the first few letters, glance at the length, and guess the rest of the word trick. I am too familiar with that one. It happens to me often enough and I’ve suspected for some time that it is some minor form of Dyslexia. I’ve always been a slow reader and my younger brother has actually been diagnosed with Dyslexia, though neither of my other siblings have. Then again, this might just be a bad “speed reading” habit I’ve picked up in an attempt to compensate for my usually slow reading pace.

      1. Mistwraithe says:

        Pretty much everyone does it, basic pattern recognition. The brain views the first letter or two, the last letter(s), rough length, rough shape and perhaps a standout letter or two in the middle. Then, if you let it, your brain will happily pick the best word which matches the pattern. And most of the time it will be right.

        There are puzzles/websites where they have strings of words with a few letters rearranged or altered in the middle and it is amazing how well the brain can read it even though the words as they stand aren’t real words.

    2. MichaelGC says:

      The drugstore had to close down because of all the draugrs.

  2. Taellosse says:

    Cat dander also contains dried cat spit – actually, I think there’s more of that than dead skin. This is because of how cats clean themselves, of course – by licking their fur until all the dirt comes off (along with lots of their own hair, which they swallow, and periodically vomit back up as hairballs). This is also part of why some people can be allergic to cats but not dogs (or vice versa) – because not all pet dander is created equal.

    For my part, I’ve got a mild allergy to both, but constant exposure has dulled my cat allergy greatly. It’ll still flare up every so often if I’ve had one sitting on my lap for too long, but mostly I’m okay. It really sucks that yours is so severe – never come to our house! We currently have 4 cats, but at our peak there were as many as 9. It’ll probably be years before you could safely enter (it’s an old house, with no central air system, and oil heat with water-based radiators, so no ductwork to worry about. But 2/3 of the house is carpeted).

    1. rofltehcat says:

      I also tend to “stabilize” after a while when exposed. So for example when I visit my parents (who own a dog) I’ll feel good the first day, bad the first night, then be absolutely crushed with headaches etc. the second day, cough into and through the third day, feel tired the fourth day and then feel fine afterwards. As long as I visit regularly for 2 nights or so a month the immunity seems to persist but if I haven’t visited them for a while it’ll hit me once again.

      I’ve also had desensitization against cats done. They basically give you a shot of “cat” and it triggers your immune response. Your arm gets hot and swells up and you feel a bit tired. Then they watch your for 45 minutes or so before they let you go. Then you repeat that every week or so for several months and in the end it is supposed to reduce your cat problems. Well, it didn’t really work. Maybe it reduced the allergy a little bit but it is still dangerous.

    2. It just so happens that Mr. Shamus-pants is allergic to both cat dander AND cat saliva. Which makes cats extra fun.

      1. evileeyore says:

        Ah. For me it’s just the spit that I’m allergic to.

        Mostly just cats and birds (birds are even worser) but since I don’t like dogs I tell people I’m allergic to all furry animals. Saves me having them shove poochikins in my face.

        1. Rick C says:

          “For me it's just the spit that I'm allergic to.”

          The interesting thing about THAT is that sometimes just washing the cat regularly can be enough that you can keep a cat.

          1. DIN aDN says:

            Though probably not any of the skin on your arms.

            1. krellen says:

              Give your cat regular baths as a kitten and it will probably enjoy bath time. You might even get an adult cat to get used to regular baths.

              1. BenD says:

                I don’t know if it is possible for all cats, but I have achieved ‘bath tolerance’ with two adult cats. One of them actively enjoys the rinsing (but is not thrilled with the shampooing… maybe that explains the enjoyment of the rinsing?). The other just gives me pitiful looks throughout. But neither attempts to remove any of my skin or really fight the process.

              2. Daemian Lucifer says:

                “Give your cat regular baths as a kitten and it will maybe enjoy bath time.”

                Fixed that for you.Ive tried it with all the kittens Ive had,and the only one that got used to water was the one Ive already promised to give to a friend.Granted,11 is not a big sample size for me to say that it definitely works just for 10% of cats,but I would be surprised if its more than 50%.

      2. Taellosse says:

        Oh, well isn’t THAT just grand? That’s gotta suck for him – I’m sorry.

