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I’d rather not be the Captain of The Tick Patrol, but then, Theodore didn’t ask to be the perfect tick bait, either, so we’re all trying to accept our roles with equanimity and grace.

Since Theodore has tested positive for Lyme no less than two times, I’m vigilant about keeping those creepy crawlies off of him and us.  Before he’s allowed to exit the house, he gets a proper spray-down with herbal tick repellent, and after every jaunt in the woods, Theo must submit to a full body Furmination (oh how we love the Furminator, the best grooming tool EVER) before he can step back over the threshold. (Frontline figures into this picture, too, but I hate using the stuff, so I’m willing to give it only a passing mention.)

When Theo appears at the door ready to rejoin his tribe, I step out and point to the patio coffee table say, “Up, up, Kid!” And with his characteristic Border Collie brio, he hops up and presents himself for grooming.

Off comes the collar and then the Furmination begins.  I always tell Theo that he’s ‘The Best Dog Ever!” and in turn he lifts his chin so I can have full access to his neck.  Then he bows his head while I pass the amazing Furminator through his ruff, and does a 180 so I can give his opposite side a good once over. Or thrice over, depending on our collective mood.

On the days that he’s managed to get fully grimy, I’ll also hose him down, which is truly one of his least favorite activities.  His tolerance window lasts exactly ten seconds, then his bucking bronco impression begins. It’s both vigorous and convincing.  I’m thinking he thinks that I’m an insensitive jerk when I respond to his display with, “Oh my gosh, you’re such a baby!”

However, the toweling-off portion of our cleaning ritual seems to make up for the indignity that I’ve literally showered upon him.  That’s when the smiles come out.  (His and mine.)  And that’s when he really makes me laugh.

One of Theo’s aunties reminded me that she’s heard a number of dog trainers advise folks to bathe their own dogs vs. allowing strangers to do so, as the human-dog mutual bond is strengthened during the process.  In my mind, there’s no doubt that’s true.  I hate ticks but I love Theo, and our rituals and habits feel like some kind of meditation. We focus on the task at hand, staying fully present in the moment. (Theo’s an expert at this, and I bet your dog is too!) And it is only when I find a tick and must vanquish it (ie. remove it and then crush it with a rock, in a way that I wouldn’t call dainty or subtle) that the peaceful spell is broken.

No, Captain of the Tick Patrol is not a title I ever dreamed of holding, but as with most everything,  we’re reminded that it’s possible to find joy and beauty in the strangest places.