Karma truly is a bitch. Back when I was a carefree twenty-something, I spent a summer road tripping with my dog, Bobo. He was a great traveling partner. We spent a couple weeks in Myrtle Beach and the rest of the summer in New York with my mother. This is the same mother once described on this very blog as “the most unlikely and absolute animal-hater I know,” and Bobo was no exception.
But again, I was young, about 22 at the time; it really didn’t occur to me that my mother might be bothered by the presence of a slobbering 100-plus pound black Labrador in her house. A couple times I stayed out too late, and she had to walk him. Then the bright green from his bag of dog food somehow bled onto her wall in the kitchen. But neither of these offenses were as bad as our parting gift of fleas.
I headed back to Florida with my young, fun, oblivious self and left my mother itching, scratching and wanting to kill me and my big dog too. This is where Bobo’s traveling companionship really shined - since he was the ultimate host, the fleas never bothered me. I had no idea he had fleas until my mother told me. I never saw a flea in either my car or apartment and certainly never had one on my body…until this morning.
The last house I lived in is now a rental. I was over there this morning to take care of the yard. The grass has transitioned from its winter to summer growing schedule, but my mowing schedule hasn’t caught up yet. The lawn was starting to overtake the garden bed that lines the front walkway. As I pulled back some of the grass, my legs were suddenly covered with black bugs. I quickly brushed them off, completely disgusted by the swarm action but still unaware of what they were.
After the lawn was mowed, I realized whatever they were had feasted on my legs. There were so many red splotches that they looked more like a rash than bug bites. But it wasn’t until I got Luke from the backyard that I knew they were fleas. Bobo was all black; Luke has enough white fur to spot fleas from a distance. Still, there’s always a hint of denial in situations such as these, so I gave his back a good back and forth rub with both hands to see if the black specks were just dirt. He does love rolling around in stuff.
But dirt doesn’t bite, and I could feel the fleas on my hands and wrists. He couldn’t get in the car; he was completely covered. So thinking I was flea-free, I left Luke in the backyard and drove to the house to get his shampoo. This is the text I sent John while stopped at the very first light just around the corner, “I’m freaking out…I have fleas. They’re on me!” There was one on my sock and another on my shoulder laddering up to my hair.
I stripped at the door and immediately showered. I gathered Luke’s bath supplies and sprinkled Borax in my car to dry out any potential eggs. I thought I was safe. Once again, I’m stopped at a light and there it is - one lone flea lurking above the visor and my head. But Luke had it far worse than a few lingering fleas. It took three vigorous scrub downs at the rental house to get them all off and when we got home I saw two more. It was straight to the tub for Lukey.
Luke was traumatized by the bathing; I’m traumatized by the phantom itching. It doesn’t matter that we’re showered and flea-free; my skin is still crawling. So this is for my mother: I’m sorry. Although it was said 10+ years ago, I’ve never meant it more than today.