Finding ticks on my dog threatens my sanity. I have to quell extreme feelings of horror to deal with ticks on my dog, but I do it because I love her. And, well, because she sleeps next to my bed.
I grew up well aware of ticks. My dad liked to take the family backpacking. We rarely saw other people on these adventures, but we saw bugs and frogs. I don’t remember personally having ticks in me as a child, but I remember helping while my parents used matches to make about four of them disengage from my little sister’s scalp. She had no idea what they were doing.
The fear of ticks was impressed on me the day my mother began to madly drop her trousers in the middle of the trail. If ticks could induce my mother, who was exhausted from hours of hiking with a back-pack and dealing with children on remote trails, to dance as energetically as that, then I KNEW they were trouble.
My husband also likes to regularly visit offbeat places, so we and our own kids have done the monkey-grooming thing, picking through each other’s hair and armpits. It is hard to look under your own armpit We have flushed many a tick down the toilet or laughed maniacally when the mini-monsters are found dead in the washing machine.
But it is so hard to thoroughly check the dog. Sometimes, we can find the still traveling ticks in her long, thick fur. If we don’t move fast, they will have ducked behind another layer of fur. More likely than not, I find them later, when they are well fed, when I am petting her.
That was the case this week. We had gone for a short hike around Lake Lowell the previous weekend. Then, the following weekend, we had her out on the boat and I was reassuring her and keeping her from wandering around too much. I knew she had a few odd little subdermal lumps and other places that her luxurious fur knots and clumps, so when I felt the first tick, I managed to ignore my discovery.
When I felt the second one, I groaned and told my husband. I don’t care if he was busy driving the boat. It was his manly duty to help me. At least, he always had before. It is part of the deal for me being willing to attempt those wild escapes.
Fortunately, he had a pair of hemostats handy, that are part of his fishing tackle. They are useful to get hooks out of smaller fish. While I held the doggy’s fur splayed aside, the girls comforted her with stroking and calm words. The ticks were holding on tightly, but with steady pulling they came out and were dropped in the lake. We are assuming they couldn’t swim.
The next day, I thought to check the wound where the tick had been attached. It was impossible to find. I also decided to give the dog one more pat down. There at home, she reveled in the massage. My daughter helped me and I mentioned to her how the engorged ticks were about the same size and shape as a female dog’s teats.
I didn’t find anything more at that point, so I decided to brush out all the fur that was now coming loose. The doggy is not terribly fond of being brushed and I wanted to do it thoroughly since I was at it. That is when I pulled her collar up some and found another tick. Ugh.
My husband was not home, so I began my first solo tick removal procedure. He had always used tweezers, but when another daughter recommended pliers, I knew it was my tool of choice. While I kept the tick located, the snub-nosed pliers were brought out to me. Holding the dog’s fur flat against her, I was able to work the tick loose without pulling fur and traumatizing the dog.
The engorged ticks don’t look anything like most of the photos in identification resources. Most photos show that the ticks look like mutant spiders, when they are still flat and are just roaming about. However, once they’ve hit the pipeline, they change shape drastically. Like I mentioned, they can look like a dog’s teat. They also remind me of a swollen piece of corn. I know. It’s gross.
Because of this, it is hard for me to determine what type of tick we were dealing with. My best guess is the Western Black Legged tick. We only live about five minutes away from Lake Lowell, but we have only had problems with ticks after visiting there or some other wild habitat. However, I know that it is something to stay aware of.
I remember visiting the local vet a few years ago and recognizing another dog there. Yep, just the dog. Not the owner. The owner was telling the vet that she didn’t know where the dog could have gotten ticks because he never left the yard. Actually, this dog was a regular menace in our yard, harassing our rabbits and dog and children. It only lived a block away (we knew where it lived), so it would have had to cross a deadly highway to get to Lake Lowell. I’m guessing it probably picked up ticks closer to home. And, it could have spread them to our yard.
I was intent on not accidentally letting go of this tick, so I squeezed it a little too much with the pliers, but after it was out of the dog. I was going to kill it anyway, but the popping sound that resulted may haunt my dreams. What will not haunt me is the specter of tick borne disease. It’s not that I will be ignorant about it, it’s just that we have had many ticks around without any sign of the life threatening diseases that are given so much publicity. I also found this website which tells of the symptoms and rarity of the diseases. The author reviews common ideas of how to remove ticks and seems to prefer our method of extraction.
Now, this tick has been buried in the dark caverns of my septic system. I no longer have the excuse that I don’t think I can do it by myself, but that doesn’t mean I’m not expecting the husband to do his part when he is available. Ticks turn my stomach.