The Mast-Head: Fear and Loathing

Leo the pig, whose pink skin and white bristles make it easy to spot ticks, seems to enjoy being examined each night

The annual onslaught of ticks is in full swing around here now, which has prompted talk of drastic measures. Each of the members of our human family on Cranberry Hole Road in Amagansett has pulled at least one of the horrifying little pests from his or her person recently, and our animals have been playing unwitting hosts as well.

Leo the pig, whose pink skin and white bristles make it easy to spot ticks, seems to enjoy being examined each night. The dogs, with thick, darker pelts, are more difficult to groom and have both been diagnosed this year with various tick-borne diseases. Weasel, a Lab mix, stopped eating anything other than the softest foods, and Lulu, a long-haired mini-mutt, is finishing off the last of her prescription pills after first being given a big dose of antibiotics in a shot at the veterinarian’s office.

My wife, Lisa, has had enough. With good reason, she worries about Lyme and the other illnesses ticks can carry, and is nearly beside herself about the Powassan virus, which is fatal in a 10th of its cases. If it were up to her, she would have the lawn sprayed with something noxious as soon as possible.

I, on the other hand, am loathe to poison our surroundings, especially since we live surrounded by marsh and boggy places and birds and amphibians of all manner. According to its manufacturer, Ortho, one of the leading home-use products, kills more than 150 kinds of insects, including ants, bees, caterpillars, grasshoppers, moths, and, presumably, butterflies, and one of its key components is highly toxic to fish.

No way do I want to put that sort of stuff into our environment. Besides, the dogs are likely to bring ticks into the house from farther afield anyway. For now, I think I have prevailed in arguing for monthly applications of Frontline to the pets and nightly tick checks for the kids.

Next, of course, will come the mosquitoes. But that is a discussion for another day.