    3. Vermander says:

      I’m also super allergic to animal saliva (dogs, cats and especially horses), which is usually also on their hair and dander. I get asthma symptoms like Shamus, but also itchy eyes, and if a dog actually licks me I break out in hives. On the other hand, I’m usually okay in a house that used to have a dog, as long as at least a few weeks have passed.

      Unfortunately virtually all of my friends and relatives have pets now, so I need to stock up on antihistamines if I don’t want to become a hermit. As long as I don’t touch the animal or stay more than a couple hours I’m usually okay. I feel like my kids (who mercifully did not inherit my allergies) will never forgive me for them not being able to have a puppy though.

      Strangely, I really like animals. I find them fascinating and I love visiting the zoo or wildlife rescue centers near me.

      1. Dunno if it’s any comfort, but I wasn’t allowed to have a pet dog (I had snails for some reason) until I was a teenager. Looking back, the obvious reason was that single mom who’s job requires traveling frequently plus grandparents taking care of a kid was plenty, a dog did not need to be added to the mix.
        I remember wanting a fuzzy pet, but I wasn’t angry about it or anything. My grandparents neighbors had a Cavalier and I’d go over and play with him (I was scared of big dogs). Your kids may not understand if they’re little, but once they’re older it’ll be fine. Allergies might kill my parent is a pretty damn good reason for not having a pet, after all.

    4. I used to be super-allergic to cats, dogs, and some other stuff that we never fully identified, to the extent that visiting anyone with a pet was murder on my lungs. I grew up around plenty of cats and dogs and then suddenly boom this allergy arrived out of nowhere, swelling my eyes shut and sending me to the hospital.

      Then, about 5 years ago, it went away almost as suddenly. Now, even if I do something really stupid like pet a cat and then rub my eyes, I might sneeze once or twice. That’s it. I wish I had some clue what was going on with my immune system to cause the change. I’ve read a lot about how some things (like eating wheat) can aggravate allergies and people who’ve gotten rid of theirs pretty much by accident like I did, but never anything definite. I wonder if it could be something like picking up a virus or other infection that re-routes your immune system and suppresses the allergic response. They REALLY cleared up when I started working at the tissue bank and having a constant level of exposure to all kinds of germs. Or it could be totally unrelated.

      Anyway, allergies suck and should go die in a fire.

      1. Taellosse says:

        I seem to remember reading somewhere that many people’s allergy sensitivities can completely change in a ~7 year cycle. I, too, developed my pet allergy later in life – I grew up with cats and never had a problem until I went away to college. Suddenly, the first time I came home for a break, my eyes got itchy and watery, my nose got runny, and my sinuses stopped up. It would slowly ease off if I was home for more than a few days, but never entirely disappear. Gradually, over the years, the severity has diminished, but it started really abruptly and inexplicably.

    5. Volfram says:

      I’m allergic to cats and dogs, including “hair” dogs like poodles. My grandmother has a hair dog, but I’m allergic to its saliva, and get awful rashes on my wrists if she licks them.

      My sister managed to find a dog I’m somehow not allergic to. At all. She’s the most adorable little thing ever, but she hates men, unfortunately.

      1. Vermander says:

        My parents have a labra-doodle, and due to the lack of shedding I usually have minimal problems when visiting their house. I’ll still get sick if I touch the dog or any of his toys, but if I pop an Allegra or Claritin I can spend the night with feeling sick the next morning.

        It helps that he’s also an unusually calm dog who doesn’t tend to jump on people or climb all over the furniture.

        Ironically I seem to have the most trouble with smaller breeds that shed a lot, like Jack Russell terriers, since smaller dogs tend to spend more time on beds and furniture and generally get away with going places their not supposed to be more often. Same story with cats.

  3. rofltehcat says:

    As someone with severe allergies against anything furry (mostly cats and horses, somehow I can mostly handle dogs). I understand your pain.
    People just don’t understand how actually dangerous an allergy can be.

    Some people don’t even think about having a pet. They don’t even interact with it much, it is just kind of traditional for them to have a cat (for whatever reason). So for example I skimped out on most family visits to my grandma because the mix of cat, lots of carpets and old house was simply hell.
    Staying at my aunt’s (who also had a cat) was better because they didn’t have as many carpets (easier to clean, doesn’t accumulate dust), a newer house and because the cat wasn’t allowed into the bedrooms.

