Just When Quarantine Couldn’t Get Any Worse: Fleas
I live with a lovely dog (whose name I will omit for privacy reasons). He’s a Mini Australian Shepard approaching middle age, and has these blue eyes that give him an eerily intelligent presence. Despite his doggy IBS and his habit for staring blankly into empty rooms in a way that makes you question if you should call your priest, he’s great. Super cute. But he’s been hijacked by foreign invaders of the parasite kind.
Weeks ago when quarantine was heating up, I noticed the dog, let’s call him Oreo, was scratching a lot. I asked Oreo’s caretaker if he had been treated for fleas, to which he replied “Oh, yea, totally. It’s probably just allergies.”
NOT ALLERGIES. DEFINITELY NOT ALLERGIES
After a few weeks of ignorant bliss, the eggs begin to hatch. Fleas are visibly hopping off Oreos fluffy back. He’s scratching like a maniac. We all start the day by counting the bites at our ankles. I have nightmares I’m covered in the tiny biting bugs and wake up drenched in sweat.
Did you know one flea can lay over 50 eggs? Per DAY? Crazy, right?
We do what we can. We shave Oreo’s majestic coat down to the skin, and plunge him into an acidic smelling flea bath. Oreos blue eyes fill with horror at the sight of his reflection, devastated by his quarantine haircut. We spray the yard. We spray the house. We wash EVERYTHING, and then wash it again. The vacuum is our Work From Home/Flea Infestation DJ.
After a few weeks of flea induced mania, it looks like we’re in the clear. The bites are minimal. Oreo’s fleas appear to be replaced by the much preferable dandruff. We can only keep vacuuming and wait out the possibility of a second wave.
It isn’t just us, okay?
This flea outbreak is city wide. I FaceTime a friend facing a similar, albeit far more severe infestation.
Recently a little black cat had appeared on their doorstep and refused to leave. They decided to add the cat to their sprawling rental-house-family that already consisted of six girls, two cats, one dog, and four chickens PLUS the occasional boyfriend.
Weeks after they happily added this new feline family member to their home, all six girls, three cats, two boyfriends, and one dog started to itch, waking with their ankles and bellies covered in dozens of red bites. The chickens remained blissfully ignorant.
Though they are trying not to play the blame game, it’s hard not to think this new stray cat is not at least partly responsible for the infestation.
“I went up the stairs and 20 fleas jumped on me. AT ONCE.” My friend says through gritted teeth on the phone. All the animals have since been treated for fleas, but the little renegades captured the house. They multiply at an exponential rate, hiding in the wooden floorboards of the old house, camping out in the fibers of the couches and threads of thrift store finds.
This is their unfortunate new new-normal, sheltering-in-place with fleas festering rapidly in the home they cannot leave. Their mornings begin with emptying the flea traps, facing the stark reality of ineffective at home treatments. Decorative rugs lay rolled up in the lawn, reeking of flea poison. Signs are posted all over the front yard reading RUGS AND PLANTS NOT FOR GRABS and BEWARE OF FLEAS. Still, this doesn’t stop one bold man from attempting to nab a rug when he believes no one is looking.
They’re still waiting on a team of professionals to come in to eradicate the problem. With the COVID-19 and all, it’s a bit of a challenge to make an appointment with pest control.
It could be worse
“If I can get through a pandemic AND fleas, I can get through anything” my friend tells me over the phone, triumphant, her left eyelid slightly twitching.
“It could be worse” she continues, reciting an anecdote detailing that her sister in the Peace Corps was plagued by the little blood suckers during her assignment. With no access to flea treatment, she had to pour scalding water on the floor of her home and stew her clothes in a pot, boiling the fleas alive.
Apparently the members of the Peace Corps rank bed bugs the worst kind of parasite, with fleas sitting somewhere in the middle, and lice being the least offensive of all blood feasting insects.
“At least we don’t have bed bugs.”
Learn from our mistakes, people
Vaccinate your pets. Make sure your roommates vaccinate their pets on schedule. If you pick up a stray cat and your vet says “meh, don’t think so” when you ask if said stray cat has fleas, get a new vet.