We are under siege by creatures the size of fly poop. Like Agamemnon's army they surround our house on all sides, dropping down on us from the trees if we go into the woods and climbing up our pant legs if we venture into the field. The only place where we are relatively safe is the yard, where the grass is still short.
2012 was a bad tick year, and we blamed it on the early spring. There's been nothing early about this spring, and the winter was good and cold. But the ticks just holed up in their deer fur duvets and now, like the rest of us, they want to be out doing stuff.
Every time the dogs come back from a walk I check them over, but it's just a formality. What chance do I have of finding a crawling fly speck in Wolfie's super-thick undercoat? Bisou, whose hair though long is much sparser, should be easier, and sometimes I do catch one crawling around. But I usually don't find them until the next day, with their heads deep into her skin, sucking away like tiny Draculas.
These are bad enough, but not as awful as the ones that drop to the floor like ripe olives, having had their fill of blood and transmitted their parasite du jour into my dogs. Bisou has had Lyme for a couple of years, though fortunately you'd never know it from watching her. Wolfie has anaplasmosis, another tick-borne illness, and despite three courses of antibiotics has never regained his stamina. Most of the dogs I know have Lyme, and several of my human friends do as well. New diseases carried by ticks are identified every year.
Tomorrow my dogs are scheduled for their annual vet check-up. She and I will have a depressing discussion about which insecticides do the most harm to the ticks and the least harm to the dog. There are no good answers. For decades I have held fleas at bay by sprinkling liberal amounts of garlic powder on the dog food, but there are no natural tick deterrents, and every few years ticks develop resistance to the latest manufactured toxins.
Fortunately, the tick offensive doesn't last all summer. It will diminish in early summer, just as the black flies emerge. Black flies show definite preferences for certain people, of whom I am one. They leave me with bleeding, itchy welts around the back of my neck. But they are little sweethearts, compared to ticks.