JD Allinder

Archive for June, 2010|Monthly archive page

Heat Waves, Ticks, and Gunfire

In Posts on June 9, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Spring and summer have lately been battling it out, which is very similar to watching a sad/tragic film over and over and hoping against hope for a different outcome each time: we all know how it’s going to end. Despite that, the two seasons have been duking it out with dramatic and sometimes extreme results. At the May/June convergence we suffered through ten days of unrelenting, record-breaking heat (90 degress! In Michigan! In the spring!), humidity, and assaultive, bore-a-hole-through-your-head sunshine. Sweet Jane took it like a trooper, but I noticed a marked decrease in her enthusiasm over the same time last year. She’s definitely an adult hound now, but I think she’s also a bit spoiled by air conditioning and feather pillows and frozen cow femurs.

During the heat wave – which was finally ushered out by genuinely frightening (and deadly) storms last weekend (which, interestingly, didn’t phase ordinarily skittish Jane in the least) – we maintained our daily exercise ritual, though we were definitely challenged by the uncomfortable heat, the insect and spider invasion, and the insane vegetation explosion (much of it itchy and/or thorny) that engulfed many of our frequented trails. We mainly stayed along the Huron where Jane could have near-continuous access to the water. She can still cover eight to ten miles in the heat, but only if allowed to swim a quarter of the distance.

On our way out of town one afternoon, we stopped at Peninsular Park, a five-acre wooded lot on the eastern shore of the Huron. It’s not a destination park – in fact we’ve only been once before – although it’s a very lovely little spot. The problem is the location. It’s in a high crime area. Actually, the park itself is a high crime area – I frequently read about daytime assaults there – and it’s such a shame. I think most of the criminal activity is connected to the several low income housing developments that surround the park. Some Eastern Michigan students live in the apartments, too. (A woman I taught with lived there when she was an undergrad. She told me she routinely heard gunfire and would lie on the floor of her apartment to better avoid being hit by stray bullets.)

Despite all that, it’s a quiet, little spot, and Jane finds it good for a half hour sniffabout. There’s access to the river for swimming, and, on this last visit, we checked out a vacant lot to the north of the park.

We both heard something large rustling in the brush, and I could barely make out the silhouette of a four-legged beast running parallel to us. My instant guess was it was a coyote or a feral dog, neither of which I’m afraid of, but the shadowy image coupled with the intense heat gave me a bit of a chill. We got out of there and checked out the disused paper mill and dam located at Peninsular Point.

Fortunately, the heat wave broke (with a vengeance!) and we’ve enjoyed more seasonable, reasonable weather. (Last night I even had to wear a sweater.) Jane and I have been digging walks in the rain, airing out the house, and gardening without feeling faint. Unfortunately, we’ve been besieged by ticks this year. In the past, I’ve picked up one tick every three or four years. Georgia only ever had one tick in the nearly 13 years we were together. I’ve already lost count of the number of ticks we’ve got this spring. I’ve had at least ten, and Jane’s had three or four. The other day we were walking through a field of tall grasses at Saginaw Forest, and three ticks came racing up my pants leg. It was kind of bizarre. I got them off and figured I’d stumbled on a nest. Later at home I found two attached to me, one attached to Jane’s ear, and one, strangely, on my living room wall. I’ve always laughed at Michiganders’ fear of ticks. (They’re widespread in the South where I spent most of my growing-up years, and I’ve always just considered them par for the course.) I’m getting a little freaked out over this, though. Maybe I’m finally becoming a local. There is a topical ointment for Jane that will kill ticks that bite her, but I’ve not elected to go that route yet. I hate treating parasites proactively. There are already so many toxins in a dog’s day-to-day life, and I don’t want to introduce more unnecessarily. So far I’ve been giving Jane full body exams a couple of times a day, and I think we’re going to keep out of deep woods environments (sigh) until late summer. Georgia and I went through this every spring: as the weather warmed and the insects and vegetation took over, we migrated, by necessity, back to city parks and manicured, faux trails filled with uptight, dog-phobic yuppies.