I Cannot Give My Child a Dog

My younger son, age 6, has made every effort to demonstrate his love for animals, and his will to care for a pet. His desperation reached a new level last week when I found the following heartbreaking note in his room:

Dear Santa, Please could you leave behind a reindeer for me to take really good care of.

This is a kid who wants a dog so badly that he's now exploring all other conceivable options. (He wants a dog or a baby. The request for a baby is... beyond the scope of this blog post.)

The little man in question is the most nurturing child I have ever met. There is no doubt in my mind how well and with how much empathy he would treat his pet, and I'd love to give him the chance. But unfortunately both of his parents are severely allergic to dogs and cats. Even the tiny and hypoallergenic poodle who is a member of our extended family sets us off.

Even knowing that I'd have permanently itchy eyes and an ongoing sinus infection, there are days when I consider giving in. Though I have no trouble saying no to my children's aquisitive desires, this one knocks me back. As Adam Gopnik wrote recently in a New Yorker essay:

The unwritten compact that governs family life says somewhere that children who have waited long enough for a dog and want one badly enough have a right to have one.

I kind of agree with him. But there's no way to try this out. Giving away a beloved pet because mama can't breathe sounds even worse than never getting the dog at all.

What would you do? Any advice on how to stop feeling guilty about this? My best idea: we're thinking of getting chickens in the spring. At least they live outdoors.