Let's Talk Ticks

Let's talk ticks. There are three things - OK, more than three thing - that I find people won't believe, even after you prove it to them:
1) Warming up your car on cold mornings is a waste of gas - just get in and drive, staying under 35 mph for a mile or two;
2) Gas is gas - buying high octane gas is a waste of money unless your car is one of the select few that specifically demands it; and
3) finding a tick on your dog does not signal the impending apocalypse.

I came by this last truth the hard way. I was, brought up to believe that a tick was nothing less than a miniature Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Indestructable. Slain only by complete immersing in fire or by driving a silver stake through its little heart. I believed this until I pulled a tick off my dog one day, tossed her (it's the bloodthirsty females we worry about) on the desk and sliced and diced it with my x-acto knife. Not that I would normally harm a fly, of course, but this was in the interest of science. In about 11 pieces, the tick didn't seem likely to resume foraging for a blood meal anytime soon. This was the just first myth I would come to unravel about ticks.I've already started at the end of a tick's story so let's work back from there when you are out hiking with your dog.

TALL TICK TALE #1 - Removing Ticks From Your Dog (or yourself)
How many times have you heard that the proper method - the ONLY safe way to remove ticks - is with tweezers. Smearing vaseline on the tick first is even better. This is supposed to guarantee the tick's head will not stay embedded in your dog. Well, how many times do you have vaseline and tweezers at the ready when you find a tick on your dog? The ONLY safe way to deal with a tick is to get it off as quickly as possible. A tick (and we're talking deer ticks, not the much more common dog tick) cannot infect your dog with Lyme Disease until it is embedded for some time (usually more than 24 hours). So don't be shy about removing a tick with your fingers. Get in there and get it out.

TALL TICK TALE #2 - Leave As Little Of Your Skin Exposed As Possible To Keep Ticks Off You
It didn't take many trips into the woods to realize that wearing long sleeves and tucking long pants into socks to stave off ticks was just plain ridiculous. All you do when you load up on clothes in the summer - besides sweat - is give your tiny enemy a lifetime's worth of hiding places. When a tick hitches a ride on you or your dog it doesn't settle in for a meal immediately. It checks out the new digs by wandering around for awhile. Are you more likely to detect a tick crawling on your bare leg or sneaking up your shirt sleeve? So you don't need to dress like a beekeeper outdoors to detect ticks - just check your skin and your dog regularly as you walk. Catching a tick at this tme is the easiest way to combat it.

TALL TICK TALE #3 - The Best Way To Avoid Ticks In The First Place Is To Stay Away From Trees
What is it with irrational fears we harbor about our hair? Bats don't fly into our hair and ticks don't lurk on tree limbs eyeing the tops of our heads like tycoons checking out oceanfront property. Leave your tick-fighting hat at home. Ticks spend most of their time clinging to wispy blades of long grass waiting for a warm-blooded passerby to hitch a ride. The best place way to avoid ticks is to keep your dog and yourself out in the middle of a trail as much as possible. If you want to be outdoors, you aren't going to avoid all ticks. But if you deal with them a little more realistically, you don't need to avoid the outdoors, either.

Roll Those Ticks Away
There doesn’t seem to be a tick season anymore in many parts of the country - ticks seem to be a problem throughout the year. Before a tick attaches itself to your dog they are almost invisible to the naked eye. One way to remove many ticks from your dog after a hike is to roll a sticky lint remover across your dog’s coat. This is particularly effective with short-coated dogs. Another method to accomplish the same thing with long-coated breeds is to use a wide pice of masking tape, masking tape or similar tape with reduced adhesive power and pat across your dog’s body. It doesn’t take much sticking power to pull the tiny critters off your dog.