Thursday, April 18, 2013

Tick Attack!

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.


10 comments :

  1. No, we won't be moving to Vermont. I know how to cope with our Southern vermin but all are morphing!

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  2. Wow, I didn't realize the South was tick free.

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  3. Ticks, black flies. Lali, you really are discouraging me from visiting Vermont!

    But a word of praise - this sentence (below) was brilliant. "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."

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    1. Did I forget to mention mosquitoes? Also, early winters and late springs. Stick season, mud season. But everything else is (almost) pure heaven.

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  4. That was my favorite sentence too.

    May I point out, Mali, that if you visit Vermont without dogs, your chances of remaining tick-free are greater.

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  5. I've had some luck with cedar oil (I buy it by the gallon). It definitely repels them, but when you have as many ticks as we do, you still end up with some on the dog. And you have to have a tolerance for a greasy looking pup who smells like a cedar chest. Surprisingly it had no apparent affect on the dog's ability to smell birds.

    I too, loved the deer fur duvet sentence - wonderful!

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    1. I'll go looking for some cedar oil today.

      My German Shepherd Wolfie is the size of a cedar chest, so having him smell like one will complete the illusion.

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  6. I live in town, but there are still enough grassy areas and hedges and bushes for the ticks to live in. I hope this is not going to be a bad year for them. That does remind me to get one of those tick removers. Tyke has had his fur cut very short and a tick should be relatively easy to spot.

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  7. Hi- We live in Norwich and in the past two days we have found embedded ticks on my 20 month old granddaughter, and on my husband. My son-in-law had two crawling on him. I am especially concerned, because my daughter is pregnant. We are so tired of this onslaught! It has made summer a time of fear and caution. I have already had Lyme and both our dogs have Lyme.

    I worry because the nymphs are so, so tiny - if a person does not know what to look for, one would never see them. They look like a tiny fleck of dirt. We do tick checks twice a day every single day - wearing magnifying glasses and using a flashlight.

    You mention that this will not go on all summer. I wonder when that safe time is....

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