Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Circus...

I can't believe how long its been since I've posted anything! I'm glad to say that nothing serious has been going on; I mean, my health has been good in fact, that that's why I haven't posted. I've been so busy picking up extra shifts at work and trying to enjoy the beautiful weather that is finally here! After a very cool and rainy June and July, and a hot and humid beginning and middle of August, the weather seems to have calmed down. It's been nothing but cool, sunny, beautiful days for the past two weeks. And best of all, the vacation I had planned happened right at the start of the gorgeous weather!
I decided to go camping for 4 days up north (New Hampshire). We had a fantastic time! We did all of our usual stuff: hiking, riding the Conway Scenic Railroad, kayaking and just relaxing. We really did have a great time! I did discover, though, that my camping experience is becoming a little more of a...hassle? that I'm the one doing all of the packing and setting up by myself. After setting up, and then deconstructing camp I started thinking how nice it would be to not have to tent it. I feel like such a weenie! I have always loved sleeping in the tent! Hearing the sounds of nature through the thin walls, waking up in the cool-ness of the morning, cooking on the grill outside...but this time around, all of those things took away from the experience, rather than enhancing it. I usually always stay at the same campground; they have grassy (and somewhat close-set) sites along the river. But this time I wanted a different experience, so I chose a BEAUTIFUL campground with wooded sites, also along a river. I drove up at the start of the summer to check it out and choose a site. I thought it would be perfect; the next site seemed far enough away, and with the sound of the flowing water, I figured I wouldn't have to worry about neighbors at all. I was very wrong! Two guys were camped in the next site over and enjoyed long conversations well into the dead of night. I could hear every word...I mean, it was like they were actually standing right outside the walls. Luckily, the dogs were so tired that they didn't bark; I didn't want to get complained about or kicked out!

The last night I stayed, I thought I had finally lucked out. The night started off pretty well, when we were driving over the Kancamagus highway (one of America's "Scenic Byways") and saw a moose! Right there, on the side of the road! Just eating amidst all kinds of flashes from cameras and people (including me) gawking at it. Some guy remarked it was like Paris Hilton spotted at a restaurant =0) Anyways, I was then glad to see that the "chatty Charlies" next door had gone, and the people who had taken over their site had already gone to bed by the time I got back to the site. (We had taken the "sunset" train in North Conway, and then had almost an hour drive back to the site, so it was dark when we got back). But just when I had started my fire, and settled in next to it, I heard SCREAMING (not blood-curdling "I'm being murdered" screaming, but loud, drunken WHOOPING). A few minutes later, one of the campground owners rolled by on his golf-cart to the site to quiet them down (as it was well after 10). Then, when I thought for a second time that I would be able to enjoy my night, they (the people who had been screaming) started playing BONGO DRUMS. Who the hell brings bongo drums camping?!?!? These people, obviously. Again, the guy on the golf cart rolled by, and they quieted, finally. But by that time my fire was all but out and it was bed time.

We got back home thoroughly exhausted, as not only did the night time shenanigans prevent us from going to sleep at a reasonable hour, but the coldness had kept me awake (not because I was cold myself, but because I kept waking up to check on the girls!) I also had a LOT of problems with the food I packed for us all. I had carefully packed most of our perishables in glad-ware and put it in the cooler. I don't think ANYTHING stayed dry. I actually poured water out of the bowl that I was keeping the girls raw meat in =0( I was pretty miserable at some points of the trip. My lowest point was when my pop-top liquid container full of Gatorade for my lunch exploded in my lunch bag, and ruined my camera. It is working, but is acting a little shorted; it keeps turning itself off and on, so I can't keep batteries in it when I am not using it. Dammit!!

So, I've been thinking about maybe buying a pop-up camper for future trips. It's just a thought, as I of course will have to do quite a bit of research and saving.

Now, I know that you may be thinking (after several paragraphs of complaining) that the camping trip is what I mean by the "circus" mentioned in the title. I wish. The circus that I am referring to is one that no one EVER wants to attend. A FLEA CIRCUS!

