At this time of year, I think of three things: Jesus, taxes and ticks.
My focus on Jesus at this time of year probably could go without explanation. As we are on the downhill side of Lent, moving toward Easter, it is clear to see how He surrounds us.
In Jesus’ time, tax collectors were the scourge of the earth. They were high rollers, government officials who went door-to-door preying on the poor and needy. They collected taxes assessed by the government, and they typically retained a portion of their “earnings” for themselves.
Therefore, many tax collectors became rich at the expense of those who could not afford to have any less. This vocation made tax collectors sinners of the highest rank. They were feared and despised. In fact, they were so reviled that even Jesus Himself was rebuked for having dinner conversation with tax collectors.
The tax collectors nowadays are a nameless, faceless bunch. They live among us, lurking. They no longer come door-to-door like they did in Jesus’ time. Instead, they congregate in central buildings, and we fill out mounds of paperwork to send to them.
We do not know where they go or what they do the rest of the year. But we know they are out there; hidden, regrouping, rebuilding their strength and their numbers so they can prey on us again at this time of the year next year. Like parasites.
Ticks are the scourge of the veterinary world. They also live among us; hidden, regrouping, building up their strength and numbers so they can prey on us again at this time of year.
They actually live year-round, and their length of life can span months to several years. However, because of the many stages of life they go through (egg, larva, nymph, adult), we only see them during the certain stages when they are more likely to parasitize us.
The main way that ticks hop aboard us is through a process called “questing.” They will crawl up a long blade of grass and use their first pair of legs like antennae to sense things in the air. They can detect odors and vibrations among other cues that let them know a potential host is coming down their path. As that host brushes the vegetation that the tick is perched on, the tick stealthily climbs aboard, undetected.
The vegetation that ticks prefer most is the lush, moist, tall grass of spring. Usually grassy fields or trails located along woods. This can often include camping areas and parks, but certainly grassy fields.
If unsuccessful at finding a host, a tick may climb back down its long blade of grass and hide with other ticks under cover of leafy matter on the ground. This is indeed how they congregate in wooded areas. But it is the long leaves that dangle into trails and paths that allow ticks their best access to unsuspecting hosts.
Ticks have only three jobs in life. They suck blood, transmit disease, and lay eggs. Ticks are second only to mosquitoes in the number of diseases they can transmit. This ability to transmit disease has earned ticks (and mosquitoes) the label “vectors.”
Rather than sucking blood directly from a blood vessel like a mosquito does, ticks lacerate or tear the skin and underlying tissue. This trauma also indirectly damages blood vessels and causes blood to pool. From this pool of blood the ticks lap up the fluid like a dog or cat drinks water from a bowl.
It is the ability to actually cement its head to the host’s skin that really separates ticks from the rest of the parasite world. If removed improperly, the mouth parts and head can remain embedded in the host. This can cause local tissue inflammation all by itself. But it can also allow the transmission of disease through ongoing salivary release.
For appropriate methods of tick prevention on your pet, please ask your veterinarian about drops, collars that last eight months, or now a new pill that kills ticks.
For proper methods of tick removal, please consult your healthcare provider or your pet’s veterinarian. For proper methods of tax removal, please seek the advice of your financial planner, adviser or tax preparer. For proper methods of sin removal, please seek the counsel of your pastor and be reminded that Jesus died for us.
Dr. Adam Ferguson is a co-owner of Baker Animal Hospital in Cridersville. He wonders if it is mere coincidence that ticks and taxes both show up every year around April 15? Happy Easter to everybody!