I had both dogs with me today, and decided to take a path back from the lake edge rather than retrace our steps on macadem, our usual hike. Off the group camping area, the path is two dogs and two persons wide, narrowing to two dogs wide with human behind, narrowing to one human with dogs kinda off to the side wide. Rocky and rain-washed, the path was a mindfulness exercise.
Avoiding leash entanglement pulled my attention totally off bird song ID. Fortunately I am so into birding right now every little movement captures a modicum of my brain so I caught the sight of a few sparrow-sized birds about 10 feet ahead of us, odd for mid-forest, in time to halt the dogs, who were super cool nosing around while the LBBs (birder lingo for little brown birds) moved with confused deliberation off the path.
Whoosh! Out dashed a mom Ruffed Grouse, feathers wide, tail fanned, belting a piercing whistle warning. I choked up on the leashes but the dogs only lifted their heads in mild curiosity. I waited a few seconds for her chicks, the LBBs now identified, to get deeply buried away from the path and mom settled down a bit. Then we continued on our way, accompanied by a whistling, pissed off Ruffed Grouse for another 100 yards or so. Like a Killdeer she traveled away from where I suspect her chicks crouched waiting her all clear.
Really cool experience, and a deep reminder of why I never let my dogs off leash. Had they been free roaming, I am certain that curiosity would have led to working dog mind games within seconds, disturbing the chicks and the adult.
I began my day at the doctor’s reception desk, requesting the soonest available appointment for an inspection of my tick bite site. I didn’t like the angry O that encircled the mouth bits that I hadn’t been able to extract. The lady took me serious, and scooted me in for an appointment within the hour. Let me back up…
I do checks several times a day on me and my dogs, trying to make sure that these creepy spider relatives don’t suck our blood. We’ve got your American dog tick and your woodchuck and rabbit ticks. And we’ve got my favorite creepy crawler, the deer tick, carrier of a little bacterium known as Borrelia burgdorferi. I am quite good at getting the critters before they latch on, but just in case I keep a tweezer and alcohol handy at all times.
I know exactly when this particular tick bit me. I had one post-shower walk in the yard at sundown on Sunday, and a couple hours later, I did another swipe up my legs and there it was. I don’t know one tick from another. All species are pulled off and flushed down the toilet with the same speed. And then I watch the site, just to make sure that I don’t develop the BULL’S EYE.
Yesterday evening I did a double take. USUALLY the mouth bits cause a LITTLE lumpy something as my body kicks them out. But this looked mean. Different.
I am not taking chances, y’all. Lyme disease is endemic in Northeastern Pennsylvania and physicians around here don’t mess around. That is how I came to sit patiently waiting in the windowless room.
The doctor examined my leg, and explained that ticks release proteolytic enzymes when they bite which causes bruising sometimes. AND THAT IS WHAT I HAD EVIDENCE OF ON MY LEG!!!! What relief! Of course I will continue to monitor for Lyme’s flu-like symptoms, as per usual after a known tick bite. But for now I am Lyme FREE! (Also for the record, ticks have to be attached, sucking your blood, for about 36 hours before they can infect you with Lyme bacteria…)
But this incident got me wondering…what did my ancestors do about ticks? Did they pluck ’em off? Did they worry about getting sick from them? Were there as many ticks then as we have now?
I open my eyes to shadows from shade-filtered sunlight, an auspicious beginning to Sunday. Hours into my morning walk I spot this Wild Geranium inconspicuously sharing leaf litter with ferns. Spring woods are crammed with such delightful surprises.