    1. Tizzy says:

      People don’t understand mainly because there is such a wide range in the severity of pet allergies. So if you say “I’m allergic”, most people’s point of comparison is probably someone they know who gets the sniffles every so often. People usually need to see to believe, unfortunately…

  4. Adam Phant says:

    “The half-life[3] of kitty dander must be years.”

    I see what you did there, Shamus.

    1. Tom says:

      Actually, half-life probably is the appropriate term to use – I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the dander concentration did follow an exponential decay as it diffused out of the house as air and people moved in and out of it during normal life.

      1. silver Harloe says:

        Also: Shamus puts footnote 3 on the word ‘half-life’. Half-Life 3 confirmed.

      2. Ivan says:

        I was thinking that too, half-life might actually be an applicable term to the situation. Then again, it would only be appropriate if it’s decay depended on a random element. Unlike a radioactive isotope though, pet dander is likely to be broken down by bacteria, solar radiation, or some other process at a fairly constant rate rather than to simply randomly diffuse out of the house. That said, it seems to stick around for a long time so random diffusion might actually be the most significant factor in the decay of pet dander within a house.

      3. Plus the organic proteins that cause the problem will likely denature over time as they get eaten and pooped by dust mites etc.

        It ought to be possible to create a product called something like “allergy bomb” that you could use to “fumigate” a building. First scrape out the ducts/replace filters/carpets/etc. Then you turn the central air fan on and place the can of mist in the middle of the room, hit it, and leave. Let the chemical circulate for 24 hours to denature the animal detritus, then open the windows and let the place air out.

        It’d still be pretty labor-intensive but it ought to at least render a house livable for a high-allergy person.

        1. Decius says:

          Everything I can think of that the chemistry would work would also cause damage to carpets, upholstery, paint, probably wood, and possibly drywall.

          HEPA vacuum cleaners and furnace filters would work, but those are substantially more expensive than standard filters and restrict air flow more than most air handlers can take.

          1. Van Tuber says:

            Well, it’s called a bomb for a reason. Sometimes it’s the only way to be sure.

    2. Yeah, that had me going, “You sneaky mother…”

    3. Klay F. says:

      Yeah, we are on to your game Shamus. We are always watching. XD

  5. Shamus – Is getting allergy treatments (shots) an option for you?

    I have a mold allergy that has required 4 surgeries in the past 15 years. My doctor finally insisted that I begin allergy shot treatments this year. My health insurance pays 100% of it.

    It is possible to get the treatment to overcome dog or cat allergies, as well.

    1. rofltehcat says:

      I had that for cats and if it did help the effect was very small.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Its odd how these work though.I had a sun allergy,just like my mother,and a years dosage of shots cured me completely,while she had to use them every year,until she finally became allergic to the shots themselves,which sucked.Human bodies are a weird weird thing.

      1. Not that odd.

        The human body has millions of bacteria living in our intestines and hundreds of
        unknown colonies of bacteria in our mouths.

        The human brain and body has it’s behavior and functionality easily influenced by things like alcohol or sugars or coffee or tea. Even something as apparently harmless as water can be harmful if there is too little or too much of it in the body.

        The human body can handle small amounts impurities rather well (in the form of sweat, urin, nose/throat mucus or pimples) but in larger amounts can easily cause the body to shut down.

        The human body need and contains small amounts naturally of chemicals or minerals that is normally considered poisonous in large or small amounts. Like alcohol, or arsenic. Depending on how fine grained tests are it’s possible for a alcohol meter to react to the natural alcohol level in the human body (varies from individual to individual). Human bodies also has a certain amount of radioactivity in them.

        The human stomach needs to constantly refresh the membrane/stomach lining, if not then the stomach will eat itself.

        If the values of anything in the body stray too far from the ideal it may have short term physical or mental effects (including behavioral altering ones), if large enough variations from the norm or long term exposure may cause permanent harm or alteration.

        So I’m never surprised any more when I hear odd things happening to people. If somebody says “We had no idea, he always seemed so nice and calm normally.” my thought is “perhaps there was too much or little copper in the water he drank or his arsenic level dropped to 0% or something else?

        The body runs on chemicals and the body and the brain uses chemicals to communicate, everything you eat/drink/inhale/touch can affect the chemical balance of your body. And this is just when assuming your organs are working as intended, if some parts of your body is issues or work a little differently then it’s anyone’s guess how things might affect you. Heck, they still don’t know if the appendix is needed by the human body for anything.

