Blood Sucking Parasites

I am watching my budget with more scrutiny while between jobs. I love being frugal — no surprise to friends, family or long-time readers. I am treating this time of life like a game: how rich can my life be without spending money?

NJ Appalachian Trail Hike

The answer — very. However, this weekend was a hilarious series of expensive missteps. With a little Internet research, I discovered the Appalachian Trail just 50 miles from our home. With a bit more digging, I found a free place to park in the Delaware Water Gap. Score! Since reading Bill Bryson, I’ve wanted to hike a bit of the AT. I’d pack a backpack, grab Nelson’s leash, and we’d made a day of it. The gas for a 100 miles is about $12 — totally manageable for a day’s adventure. (Cheaper than a movie or taking a gander through Target, by far.)

NJ Appalachian Trail Hike

Among other aspects I didn’t consider was the humidity. The trail was wet in some places and the air was sticky. We hiked 1.5 hours along a ridge line when Nelson found some shade and curled up. We had some water and a snack and I realized we needed to turn around.

NJ Appalachian Trail Hike

The walk was gorgeous. The cicadas are out and humming like mad. The birds were chirping. Flowers were in bloom. The smell of a New Jersey forest is entirely different than the Rockies — less pine and aspen, more birch. It was peaceful, and we only saw a few hikers who were all friendly.

NJ Appalachian Trail Hike

NJ Appalachian Trail Hike

NJ Appalachian Trail Hike

Neither of us are used to the humidity. My clothes were totally drenched by the time we made it back to the car seemingly unscathed. At some point during the drive home, I realized Nelson was acting strangely. He couldn’t get settled on the back seat and kept nipping at his sides. This wasn’t like him; after a good hike, he is quick to turn in circles three times before napping like a champ. Driving down a major highway it was hard to tell what was happening with him in the back seat … until I saw something jump off of him.

NJ Appalachian Trail Hike

He was covered in ticks. Then I looked down at my legs, wearing 3/4 length yoga pants and realized I had several on me too. I drove home as quickly as possible, kept him in the front yard, as bringing him inside would’ve caused an infestation of the little bugs and I’d be Googling “terminix massachusetts” trying to sort it. Anyway, I went inside for his grooming scissors and proceeded to spend another hour outside slowly cutting some 200+ ticks out of his hair and carefully wiggling out those that had made it to his skin. He was in agony — both annoyed with me messing with him, and with all of these tiny creatures crawling all over him.

I, in turn, was breathing deeply and really trying not to wave my hands toward the heavens and scream obscenities. I’d seen a tick before when a found one on my stomach after hiking through rain forest in Nicaragua. But this was unreal. I couldn’t get them off of him fast enough. And as I would find them, they would bury into him, making him welp. (It didn’t help that at one point I skimmed him with the scissors.) My hands were shaking and I had sweat pouring into my face.

A trip to the pet store later, I’d cleaned the house and given him a tick/flea bath. He is already on tick medication, but there were so many — I was concerned. As I bathed him, I watched more and more dark ticks come to the surface of his blond hair. I rinsed him carefully and let him air dry on the patio.

NJ Appalachian Trail Hike

You haven’t really lived until you’ve carefully taken off all of your clothes and examined every crease and crack of your body for ticks. Even more so when you find them and try desperately to keep your cool and get them off of you. After I showered, and complained loudly to friends on Facebook about the experience, the reaction was binary:

All of my friends west of the Mississippi responded: “OH MY GOD. THAT IS THE WORST EVER.”

Eastern friends, by contrast: “Meh, ticks. That’s life out east. Welcome!” Several emailed me their strategies for hiking with their dogs when they know ticks are present and how to guard yourself. I wish I’d known before starting this adventure.

Last night, I flipped him on his back and carefully went through each of his toes. I found another 15, happily sucking away at him. He seemed to sigh with relief when I finally let him rest.

This morning while getting ready for church, I found a rather full little sucker stuck to my scalp. Lyme disease was recorded in 3800 people in the state of New Jersey last year; God knows how many dogs are hobbling around with the painful chronic illness because they weren’t treated. It is a bacterial infection that if it isn’t treated quickly, can become a life-long, crippling disease.

