Never did I expect to be the kind of gal who de-ticks dogs with her bare hands.
Having always been the squeamish of the squeam when it comes to creepy crawlies, I still cannot kill a bug mainly because the thought of getting that close and feeling their body crushed makes me flap my hands and fake-gag.
But island living forces intimate cohabitation with insects. This means, in part, that proper pet care is a lot more involved than it is stateside. The wild bush runs right up next to the road, so it takes only a couple walks around the neighborhood for your precious pet to be exposed to all manner of nefarious parasites. My insect initiation came several months after arriving on island when the two dogs that my (ex!) boyfriend and I shared acquired ticks.
And when I say they acquired ticks, I mean that we had a tick infestation. The dogs had ticks between their toes, ticks in their ear folds, ticks on their eyelids, ticks in their armpits, and most disturbingly, ticks on their bungholes.
We had ticks on the walls, ticks on our sheets, ticks on our bedroom floor, and ticks in the laundry hamper.
I even found ticks crawling up my legs, an event that didn’t phase my ex in the least. Upon complaint, Mr. T (as he will henceforth be referred) absently said something along the lines of, “That’s gross, baby,” without looking up from his iPhone.
I bemoaned the ticks for a few days, trying unsuccessfully to inspire him to take time out of his legitimately busy schedule to help me exterminate the problem.
And then one evening while lying in bed, Mr. T discovered a tick crawling on him. Suddenly, he felt boldly determined to fix the tick problem once and for all, declaring, “We have to figure out this tick problem. Like tomorrow. We can’t live like this. Yuck Ash, this is gross.” He shuddered. As if he had to convince me of something I didn’t already know.
I’d been picking at the ticks since their arrival. My ape-like fascination with ridding unwanted items from the body proved beneficial in this situation. Ticks, hair follicles, blackheads, ear wax— I easily become obsessed with removal.
But the ticks were thick and getting thicker. Mere picking would not solve this problem.
Spraying did little good, especially since the 90-pound Weimaraner fled from the blue bottle of tick killer. Tweezers worked quite well if I could catch the dogs in a relaxed state. I am truly a plucking pro. But mostly the tweezers just made the dogs understandably nervous and squirmy, creating a two-person task of the ordeal. Since Mr. T couldn’t be bothered to help, I was forced to recruit a girlfriend for the nasty task. Might I add, it’s harder to tell the difference between a blood-pregnant tick and a dog-nipple when using tweezers. I only had to make this unfortunate mistake once.
I quickly got to the point where if the dogs were near, I’d pull off ticks with my fingers. I’d even keep two or three pinched between my index and middle fingers until I could walk over to the tick bowl of torture and flick them inside to be squirted with the blue bottle. They couldn’t avoid my aim, and I couldn’t hear any cries of misery as they drowned in poison.
I observed some interesting things about ticks during the invasion. For instance, the gray prune-like ones, grotesquely plump with blood, will sink to the bottom of the toilet when thrown into the bowl. But the small black ones will swim nimbly to the water’s edge and climb out if you don’t flush quickly enough. They’re resilient little bastards, to be sure.And it’s funny how ticks make fleas seem so benign. Upon island arrival, I was devastated when the Weimaraner caught fleas from a stray dog that hung around for a while. But after the tick infestation, I barely even noticed the fleas. If someone pointed them out to me, I’d likely respond, “Oh, it’s just a flea. It won’t hurt anything.”
That I reached the point of nonchalantly picking ticks with my fingers and holding onto them until discarding in the next room illustrates the severity of the problem, yes. But more importantly, it shows growth on my part.
One night, Mr. T and I sat at the dinner table, pretty much done eating and sort of lulling about before continuing on with productivity. The Weimaraner approached, as he often did, and I noticed a fat, juicy tick on his back. I attacked it with zest, easily plucking the bloodsucker from his body.
“Ashley, that’s gross,” Mr. T said.
I held up the tick between my fingers. It was filled to blue plumpness with dog blood, and its legs wriggled about helplessly. They looked comically small and worthless, especially when compared to the strong and able stems on an unsaturated tick.
“Ashley, that’s disgusting,” Mr. T said with no small amount of revulsion. “You don’t pick ticks at the dinner table! Yuck. I guess I’m done eating tonight.”
And then he performed the same bit of facial drama I’ve always displayed in the presence of bugs.
This, my friends, was a first. I never before had grossed-out another individual by my handling of an insect or any such small and wiggly inhabitant of this earth.
And yes, in my world, this was definitely growth. My island girl transformation had begun.
(Important Disclaimer: I have since learned about the necessity of Frontline, and have not had a similar incident since this one four years ago. I assure you, dear reader, my dog is well cared for (spoiled!) and healthy.)