I apologise in advance to all those experienced homesteaders and country folk out there for whom ticks are just an annoying inconvenience that happens every summer and who will think me an ex-city-dwelling, drama queen. For me, first-time dog owner and new tropical gardener, they were something of an unseen, and unknown, Nemesis lurking in the long grass.
Having finally gotten around to clearing a new patch of grass that had stood as tall as me (possibly taller), for many months, I was pleased with the new open area....the dogs however, were nothing short of jubilant. This newly cut grass was the dog equivalent of catnip. They jumped, rolled and cavorted from dawn 'til dusk and then headed home. I noticed a week or two later that George was scratching rather a lot, so decided to investigate - horror of horrors - he was covered in ticks!! Big ticks, little ticks, tiny ticks - I have never seen one up close and personal (in fact I'd never seen one at all but recognised them from a recent feature by a fellow blogger.)
Out came the tick & flea shampoo and a good bath.....WRONG MOVE APPARENTLY!! The ticks only seem to get worse and HUGE. "Do not attempt to pull them off" say all the instructions, this will only cause them to regurgitate the contents of their entire self into the dog's bloodstream (gross!) resulting in a potentially very sick, or even dead, dog! What utterly hideous creatures - the more I read, the more every part of me itched at the thought of them....I read about prevention and natural remedies but somehow this seemed to be an urgent and desperate time that called for desperate measures. I apologise again, this time to all my fellow herbalist, naturapaths and DIY remedy experts - I confess I panicked and called the vet who came and administered a commercial brand of evil chemical tick killer....but it wasn't over by any means and the worse was yet to come.
The following morning where George had slept on the verandah, walked several ticks, as though out for a morning stroll - the rats were abandoning the sinking ship (mixed metaphors? - rats, ticks - the concept is the same)....utter revulsion engulfed my usual calm demeanour and "laissez-faire" approach and George was quarantined and confined to his pen whilst the mother of all clean-ups begun. (Don't despair dog lovers, his pen is some 15ft x 15ft square with a 4ft high lattice surround - it's a rather pleasant holding cell with a distant sea view and a paddling pool).
I scrubbed, cleaned and washed down every thing in sight. I gathered all visible signs of ticks or tick-like life (including an errant jumbo oat flake and an apple seed) and destroyed them.....and yes, I used a chemical spray, but confined to a bucket with a lid on - a makeshift tick gas chamber. I am not proud of myself - these creatures caused all my ethics to be lost in an instant - live and let live, stay natural, ban chemicals....how easy it is to slide when you find the one thing that makes your flesh crawl and your scalp itch just at the thought of them!
The oddest part in all this was the fact that Ilsa had no ticks at all - they do EVERYTHING TOGETHER, and go EVERYWHERE TOGETHER - so how was she unscathed in all of this?
The vet said, "perhaps George has had an encounter with a frog?"......."perhaps"? there is no perhaps about it, George adores teasing and tormenting frogs, no matter how often I chastise him, many evenings he returns home with the tell-tale foaming of the mouth where he has gotten too close and been squirted by one of the many huge frogs or toads that we have here. Ilsa on the other hand, will watch and bark but will never touch the frog.
"So....", enquired I of the vet, "what has the frog got to do with ticks?"
"Frogs have ticks" says the vet, "and if George has been playing with frogs, there is a high chance he will pick up ticks from them"....
"who knew?".....not I, for sure.
Whilst I momentarily lost my cool on the discovery of these heinous creatures, I cannot begin to contemplate harming, destroying or driving out the entire frog population from an acre of bush and storm drains. George seems to be undeterred by any of the usual punishments and continues to stalk and terrorise the local frog population.
HAPPY CONCLUSION: it's been two weeks since the last tick sighting and both Ilsa and George's coats are clear and glossy - George has stopped itching and calm has returned to Happy Hippy Haven and the whole place is as shiny as a new pin.....but what next? I've tried to keep the grass low, but having Trevor the gardener come when he says he will is one bit of magic that I haven't found a spell for....and widespread spraying is out of the question.
A number of people have contacted me since I posted this earlier today and suggested some homemade sprays using rosemary, lavender and vinegar....perhaps I should have checked my own blog, I suspect I posted such a remedy myself some time ago....