        1. Ivan says:

          You know… after reading all that, ESPECIALLY after reading all that; I still feel that the human body is VERY weird. There is plenty of stuff we simply don’t understand about it and even though I’m sure those things have explanations, I won’t stop considering them weird until I have them. Allergies are definitely my #2 on my list of weird things about the human body though.

          I mean something that is completely benign to some people but deadly to others? But not deadly in an it will kill you sort of way, deadly in a your body will kill you sort of way. I mean with allergies all you need to do is suppress the immune reaction and you’ll be fine! Not just in the sort term, in the long term too! Your body isn’t just misidentifying a threat, it is so sure that this thing will kill you that it will kill you just to try to keep it out of your system! That’s really weird in my book.

          1. syal says:

            I wonder if it’s related to blood types. Is blood rejection a similar thing?

            1. Bryan says:

              If I remember third grade correctly, blood type mismatches are dangerous mostly because they cause the blood cells to clot up instead of flowing through arteries and veins. Presence of certain … proteins? cell shapes? something like that … interact with each other in potentially-clotting ways depending on which “type” is being mixed with which other.

        2. Duneyrr says:

          My brother has a slight allergy to his own histamines. If he gets a small scratch anywhere on his skin, his mast cells produce histamine (along with many other protiens) to protect the area, causing a painful (but thankfully not dangerous) allergic cascade.

        3. Actually, they recently figured out what the appendix is for–it’s a bacteria storehouse used to replenish your gut if your bacteria get out of whack. You can live without one (just like you can live without a gall bladder, which stores bile, or a spleen, which stores blood) but it’d be wise to supplement with pre- and pro-biotics.

          What is interesting is the fact that everybody has a body, but most people know less about operating one properly than they do about the car they drive. Even I know things like changing the oil regularly and tire inflation and rotation and radiator fluid and transmission fluid and battery protection and how to jump-start a car and how to change a tire and check belts and hoses for deterioration and tire wear and brake pads etc. etc. etc. but if you hand me an item of food and ask me “what will be the long-term health effects of consuming this in quantity” I’d have to say NO EFFING CLUE WHATSOEVER.

          1. Decius says:

            My body didn’t come with the manufacturer’s care and use manual either. If it was still under warranty, I’d return it for one that wasn’t defective.

    3. ET says:

      Is this type of thing getting out of the experimental stage already? I know it’s not effective for everyone, but at least it’s another option to try. :)

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Allergy treatment was available long time ago.However,because its not 100% effective,and no treatment works on all allergies,new stuff is constantly in experimental stages.

      2. Vermander says:

        I’ve visited allergists in the past, who generally seemed to advise against more drastic courses of shots and other therapies in cases like mine where the allergy is not life threatening or doesn’t seriously compromise my quality of life.

        It sucks that my kids can’t have a dog, but it’s fairly easy for me to minimize my contact with animals and I’m not going to die if exposed. My nephew has fairly severe allergies to grass and pollen that make his life much more difficult, so I imagine his family will eventually seek out new treatments when he gets older.

  6. DaMage says:

    I have a severe allergy to cats (along with grass and dust when I was tested), however I lucky do not suffer from asthma. When I was tested, my rating for those were basically as high as they can be. They tried to do desensitization therapy when I was in my teens, however it did not work and as the doses got larger all that happened was my reactions got worse until we gave up on them after many months.

    My family has always had a cat and I live on a farm, so I’m basically constantly surrounded by everything I shouldn’t be. I basically am forced to take a antihistamine daily, but I don’t suffer from most of the effects that people with these allergies suffer from. Obviously going for a walk through the long grass is bad for me, same as rubbing the cat in my face, but I can live with it around me.

    I think the biggest problem is mixing allergies with asthma, I might get lightheaded, itchy or sneeze, but I can still breath. However, if I get too exposed (like when recently I was working out in the long grass that is in seed) I have been known to pass out or get a sinus induced migraine.

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “Not taken in March. I mean, OBVIOUSLY.”

    Any other year,I wouldve agreed with you.But this year was weird,to say the least.I know you guys had a pretty long and harsh winter,but I had a pretty long,mellow and rainy summer.We had two blooms this year,in april and july.And we had torrential rains that wiped out both.So,yeah,a really crappy year for climate(and its still off,with a mild autumn that has barely any rain and a bunch of greenery).

