Labs are special dogs. They come out of nowhere and they enter your lives and there you are. You have a Lab. And you didn’t even know you were a Lab person. It just sorta happens. It’s very organic.
Fleas are much the same. It’s the same process.
This was wayyy back in the time of Only Two Children. In the Land of Freedom. We had a Lab named Rita, after Rita Hayward, because I was enthralled with Rita Hayward at the exact moment that I had a puppy to name, and no other reason. Which explains why Poppy is named Poppy, (Insert sally Hawkins) And Boo is named after a grocery-store cookie/cake I bought for my husband for Valentines Day, that was piped in wayyyy too much purple icing, and read “My Boo”. And Lilly is named after a lovely white flower in honor of her lovely white flowing mane, Juniper is named after another flower that starts with the letter “J” because her name had to go with the word “Jumping. Chicken is named after a chicken leg that, as a tiny white kitten, he had the nerve to grab off a gigantic Golden Retriever named Tex, named after the giant state of Texas, Atticus after ToKillAMockingbird’s Atticus Finch, and to round it out, The Fish-That-Won’t-Die, cleverly named after the fact that he keeps breathing and swimming and eating stinking fish flakes..long past the time when all other fish have … tired of this world.. And so it may seem that I name all the animals around here, when in actuality, every time there was an animal to name, little people were consulted, it always turns into a major struggle, no one wins, everyone cries, and Mom names the durn animal… It’s very organic.
The house in Freedom was 14 stories tall, with a hand-me-down washer and broken dryer in the basement, and clotheslines for drying all those clothes strung in the attic, 14 stories above. I was young at the time, the baskets were heavy, and the steps were many..
Rita mostly lived on the 1st floor of the house, where she enjoyed frequently urinating on the rug in the divan, scratching deep gouges into the century-old door, and escaping and running up the hill to the housing projects at every opportunity she got… where some small child always latched onto her and waited for the reward…My husband would soon arrive, with a couple bucks for the kid that was holding her. Labs are runners. It’s in their blood.. You know that going in, when you take the puppy home, but you look into those big brown eyes, and you tell yourself, somehow, this one will be different…
One day, Rita had fleas. One day she didn’t, and the next day she did. And when you see the first flea and you recognize it for what it is, you tell yourself, oh no, this is the only flea there is, because this is the only flea that I see. But you are always wrong about that. And you know what they say, THEY say, if you see one flea, there are a hundred. THEY are always saying ominous things like that, that no one likes to hear… So we lived in denial for a little while, while the fleas were mass-producing more fleas… And we probably bought one of those poisonous rings of poison flea-collar, and snapped it into action and attached it to our poor little dog’s neck, I don’t remember, but that’s what you did at the time, tie a Ring of Toxins around your dog’s neck… Everybody was doing it…It’s called Stage One.
And that’s nothing, those poison rings don’t work, and never did. And that is what they call a “panacea”.. A panacea is something you can buy or do, and it helps you because it allows you to feel like you are at least trying to address the whatever it is…
So the fleas got worse. And they started hopping. That’s Stage Two. The Hopping. The fleas get so sick and tired of the same thing every day on their menu, dog blood, day in day out, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, just dog blood, dog blood, dog blood… they begin to long for some variety in their diet, and so begins the Hopping. BING! Any part of your body that tends to spend any time near the carpet at dog level will be the first to experience the Hopping. BING BING BING!! Little black flecks on your hairy white calves. It’s an annoying sensation, but also kinda humiliating, as you think, oh my gosh, I HAVE FLEAS JUST LIKE A DOG. And then you know how your dog feels. It’s not a dignified feeling.
At this point I went to the grocery store and bought some flea shampoo, most likely made by Hartz or Sergeant, because those were the most toxic, least benign, and most readily available to me on a desperate Sunday morning. And I bathed that poor forlorn little animal in this concoction, and somehow the suds were comforting to me… I was taking action. I was doing something. I counted the dead little sinking black specks as the tub drained and thought with a disturbing amount of satisfaction, DIE VERMIN!!!!!.
It felt great to bathe the dog, (see “panacea” above), but it didn’t solve the flea problem. We began spending less and less time on the 1st floor of the house. We moved up to the 2nd floor. BING! The fleas followed. The 3rd floor. Fleas again… Soon we were living on the 14th floor of the house, and still had fleas hopping onto our calves…It was a very hungry time for us too, as there was no kitchen on that floor. And the fleas didn’t stay on the floor, they began to launch themselves into our beds. There was no rest, no respite from maddening BING BING BING!! At our final, most humiliating, most desperate hour, we found ourselves, our entire family of four, scrambling to sleep on the top bunk of my daughters’ bunk-beds… huddled together in that precarious, lofty, but surprisingly sturdy, location… And that’s when I said, I give up, I give in, it’s time for Stage Three. The Bombing.
It was a huge house. I forget how many bombs I bought, but I did ‘er up right, as I only wanted to do this thing once. I rounded everyone up and out of the house and into the car, and then began running through the house, launching my arsenal. Who knows what happened in there, because we left and hung out at my grandmother’s for the day. It’s an unsettling feeling, to close the door on a toxic, hissing, spraying thing in your own formerly happy little house…
When we returned, all was quiet. No more fleas. Or at least I don’t remember any after that. We moved back down to the 1st floor again, near the laundry and the kitchen… and lived there in the Land of Freedom in relative peace for a couple years, until we moved.