Since we knew it was coming, I thought I could prepare myself for it. As we got closer and closer to the shelter, though, the more and more I felt myself starting to unravel. We only had her for a week, but I could not deny the bond that had formed between us. As she whined and scratched at the walls of her crate on the drive over, I tried to assure her that everything was going to be okay, but I fear she already knew what was happening. She had already been abandoned at the shelter once before, and it hurt me to wonder if she felt that we didn't want her anymore, either.
I had to stay away from Stella when we let her out of the car in the shelter's parking lot. She strained against her collar and leash to try to get to me, excited, her tail whipping side to side. She barked and whined, just wanting a scratch behind the ears or a belly rub. After a few moments, she stopped struggling against her collar and looked at me, confused. I couldn't bring myself to look at her in the eyes. I couldn't even get within three feet of her.
Her tail stopped, and she sat down.
I wanted to hold her. I wanted to scratch behind those floppy ears one last time. I wanted to see the goofy smile that dogs display when they are happy, when they know they are loved. Instead, she sat there on the hot asphalt, confused.
"You didn't do anything wrong, Stella," I said to her in forced dulcet tones. "I'm sorry we can't keep you."
The Boss pulled in a ragged breath, and I looked up to see the afternoon sunlight catch on the tears rolling down her face.
"I'm sorry, girl," I said again. "I'm sorry."
Without saying anything, The Boss started walking towards the shelter. Stella got up and walked with her, but stopped after a few yards when she realized that I wasn't coming along.
She barked and pulled against her collar, leaning towards me.
"Be a good girl, Stella," I called out.
The Boss never stopped walking. "Come on, girl," she said. I could hear it in her voice that she was trying to be strong, but her resolve was fading. Stella skipped forward to catch up. They disappeared behind the doors, and my heart broke.
I tried to focus my thoughts on something else, anything other than the guilt I was feeling. I leaned against the hood of the car and waited. When I heard the doors swing open a few minutes later, I turned around to see The Boss walking hurriedly towards me, trying in vain to hold back her tears. We met in the middle of the parking lot, and I held her tight.
She cried. She cried brutal, painful tears. I did what I could to hold myself together, to be strong for her, but I failed. I began crying, too. We left shortly after, in silence.
Later that evening, after being back at our apartment for no more than five minutes, my body exploded in hives. My hands and arms, chest, back, inner thighs, groin... everywhere. Despite our best efforts at cleaning the apartment and trying to get rid of the allergen, there was still enough of the dander circulating in the air to bother me. I showered and took an extra dose of prednisone and benadryl, and tried to keep from screaming.
We left the apartment for a couple hours, and the hives eventually faded. I dosed up again on my medication once we got home, and finally got to sleep at 11:30, hive-free.
I woke up two hours later, covered in hives again. I woke up The Boss, and we went to the Emergency Room. I was put on two more medications to try to control the hives, and then discharged.
It was clear that I couldn't go back to the apartment, so I packed up what I needed to spend a week at my parents house. We arrived sometime after 3:00 AM, and crashed upstairs in their guest bedroom, where I sit currently. Until we feel that our apartment has been aired out sufficiently and is safe for my return, I have been exiled.
Even without exposure to the dog, I am still having symptoms. I'm trying my best to keep the medications active in my system, but it is hard to keep track of everything. I am on three different antihistamines, one steroid, and a medication to prevent airway inflammation, not to mention the bendaryl as needed. I've been carrying around my EpiPen everywhere I go, but am crossing my fingers that I will never have to use it.
The past four days have been a whirlwind, and I'm trying hard to get caught up. I clicked "Mark All As Read" on my Google Reader last night, which is something I have never done before. Please forgive me for missing all of your updates over the past few days, and bear with me as I try to get back into the swing of things.
Also, thank you all for your concern and well wishes over the past couple of days. The Boss and I both greatly appreciate it.