    1. PhotoRob says:

      I think the “obviously” was because deciduous trees in the northern hemisphere almost *never* wear that much fashionable red and orange in March. :)

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        I know that,Im just saying that this year is wonky and stuff like greenery in autumn and leaf fall in spring arent that surprising.

  8. Thomas says:

    My cousin had an asthma attack one when he came round our house, because of a cat who’d passed away months ago. We got told by the doctors that it takes at least two years for a house to lose it’s catness.

    I’d never really thought before how hard this must make house hunting for some people. It’s really good to know how important ‘no pets’ policies are, before reading this I feel like I could’ve broken one without ever really thinking I was doing wrong. I’d’ve believed it’s just because they don’t like pets messing up the house or something.

  9. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Shamus,you really need to get yourself one of these.The full set will sterilize any house,no matter who or what was in there before:smokers,pets,volcanic ash…The vacuum* will clean any floor(or bed,shelf,etc),whether its thick carpet or regular wood,without any special effort.It sucks out everything,no matter how deep it goes.And the air filter cleans the stuff left in the air.If you want to live in a house that had someone with poisonous air before,just send someone to vacuum the place and leave the filter on for a day,and you can move in with no hassle afterwards.

    The only downside is that the full set is somewhat expensive.But maybe you could rent a days worth of cleaning?Dont know if the company offers it.

    *Technically its not a vacuum,since it doesnt create a vacuum to clean stuff,but rather circulates the air through a set of filters that keep everything dangerous inside.This allows it to go deeper than regular vacuums and with less power.

    1. Any vacuum with a HEPA filter (how good they are (or small particles they catch) varies and they have numbers indicating this) should handle most allergy issues.

      A vacuum without such filters are basically just blowing the dust around. I’m pretty sure (correct me if I’m wrong Shamus) that Shamus has a vacuum with such a filter.

      Their sounds can be annoying as hell but the air they spew out again is pretty clean (relative to “regular” vacuums).

      Also, modern houses has more of a dust issue than old houses. Old houses usually had a draft that cause dust to “move”.
      In modern houses most of all that dust just lands on stuff and stays there, then if you move things it starts flying around.

      Dust (and particles in general are creepy).
      Did you know that if you leave the lid open on the toilet and flush particles may float around for 2 hours afterwards?

      1. ET says:

        Ugh. Even without that, though, there’s poorly made toilets which don’t make airborne particles – they literally splash out. Not huge amounts, but large enough to count as liquid, and not a particle suspension or colloid, etc. So gross. They’re usually the ones that don’t get rid of the solids properly either. It’s like…certain companies don’t even test their products. :S

  10. Grudgeal says:

    Where I live it’s practically impossible to rent anything *without* a “no pets” clause (not that it bothers me all that much). I wonder if the pet-friendliness is a feature of the U.S. in general, specific to the town/neighbourhoods or simply because I look for a different class of apartment.

    1. Brandon says:

      This is my experience where I live too, actually. I would desperately love to have a pet. I grew up with dogs, and I miss having them around now that I’m living on my own. Problem is, no rentals in the city allow pets, and the ones that do charge a lot extra for the privilege. It sucks. :(

      1. Trix2000 says:

        I’m in the same boat – I’ve wanted a dog of my own for several years, but the place I’m in doesn’t allow pets (though I don’t know if it’d be suitable for one anyways).

        There are quite a lot of places around that do allow them, but most of them are EXPENSIVE and not very good value for the money. I’m basically waiting until I can afford to have my own place before I consider a dog, long as it might take.

        I just have to make do with my parents’ dog, who I end up watching somewhat often while they’re away (they’re literally half an hour from me).

        1. MichaelG says:

          Since I grew up with cats, I find dogs to be large, needy, pathetic drool factories that jump on you. But people seem to like them…

          Still, people who leave their dogs alone in apartments all day are horrible neighbors. I work at home, and the barking can drive you insane! When the human comes home, it stops, and so they have no idea. There’s nothing much they can do about it either. Dogs are social animals and hate being alone.

          1. Klay F. says:

            Where I’m from people treat you as some weird abnormal thing if want a place with a no pet policy. Even though I’ve grown up here, its still alien to me. Pets are fucking dirty, and I can’t comprehend wanting to have one living IN YOUR HOUSE with you.