I was snuggling with the girls on Thursday morning, when I noticed some gritty stuff in Shelby's coat. Now, I wasn't that surprised, because I've been feeling a similar feeling for weeks; we had gone to the beach several times, and they had played on the very coarse, large-grained sand of the river beach when we went kayaking. I just thought that's what it was. But she started licking the air; like I was scratching an extremely itchy spot. I started to part her hair to see what was so irritating to her skin, when I noticed small black particles. My heart jumped into my throat. "This looks like flea dirt", I thought. But it couldn't be. The last and only time I had ever lives with dogs with fleas was almost 20 years ago, with the first dog I ever had. And these were my girls: my raw-fed Shelties! Where the hell would they have picked up fleas!?!

I started going through her whole body, parting her hair and frantically searching. Although it has been almost 20 years, I still remember what they looked like. I didn't find anything. Then I checked Heidi. I didn't find anything on her either. Just when I told them all was OK, and decided that the black specks had to be something else, I saw it. A flea on Shelby's FACE. I grabbed it, and squished it. I then started to check them both again, and found two more on Shelby, and one on Heidi. I immediately quarantined them to the kitchen (where there is no carpet), and checked them throughout the morning before I went to work. I found two more on Heidi and 4 more on Shelby. I spent any "flea free" moments on the internet looking for all natural alternatives to get rid of them. I found quite a few helpful suggestions. I'll go over those, and our plan in the next post.
As of right now, though, the dogs are still in the kitchen. I have set up the bathroom as "decontamination central": anything that can be washed, is; anything that can't be, has either been moved out to the garage (like the dogs memory foam beds and floor rug in the living room), or is awaiting treatment. I did groom the girls Friday, bathing them first in a natural flea deterrent shampoo, and then re-bathing them in their regular shampoo and conditioner. They are still in the kitchen, though, because I don't want whatever eggs or larvae or whatever that may be living in the untreated areas (my bedroom carpet, the couch/chair etc) to get back on them.

Some unexpected consequences have come about from this whole situation. First, I am horrified, and embarrassed. I'm not worried about the fleas for myself or the girls because I know it would take an infestation of an extreme magnitude to induce anemia; and they are on year round Interceptor, so I'm not worried about them catching something. I do, however, worry about the stigma attached to having pets with fleas. I always thought these parasite-ridden pets must live in filthy conditions, or have owners who didn't care enough to pay attention to them. And people look at YOU like YOU might be carrying them around with YOU; maybe in your own hair or clothes. Although it was said jokingly, I actually had a friend not want to hug me in welcome last night, because my dogs had fleas!

Secondly, both the dogs and I are extremely unhappy with the whole "quarantine" situation. They are unhappy because they are spending a lot of time alone in a room where no one "hangs out", and they have lost some of their creature comforts: like eating from a raised dish ("you want me to eat of the floor?!?!" says Heidi), and missing their side-by-side, yet private, individual crates. (They are now sharing a large bolster bed on top of my mom sleeping bag). And we are ALL missing being together. I've noticed a huge change in my own attitude since I haven't had the dogs close by to touch, kiss, snuggle with, or talk to. Although they are only a room away, when I am in my bedroom, sleeping alone in my bed, I might as well be back in the hospital. It is an awful feeling, being without them (especially where they really are so close!), and it in turn has made me more irritable, and less happy and positive.
(The girls having to eat off the floor...notice where Shelby's dish on the right starts out...)
(and notice where it is now! One downfall of eating on the floor: your food tries to get away!)

We are all trying to get through this tough time; in going what I have gone through this past year, I am trying to keep this all in perspective. We are all still healthy, and we can still interact anytime we want to. It's just one more hurdle that we will have to, and eventually will, get over. Hopefully it will be sooner rather than later. I take it as an extremely good sign that I did not find ANY fleas on either of the girls when I groomed them: none during brushing, bathing or blow-drying. Not a single one! I also haven't found any in my home-made flea trap. I'm hoping that they just picked up a few adults, and that none are lingering secretly in the carpet or upholstery. We're keeping our fingers (and paws!) crossed! I don't think we can take much more of this Sheltie-segregation!!