Tick season is here already in my southwest world. Nasty little buggers that eat my Albie and Burnsie alive. They’re regular as the returning spring Swallows and Hummingbirds– but until this year much less welcome!
I hate the concept of systemically poisoning my dogs in order to poison the blood stream to kill the biting ticks. And putting a toxic treated collar around their necks is little better. Besides, I can’t train my ticks to congregate on my Scotties’ necks!
My parasites, I’ve concluded, are a fact of life — part of the ISness of a world made up of those who eat and those who are eaten. We live in the country and I refuse to allow ticks to put my dogs under house-arrest. I moved to the country eleven years ago so we could enjoy rural life– and that means taking the bad with the good.
I have no clever solution for ticks, yours or mine.
What I’m doing is re-framing the ordeal of daily pulling them off the dogs. It’s not for the faint of heart, but I crush the individual ticks between my big farmer thumbnails. A bit messy to the squeamish, perhaps, but when you’ve cleaned up poop, urine, vomit, and unidentified crap from hell brought into the house — and we’ve all done it! — what’s a bit of tick juice on a thumbnail?
Burnsie is a dream patient. I simply say “Come on, Bud. Jump up for tick patrol,” as I point to the low wicker coffee table out under the porch. He hops up and sits down and I go to work, letting my fingers do the sleuthing, getting down into his two coats of fur as near the skin as I can. With practice my fingers don’t miss the tell-tale ‘lumps’ no matter how small. Small ticks feel like a skin tag because their head is ‘attached’ beneath the surface of the dog’s skin leaving their backside moveable. Educated fingers soon develop uncanny discernment.
Albie is a different story. She is a graduate of the Betty Davis School of Acting– a real drama queen. So it’s crying time and a box of kleenex when it’s her turn. She gives whole new meaning to the phrase, “ticked-off.” Truth is, it’s nearly impossible to pull a tick off a dog without pulling a bit of hair. To Albie, there is no such thing as a “bit of hair.” There is scalping and/or leave me alone. So she sees me as the resident Comanche scalper and is less than a willing player in our tick patrols. TIP: I find if I allow her to smell the tick between my fingers after extracting it from her coat and killing it, she seems to ’sign off’ on the scalping, as if justified! I guess she needs evidence I’m not pulling her hair for no good reason.
My re-framing of the tick patrol ordeal is just this: I’m re-defining the daily situation as tactile connection time; opportunity for me to rub and massage and touch each dog all over their bodies. It’s not merely they who benefit from my eager hands; I get enormous pleasure out of the intimate contact too.
I’m capable of getting so caught up in Life’s busyness I could put off daily hands-on explorations of my Scotties, especially were I convinced I could let chemicals do my parasite patrol for me. Ticks, for all their nastiness, bring me daily reason to get my hands and my heart onto my Scotties with mindfulness — nose to tip of tail, paw pads to tips of ears.
I’m not Saint Francis, ready to thank Creator for ticks and fleas. But I am grateful for re-framing an odious task into a bonding one.
Joseph Harvill, publisher Great Scots Magazine