          2. krellen says:

            People that leave their dogs alone in apartments all day aren’t just bad neighbours, they are bad people. That is a horrible way to treat a dog. Cats can handle it, but dogs just aren’t equipped for it. It’s basically abuse.

            1. ET says:

              Depends on the breed. Some dogs will happily* sleep all day, waiting for you to come home. I grew up with two different dogs which did this, although we did have a house, which is on average twice the size of an apartment of the same kind of cost range. Still, I’ve met other people who have dogs in apartments.

              I’d agree with you for most people with dogs in an apartment. Most breeds can’t handle it, and really need a back yard to play in, at least in the summer. :)

              * Well, bored maybe. Not unhappy though. :)

    2. Ranneko says:

      I suspect that defaults make a big impact on this. I know that in Sydney very few apartments let you have pets and that is largely because the default strata and rental contracts (the kind that I think are provided by some government agency and are guaranteed to meet all the legal requirements) don’t allow pets.

      As a result unless the body corporate actually decides to change to allow pets, you can’t have them. Good old tyranny of the default.

    3. Joe Informatico says:

      In Ontario (Canada), you can’t deny or evict a tenant solely on the basis of owning pets. You can start the process to evict them if their pets become a problem to other residents, whether through allergy, or disruptive or aggressive behaviour, but can’t ban them outright. Well, they can say pets are not allowed, but those clauses are legally unenforceable except for those few exemptions, and even then, it has to be done after the fact.

      An Ontario landlord is allowed to implement no-smoking clauses in common areas. They’re also permitted to implement no-smoking clauses into tenant agreements for private suites and balconies, but is not allowed to retroactively change existing tenant agreements. So there are renters who’ve been on the same agreement for 20, 30 years who are still allowed to smoke in their own apartments, even if it’s forbidden in the rest of the building.

      I don’t believe any of this applies to condos, however, because in Ontario, developers and condo boards are generally permitted to run their buildings like a dictatorship.

  11. purf says:

    You know, I like looking at places and I jump at every opportunity to practice my google(mapsStreetview)-fu: I can somewhat see where this is going. That road looks funky.

  12. Hal says:

    How do you feel about experimental science? There are clinical trials recruiting for vaccines against cat allergies. I have no idea if you’d qualify (or if driving to a study site would be convenient for you,) but they’re an excellent long-term solution to allergies. Well, cat allergies. I don’t know if anybody’s working on similar therapeutics for dogs.

    For what it’s worth, I work on products with a very similar principle, but for rheumatoid arthritis rather than allergies; I’m fairly biased towards these sorts of solutions.

  13. Frederick Beuttler says:

    The 3rd footnote is directly after the word half-life.

    HL3 confirmed!

    Sorry. I usually get annoyed when I see crap like that online, but that was just too easy.

  14. MichaelG says:

    The suspense is killing me! Did Shamus move because a stray cat had kittens under the house (they do that), or did the water company create a giant sinkhole that sucked the place down into the ground?

    1. rofltehcat says:

      “Something in the Water” indicates something was wrong with the new water. Maybe they contaminated the pipes somehow, or the new pipes (or the glue used to seal them together) are leaking something into the water. Shamus had some posts a while back about how he is very susceptible to even small traces of stuff that others don’t even notice and I think it is part of the reason why he can only work from home. Might be mixing that up with the migraine business, though.

      There have also been (horror) stories about how some USA freshwater supplies have been tainted by frakking. I think that is mainly in rural areas though. So I don’t think that would be the case here. People can barely fight back against that shit because of the money those large corporations can throw around in courts.

      But yeah, I’m eager to know what exactly was the cause for the move.

      1. syal says:

        Sounds like crocodile problems to me.

        Or mermaids.

        1. Van Tuber says:

          It’s probably sirens. You can only resist them for so long.

  15. Fists says:

    It surprises me how many people still think about pathogens with a miasma based approach, Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch both did their work in the late 1800’s but still people don’t appreciate that diseases etc. are transmitted by particles and secondary contamination is a thing that happens.

    1. rofltehcat says:

      Well, people tend to not think of things they cannot (or just barely) see.

