Josh Pachter is a college professor and author of detective stories. He now lives in Reston, Va., with his wife Laurie and their dog Tessa. He continues to have no allergic reaction whatsoever to Tessa—but remains allergic to other dogs.
In 2007, in my middle 50s, long divorced and unhappily single, I decided to give online dating a whirl and signed up for Match.com. I posted a profile, scrolled through the profiles of dozens and dozens of potential matches, contacted some, went out on a couple of obligatory coffee dates ... but didn’t meet anyone who really interested me.
Then, as I was about to give up, I found Laurie. She lived in Annapolis, Maryland—only half an hour away from me—was obviously intelligent and articulate, and listed many of the same authors, movies and museums amongst her favorites as I’d listed amongst mine.
There was a problem, though, and it was a deal-breaker: the photo she’d attached to her profile showed a stunningly beautiful woman ... hugging a big furry dog. And the problem was that I am violently allergic to dogs, to all dogs, even the supposedly hypo-allergenic ones. In the past, I’ve tried loading up on allergy meds and visiting friends and family members who live with dogs—and it’s never worked. More than once, I’ve wound up in the ER, hooked up to a nebulizer until my breathing restabilized.
Laurie just seemed like such a pleasant and interesting person, though, so I sent her a brief note, telling her that I wasn’t the right guy for her but wishing her good luck in her search.
The next day, she wrote me back. "What makes you so sure," she demanded, "that you’re ‘not the right guy’ for me?"
I replied, told her about my allergies, and she wrote again and told me that she’d rescued her Collie-Terrier mix Tessa as a puppy and certainly wasn’t ever going to give her up. So we had to agree that a romance between us would be impossible. We had so much in common, though—both of us writers, both members of the American Visionary Arts Museum in Baltimore, both fans of Roald Dahl and detective stories and the X-Files—that we agreed we could at least be friends and meet up once in a while for a movie or a meal or a conversation over coffee.
And that’s what we did.
A month or so later, after we’d gotten to know each other and had discovered that we really did like each other a lot, we made plans to go out to dinner one evening. Normally, we just met up wherever we were going, but this time we arranged that I’d pick her up at her condo—where, of course, I’d never been, since Tessa was always there. I would knock on her door, we agreed, and Laurie would slip right out, so that I wouldn’t have to actually come in contact with her dog.
She accidentally opened the door a little too wide, though, wide enough for Tessa to slip through—and, as dogs will often do to people they know would rather avoid them, Tessa jumped up at me and nuzzled her head against my legs.
Oh, no, I thought, now I’m gonna wind up in the ER again.
Except, to my amazement, I had absolutely no reaction to Tessa at all. Barely able to believe it, I leaned down and petted her—the first time I had ever petted a dog in my life. The next thing I knew, she was licking my hand, and the feel of her raspy pink tongue against my skin was horrifying yet, somehow, kind of nice.
I straightened up and looked at Laurie, who was smiling a stunningly beautiful smile.
"Will you marry me?" I said.
And, nine months later—outdoors, on a dock on the Severn River in Annapolis so that Tessa could be there with us—that’s what we did.