The Old Coot is going to the dogs

This is one of those articles that necessitates a warning label, a “Don’t try this at home kids” kind of thing. Be warned – the following is not a vetted scientific thesis; it’s the rambling, semi-informed opinion of an old coot. (Now my lawyer can breathe a sigh of relief)

So, you found a tick on your leg. Panic sets in. LYME DISEASE! We all know, or have heard of someone who has been stricken by this mysterious disease, first identified in Lyme, Connecticut (thus the name) when a cluster of young kids came down with arthritis in 1975. Not all tick bites get you the bobby prize; it’s a lottery. Maybe it will; maybe it won’t. The first time you find a tick on yourself you rush to the doctor or a walk-in clinic, “I found a tick on my leg!”   

This is where you have to be prepared. TO LIE! Because, the first thing the doctor will ask is, “How long was the tick on you?” If you give any indication that is was attached for less than 24 hours, you’re going to be sent off with a recommendation to come back for a dose of antibiotics if you develop a bull’s eye rash or experience flu symptoms. Unfortunately, those two indicators don’t always show up, yet you still get the disease.   

If you are a dog with a tick bite, you get the antibiotic treatment right away. So I hear. A dog can’t answer the, “How long was it there,” question; it just wags its tail. The dog doctor mentality is along the lines of, “What can it hurt; why take a chance? Give the pup the antibiotic.” Not so, for humans; the protocol is just the opposite. “Let’s take a chance; we don’t want to overprescribe antibiotics. Studies show that most of the time it takes 24 hours for a tick bite to result in Lyme disease.” MOST OF THE TIME! Ask any person suffering the long-term debilitating effects of Lyme disease what they think of a protocol that plays the odds and takes a chance with your wellbeing. They will say, “I’d rather be treated like a dog!”

Oh, by the way, if you are a dog, you can get a Lyme disease vaccination. It’s not perfect, only 80 percent effective, and it requires a few booster shots. But, if you can’t bark; you can’t get it. (I’m practicing my dog imitation). The only pharmaceutical company that sold the vaccine pulled it off the market in 2002. Another company was about to offer it, but decided not to, because the Lyme vaccine got caught up in the wave of anti-vaccinations that was churning through society at the time and didn’t want to get entangled in class action lawsuits. It would cause problems for a pharmaceutical company today if they offered it. 

Us humans are left wishing we could lead a dog’s life. We don’t get the medical protocol we deserve; we get prevention advice: wear long pants and tuck them in your socks, put on long-sleeved shirts, wear gloves and a hat, spray yourself with bug spray containing DEET and check yourself for ticks whenever you come in from outdoors. Old coots like me, get a real chuckle about this advice. It sounds as complicated and as uncomfortable as getting prepared to enter a bio-hazardous area. Check for ticks the size of a poppy seed? And, do it every time you come in from outdoors? We can’t bend and stretch or see well enough to do that. And, it’s impossible to hire someone who can. There’s not a single listing in the yellow pages for tick checkers. 

We’ve created bureaucracies in our modern society to protect us from ourselves, but they don’t always operate with common sense. It will be years, if ever, before a Lyme disease vaccine is offered again. If they’d only ask an old coot, any old coot, he’d bark and then tell them what to do. 

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