I’m starting a round of antibiotics this afternoon; I wasn’t going to bother until a friend in Maryland called this morning to say she has several friends with Lyme and it isn’t something to mess around with. Thankfully, a friend of ours was able to call in a prescription. Nelson goes to the vet tomorrow.

The morale to this story? When it doubt, just go to Target.


18 Replies to “Blood Sucking Parasites”

  1. And now it’s official: I shall only be visiting Kelli during the Winter when the ticks are hibernating/dead. The two times that I have had them have been similarly traumatic, yuck!

  2. You poor thing and Nelson too…not exactly what you had anticipated coming out East. I too like Bill Bryson’s book and you know what Kelli there just might be a book in your experience too. Hope all is well with you and that Nelson’s vet appointment goes well too. Oh and remember to check the folds of your ears too…eek…and to think I used to be afraid of vampires…ticks sound way worse…I may never go outside again! Bleah! πŸ™

  3. Being a friend in the East, I, too, am of the “Ticks. Yup. Gross. Welcome to the special things we have here…” group. BUT we don’t have scary snakes like they do out West! πŸ™‚ That said – wise idea to start the antibiotics. Lyme disease is no joke. Hope you can find a way to continue hiking my friend!

  4. Geez Louise!!! I hate those things. I never had one but Daisy did once. To me they belong in the same category as leaches. Gross and to be avoided at all costs. I agree, next time Target.

  5. Kelli… What an ordeal, sorry this happened to you & Nelson, but glad it was no worse. One of my New Jersey cousins suffers from Lyme disease; you are wise to take smart measures to protect you and your pup from further harm. Rest and take good care honey! <3

  6. That’s disappointing, I’m so sorry. The humidity isn’t pleasant, either. I prefer to wear performance fabrics with vents. Maybe you can take in the history of the area?

    When Callie was a pup she got tick paralysis. I had never heard of it before, but I thought you should be aware that it exists. Once the tick is removed it gets better and there may have been medication involved, but I don’t recall.

  7. Omg I cannot even. I would have died. That’s it – simply died. I once watched a family member in Tennessee proclaim “Lucy has a tick!” then burn said tick off pup Lucy’s skin…I’ve been scarred emotionally ever since.

  8. Just…..EW. And further confirmation that I will be a California girl until I die. πŸ˜›

  9. OH NO!!!! I’m so sorry for you and your baby – I bet that was absolutely terrifying and horrible! We get maybe 3 or 4 ticks a season out here in NM…I can’t even imagine. I love you!!

  10. I hate ticks! I have had the full body inspection on many occasions. Ugh! Sorry you and Nelson had to go through that! Target is so much more fun. πŸ™‚

  11. OH My Gosh! That is horrible! Ack. I think I may be itching now after reading that. Glad you are antibiotics. Hope you find a way to hike safely and avoid more ticks! Yuck.

  12. Poor WNM and poor you! As a gal formerly from Maryland, I should have helped to prepare you properly, my friend! Was your furkid ever vaccinated against Lyme? It may be something to consider. Your friend was correct–Lyme disease is no joke, but I hope it doesn’t keep you guys from hiking and seeing the lush green sights! πŸ™‚ You may also wish to invest in some Skin So Soft or Deep Woods Off for yourself–the mosquitoes and fleas can also be true misery in the making, but oh, to see the fireflies on a summer’s night and listen to all the frogs and crickets from a comfy porch swing while sipping a cool glass of iced tea-it is the essence of summer back east!

  13. Ugh, I’ve had a few tick adventures, one in IL, one in IN, and more than one in AZ, of all places. I find the IL one kind of humorous now. I was about 5 and we had a woods behind our house that I had been playing in all day. That night, at dinner, my mom walked behind me to refill my milk glass and I had my head bent over my plate. She started screaming and freaking out because I had a bunch of them on the back of my neck at my hairline. Nothing quite so disconcerting as having your mom scream bloody murder at the sight of you.

    But 200? Yikes, sorry you had such a horrible experience on the legendary AT.

  14. Oh My! I would like to hear the info you learned on preparing your dog for a walk in a known-tick area. We have good friends whose daughter is still battling lyme disease in Colorado—it is so rare there that the correct diagnosis came six months after the issues began. Glad you are being proactive.

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