It was a regular visit to the veterinarian hospital. I can't remember if it was for a checkup or a follow-up visit. When the veterinarian had finished with Toby, I mentioned that he had a lump behind his left ear. The veterinarian determined that the lump was inflamed. I told him that a few weeks before that, Toby had scratched behind his ear and the engorged body of a tick had dropped on the floor. Apparently the head of the tick was under his skin and was the cause of the inflammation.
The veterinarian told me I had two choices. One, I could make an appointment to bring Toby back to have it removed. In that case, Toby would be sedated for surgery. The second choice was that it could be removed right then if I went back and helped to hold Toby. I've learned from my research that sedation is a form of restraint (for people and animals). My holding Toby still during the surgery would take the place of him being sedated. The decision was easy. I said, "We're already here. We might as well do it now."
Everything was going well. Toby was lying on his right side on the table. I was holding his body still, and the veterinary technician was holding his head still. The veterinarian injected something to numb the area and then was using a scalpel to remove the inflamed tissue. Everything was going well, that is, until I started to feel overheated, nauseous and light-headed.
I always walked Toby before visits to the veterinary hospital to make sure he'd emptied his bladder and bowels, and to burn off any excess energy to calm him. It was an overcast day with drizzling rain. The raincoat I was wearing was water-proof. No matter how much it rained, water would not penetrate that coat. It was great for walking outdoors in inclement weather. It wasn't so great indoors, while holding a dog on a table during minor surgery.
In addition to keeping water out, it kept body heat in. It was well insulated. Unfortunately, I hadn't thought to take the raincoat off before the procedure. While the veterinarian was using the scalpel to remove the lump, my body became over-heated. I couldn't let go of Toby to unzip the coat to let the heat out. I felt like I was going to pass out, so I knelt down on one knee, all the while still holding onto Toby. The veterinarian sternly said several times, "Debbie. Don't let go of Toby." I replied that I was not letting go of him.
And I didn't let go of him, the two or three times I knelt down. At one point, the veterinary technician held Toby's head with her right hand, while trying to unzip and take off my raincoat with her left hand. She could only take is so far off my shoulders, since I couldn't move my arms while holding Toby's body on the table. So, partially uncoated, I held Toby in place for the duration of the procedure.
Toby was so good through all of it. He didn't move a muscle or flinch. For being a nervous wreck in some areas of his life, he was always well behaved at the veterinary hospital. It was one of the few places where he completely relaxed and trusted everyone. After that, Toby was on anti-tick medication for the parts of the year when ticks were active.
I researched ticks and their behavior. They are interesting little arachnids (eight legs and no antennae). They climb tall grass, or plant stems, and then wave their front legs like an orchestra conductor. This is called 'questing'. With their front legs, they can detect scents, movement, and even a change in temperature. As you or your dog walk close enough to them, they grab onto the clothing or fur. Then they move to an area of your body that has soft skin (groin, behind the knee) or where the skin is thinner (ear).
You don't feel when they bite into you because their saliva contains anesthetic properties. And you don't have the usual red, itchy swelling of a bug bite because their saliva also contains immunosuppressants that prevent this reaction. It's amazing how they have evolved or adapted to survive.
I have nothing against ticks. I abide by the Japanese Buddhist proverb that a one inch worm has a half inch soul. This means that all living things have a right to live. I would prefer they not live a part of their life on me, or the dog in my life.
© Debra J. Bilton. All rights reserved.
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Debra J. Bilton: Author, blogger, lover of animals & nature, martial artist & sensei (teacher), Buddhist.