Girlfriend is the name of our year-old, long-haired Chihuahua, who we adopted after she was rescued from a puppy mill. She joins our other pets, two cats named Bubby and Bella, both from animal shelters.
But girlfriend is the only one who ventures outdoors, and this spring we noticed she had problems -- wheezing and watery eyes. The verdict? She's got allergies.
And she's not alone.
As I learned for tonight's Nightly News story, it's not just humans suffering through record high pollen counts this spring.
Photo caption: Martin and Girlfriend, as seen in his standup from Monday's broadcast.
"It's just as bad for our dogs and cats, especially those with allergies, as it is for humans," says Dr. Patricia White of the Atlanta Veterinary and Skin Allergy Clinic. "When you think about it, dogs and cats are close to the ground, they walk through the grass and they accumulate that pollen on their skin and coats, so it really can be a problem especially when it's as bad as it is now."
How bad is it? An extremely high level is considered 120 pollen particles per 1 square meter of air. Last week in Atlanta the count hovered near 6,000! And according to Pollen.com most of the nation is snorting, sneezing and itching with medium high or high allergy levels.
Animals do suffer some of the symptoms we do, but they also tend to be more scratchy and itchy. Which is why vets suggest in addition to medications that we wipe our pets off with a damp towel when they come back inside.
As for us humans, experts make these suggestions:
Take medications at least 30 minutes prior to outdoor activity.
Shut windows and turn on the AC when pollen counts are high.
Dry laundry indoors.
Shower and wash your hair before bed.
You can even consider wearing a filter mask.
My girlfriend hasn't gone that far yet.
By the way, if you want your own girlfriend, she came from the Southern Hope Humane Society.