The Positive Side

Spring/Summer 2002 

Dog Day Afternoon

A PHA couple in puppy love

 

Michael Weinstein, 49

Diagnosed with HIV: 1984
CD4 count: 340
Viral load: 7,450
Toronto, Ontario

Pet: Mack and I have been together for three years. Two years ago, we got a puppy, a Jack-a-Poo — part Jack Russell terrier, part poodle. Mack named him PeeWee, which is perfect — he’s very hyper; if you recall the show Pee-wee’s Playhouse, that’s exactly what he’s like. It’s like Pee-wee’s Playhouse every day in our apartment.

PeeWee has definitely changed my life for the better. When I’m sad or lonely, he always makes me very happy. There’s not a day that Mack and I don’t laugh; we have such fun with him. When I come home from work, he goes crazy when he sees me. It’s nice to have an extra heartbeat in the apartment. He’s there for 100% unconditional love.

I’m Daddy 1 and Mack is Daddy 2. Mack is more the disciplinarian; I’m more of the suck. I always give in, I can’t help it. I spoil him. Mack plays rough with him, and he really likes that.

Every day when I take my pills — approximately 40 a day — I’m reminded that I’m HIV positive. Ever since we got PeeWee, it seems that I just go to the cupboard and take my pills, and that’s that. I don’t really concentrate on it anymore.

Physically, I get a lot more exercise. It’s a big responsibility — we have to walk PeeWee three or four times a day, take him to the vet for his shots, feed him, pick up after him — but it’s never a pain. We take showers together and he absolutely loves it. I scrub him up and wash him down, and Mack towel dries him. We share the responsibility.

When we got him, we bought him a beautiful cage. He was in there for five minutes. The first night, he was crying. I couldn’t take it; I told Mack to open the door. Ever since, he sleeps right between us. We’re one big happy family. PeeWee is like the child I never had. We’ve had him since he was a puppy, we trained him and we’re watching him grow up. He’s 2 years old now. I want to see him grow up. I want to be there with him when he’s older.

PHA PET PEEVE: The diarrhea from my meds. But I’m used to it now. I just go with it. I take Metamucil with my pills at night; it’s a binding agent. It works like a miracle.

Andrew McGregor (Mack), 44

Diagnosed with HIV: 1999
CD4 count: 505
Viral load: undetectable
Toronto, Ontario

Pet: Michael bonded with the dog the first day we got him. PeeWee has brought a sense of wholeness to Michael’s life, and hence, he’s brought wholeness to my life. Having a dog makes you refocus on a few things, both personally and professionally, in a positive way.

When I’m not feeling well, like today, it’s always nice to have the company of my dog. He’s here with me, he knows through instinct that I’m not feeling well and he keeps good company with me. He’s very sedate, much like I am right now. He knows that I can’t and don’t want to play in the fullness of how we normally play.

As we’re learning not only in the science of HIV but in all illnesses, a dog contributes to a stress-free environment, and for that, having a dog can only benefit someone with HIV. PeeWee is a great stress reducer. I can come home with a bad-ass attitude and all I need is five minutes of love and I’m fine for the evening.

There’s nothing better than coming home to PeeWee because he’s as anxious to see me as I am to see him. A pet gives only the best of unconditional love. No human can ever fill that menu. A human strives to love unconditionally, but as we all know, that’s not always the case. Nothing’s better than a kiss from a puppy. PeeWee smiles for me when I greet him, and that’s worth a thousand hugs and kisses.

Michael cannot say no to PeeWee. Michael does not know the word no; PeeWee has never heard the word no from him. In the first 12 months of PeeWee’s life, I let him know who was boss. Now, it’s just a matter of not even raising my voice much but just pointing a finger at him when he’s out of line. It’s interesting, PeeWee has been able to divide his love equally between the both of us. I cherish that. PeeWee has enhanced our relationship. We treat him as though he was our son.

PHA PET PEEVE: The resurgence of my allergies and asthma. It’s gotten worse in the last three years, since my HIV has been diagnosed and treated. My doctor says this is a result of a hypersensitive immune system. I use Claritin Ready Tabs for my allergies. My asthma is horrible all year round. When I’m having an attack, I have to back away from whatever I’m doing, try not to panic, and get to my puffer immediately.

Photograph: David McIver

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Preventing Infections from Pets: A Guide for People with HIV Infection

PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support)
Safe Pet Guidelines