Sunday, July 8, 2012

Get your ticks out

The other evening my husband was stroking our dog's belly when he said to me "There's a weird bump here. Do you think it could be a tick?"

We had recently come back from a trip to Drenthe, which has areas containing more than four trees, which in the Netherlands qualify as forests. Our dog was thrilled at the myriad opportunities this woodland wilderness afforded her to smell the pee of new dogs and she spent many a happy hour frolicking in the deadly tick-infested low bushes of the Dutch outdoors. I knew that ticks were on the rise in NL, much like central heating and non-potato-based meals, but in Drenthe ticks were apparently an especially serious problem, having surpassed in notoriety even the ubiquitous Dutch mosquito.

Now, being Canadian, I'm all about the nature, but I prefer my nature to be critter-free so I'm more of the "coffee table book" kind of nature lover than the "swimming with dolphins" kind. But the Dutch like nothing more than a good refreshing (boring) encounter with four trees to get the blood pumping again, and now it seems, the ticks were fighting back. And who can blame them? I mean, if I had a bunch of Nordic walkers busting through my house like a (boring) tornado every weekend I'd be pretty ticked off myself. Bwahahahahahaha.

So when my husband said "Do you think it could be a tick?" I said "Let's have a look." I went over to where the dog was lying next to my husband's chair and looked at the place my husband indicated on our dog's belly. There was indeed some kind of small blackish bump there. But it was dark in the living room where my dog and my husband had been sitting reading (the dog was not reading because she doesn't have thumbs to hold books with) so I suggested that maybe we should have a better look in the other room where the light was better. So my husband and I went to the kitchen and called our dog who came and lay down next to us, thrilled that we seemed to want to continue the tandem belly rubbing. Problem is, now that we had moved positions, we couldn't remember where the bump was. This was a problem because our dog is quite furry. I mean, like, really furry. Here's a photo of her just to illustrate how furry she is (and also because it's hilarious):

No, we did not make her wear that outfit. She totally chose it herself.

Anyway, looking for a tick on a furry dog is a bit like looking for a needle in a furry dog. It's freaking hard work. And once my husband had taken his hand off the bump, we had a heck of a time finding it again. But eventually we did. I got my face as close as I could to it without scaring the hell out of the dog and concluded that it was most definitely a tick. Probably. I mean, I'd never actually seen a tick before in my life, but I was pretty sure that was the only explanation. That, or a nipple. It could also totally be a nipple. I mentioned this to my husband. 

"I never thought of that," he said. There was a moment of silence while we considered that we had quite possibly been on the brink of trying to pry off our dog's nipple with a pair of tweezers (can you see why it's good that we have a dog and not a child?).

Then my husband said "But if it's a nipple shouldn't she have more than one?"

"Good thinking," I said. "We can see if she has more bumps like that one and if she does we know it's probably just a nipple and there's no need to panic," I said.

So we had a feel around our (by now somewhat irritated) dog's belly, but we couldn't find any more ticks/nipples.

"We're going to have to take her to the vet," I said at last. "We can't just start trying to remove this without knowing what it is."

"We're going to take her to the vet with an affliction which might just be a serious case of nipple?" my husband asked. I admitted it had the potential to be more than a little bit embarrassing but what choice did we have?

My husband grudgingly agreed that he would take our dog to the vet the next morning. "But," my husband said then, "what if when I get there I can't find the tick/nipple again?"

"Hmm. Good point," I said. "We need a way to mark it." I felt super smart for coming up with this idea and decided not for the first time that I would make a good spy. I looked around the kitchen while my husband kept his finger on the dog's tick/nipple, but the only thing I could see that looked like it might work was a green highlighter pen that had been left on the counter sometime in 2009 and which was by now probably dry. "We can mark it with this if it still works," I said.

"Good idea" said my husband, who probably would also make a good spy if it wasn't for his appalling eyesight.

Much to our surprise, the green highlighter still had some juice in it, as we discovered after a few passes around the tick/nipple. Our dog, previously tan and white with black patches, was now tan, white and black with one neon green patch.

"There," I said smugly, snapping the cap back on. "Now the vet will know where to look."

As you can imagine we both felt very pleased with ourselves for being so clever and level-headed about the whole tick business, until, a few minutes later, while stroking my dog's underside, I felt a second bump. On the other side of her belly. I looked at. It looked exactly the same as the first bump. Why did it look the same, you ask? Well, because nipples usually do look the same. Now our dog would have to walk around with one of her nipples highlighted like an important passage in a book for no reason whatsoever.

On second thought, at least it did give us the opportunity to take this picture:

The other dogs in the park don't exactly shun her, but you can tell they think she's kind of trashy. She is drawing a lot of unnecessary attention to her boobs, after all.


The WSD's Top Ten Signs You are Becoming Dutch
  1. This made me laugh out loud! Wonderful story-telling. I also smiled wryly at what you (and your dog) had to endure over one potential tick. My dog, Angel, has adjusted well to living on an island in the Bahamas, but - alas - ticks are a daily challenge for us! I keep tweezers and rubbing alcohol out on the counter. Sigh. Maybe I should consider adding a green highlighter to my set of tools! :) Dawn, of Choosing the Better Life (

  2. Hi Dawn! Thanks for dropping by. Yes, I would suggest you get yourself a green highlighter pronto. Maybe at the local Target.