      People don’t just have the particles in their homes but also carry them around. For example if someone is wearing a shirt that a cat slept on, a hug or being close to that person can already cause problems for people with allergies :(

  16. General Karthos says:

    Our dog sheds like crazy. The fur we gather in the summertime when she’s shedding her outer coat is the size of her within a week. (She’s a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel… so she’s very hairy.) So yeah…. Even if we demolished our house and rebuilt it from the ground up, it would probably kill you.

    My dad is allergic to cats (and it turns out, so is my sister), but not to the extent that Shamus seems to be. Just to the point where they can’t sleep and are generally miserable to the point where they WISH it was lethal.

    I have zero allergies, (I don’t even react to poison oak or poison ivy) and as a consequence I CONSTANTLY get sick. Because my body is the exact opposite of a person with allergies. It decides that NOTHING is harmful until it’s already inside me and multiplying. Then it decides to kill it. I think allergies are worse, but at least with SOME allergies you can take a pill and be okay. I can’t take a pill to never, ever be sick. (If I could, you would have heard about it by now.) On the other hand, I seem to kick these illnesses pretty quickly. Aside from one problem with strep throat, I’ve never had a bad illness. I had H1N1 and bird flu and got through both without even really realizing I was any more sick than I usually am until after.

    Anyway, I digress. I’m glad you’ve moved if you needed, and I really enjoy your writing style. Looking forward to hearing more about this as time advances in a forward direction. (As it usually does.)

    1. Hello, fellow Cavalier owner! What color do you have? I have a rescue tri-color who’s currently masquerading as a small hound dog due to being shaved (she’s a wonderful dog but does not tolerate brushing and let’s face it, those coats mat like a mofo).

      Oh, and does this make anyone think of DM of the Rings? I can just see Legolas going “I did what?!?”
      Meme pic

  17. Ilseroth says:

    Honestly I couldn’t deal with an animal allergy, love animals the the point of being headed down a Major that makes no economic sense (Animal Sciences/Zoology).

    But I do know what you are talking about regards to Allergic reactions to them, I worked in a pet store that sold dogs and I was always amazed when someone allergic was attempting to buy a cat or dog anyways.

    Though to be fair, usually that is for their kid… and my guess is that they are not nearly as allergic as you are.

    1. Vermander says:

      I have friends who are allergic to their own pets and have decided that constantly vacuuming and popping pills is worth they price of owning a cat or a dog. Usually their allergies are milder than mine, but I still think they’re crazy.

      I love animals. We have a family membership to our local zoo and nature museum and visit as often as we can (I’ll even go without my kids!), and my kids love playing with their grandparents, cousins and neighbors dogs. To be honest though, it’s really nice not having to care for a pet. We don’t have to worry about food or vet bills, we don’t have to wake up early to take them for a walk, and we don’t have to arrange for someone to take care of them when we travel. When they’re old enough my kids will probably get a bird or a turtle, but for now I’m loving the lack of pets.

  18. silver Harloe says:

    I hope you thank [whatever it is you like to thank for things beyond human control] that you were born so recently, because with all those allergies, life a century ago would have been fatally toxic to you. So hurray for the modern age, it lets us have a living Shamus, and talk to him, too.

  19. GrinOfMadness says:

    I’m curious whether anyone here with pet allergies have tried any of the personal air filters like the ionic types. They’re supposed to snag the dust out of the air whether it be through a HEPA filter or the ionization of the air and I’d like to know if they’re useful for people with allergies?

  20. NotDog says:

    I have animal allergies too.

    Cats and dogs aren’t so bad. I suspect my allergies are milder than Shamus’ since just visiting someone with a pet for a day doesn’t effect me that much, aside from some possible sniffles and/or itching. I can even pet a cat or dog a bit. Horses though are bad for me; I got welts every time I tried to pet one.

    Given that, I can’t really own or live with a cat or dog, so I have to experience those through the Internet. This might be warping my psyche.

    But yeah, I’m going to echo what Jennifer Snow said about how allergies should die in a fire.

  21. Fabrimuch says:

    About your allergy, does it apply to all animals or only mammals? Would, say, a parrot trigger the same allergic reaction from you? What about a lizard?

    Incidentally, I have three dogs and a parrot as pets, and we raise hens and homing pigeons. And my family also owns a farm where we raise pigs and rabbits. How soon would my house kill you?

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