Dear Amy: I have a severe allergy to poison ivy. If the tiniest amount of the poison ivy urushiol oil touches any part of me I will break out with hundreds of small, but itchy, blisters. These blisters cover my body (not just where I've come in contact). Without a steroid prescription from my doctor it can take months for a breakout to clear up.
My problem is that I like to hike on trails that have been cleared of poison ivy, but frequently the areas off the side have poison ivy. I stay on the trail, so this isn't a problem, but people love to bring their dogs, and if their dogs go off the trail, come in contact with poison ivy and then touch me, it results in hundreds of blisters, doctors appointments, costs, medication and misery. Because of this, I try to be proactive.
I'll say: "Please, don't let your dog touch me, I have allergies."
They say: "Oh, don't worry, he is friendly."
I say: "I don't care. I can't touch your dog."
Then the person gets mad or acts insulted — or worse, they let the dog jump all over me.
I don't hate dogs. I just don't want dogs (or any animal) touching me unless I absolutely know they haven't had any contact with the common substance that makes me so sick. How would you address this issue?
Amy says: I definitely enjoy dogs, but I also wonder why some dog owners don't seem to realize that their beloved family members are actually animals. Dogs are sometimes unpredictable (which is understandable), and dogs can pose a risk to humans.
Just as no parent should assume that every stranger will find their children charming, no dog owner should assume that everyone will want to interact with their dog.
"Oh don't worry, he is friendly" is not an appropriate answer to a human who can't have contact with a dog without experiencing extreme consequences. The dog's friendly nature is not in question.
You should say, "I have extreme allergies and could land in the hospital if I have contact with your dog. I'm going to stay on this side of the trail while you pass by."
Send Ask Amy questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.