Summer is finally here. Hooray!
But where there is sunshine and laughter, there's always something nasty lurking, intent on spoiling your fun.
Only two week's ago we had an emergency trip to the vet because poor Buster started limping, winced when I lifted him into the back of the Landy and laid down on the ground when we went for our walk (this is a dog whose whole life revolves around his daily adventures). He seemed in so much pain that I actually ended up carrying him round so that he could still enjoy the fresh air, and the other two could still have their exercise.
It didn't take more than a few seconds for the vet to inform me that he had grass seeds embedded in his armpit.
At this time of year in the countryside the wheat, barley and grass in our neighbouring fields is as high as an elephant's eye, and Buster in particular loves to run through the fields, pronking up and down to see where he's going.
Normally I clip our spaniel's coats really short at this time of year so they are unable to pick up any unwanted plant-based stowaways, but what with one thing and another I just haven't had time. Lesson number one learnt.
The surgery involved using a biopsy-type implement to follow the route the seeds had taken to pinch them out. Eight of the spiky, evil little things, to be precise.
A week of antibiotics and pain killers and Buster was back to his old self. I, meanwhile, felt terribly guilty that I hadn't been more vigilant about checking each of the dogs after every walk. Lesson number two.
Grass seeds love to bury themselves under the fur, between the toes, inside the earflaps and under the tail, so it's imperative (I can say this now, in hindsight) that you check all over your dog after they've been in the fields.
I give them a quick check straight after the walk in the back of the car, then when I get home I like to use a comb to go through their fur; seems to detect the seeds quite well.
Something else that can also find its way into your life, totally uninvited, are ticks.
I just want to say on record right now that I have a great dislike of ticks. I know there is an ecological reason why they exist (food for something bigger than themselves) but much like any other disease-carrying, blood-sucking parasite, I'd rather take a rain check.
These unpleasant little critters are enjoying something of a boom this year, and have turned up in their billions across grasslands in the South East of England, waiting patiently for you and your dogs to breeze past so they can sink their obnoxious little fangs into you.
I've been having a right laugh recently, removing ticks from the faces of our Cocker Spaniels, Nancy and Buster (not Frank our bulldog, strangely, so maybe they either don't go for short-nosed breeds, or could it be more personal than that....?)
It's just so much fun discovering one of these vile creatures attached to your dog's skin, sucking on their blood, possibly infecting them with Lyme Disease. On a par with poking your own eyeballs out with a blunt, rusty instrument.
If you've never had the pleasure of pulling a tick off your dog, ensuring you do it in one simple movement without leaving the mouthparts attached, there are various techniques available to you.
I've seen all sorts of interesting ideas to effectively remove them - stroking its bottom in a circular movement until it falls off, using something called a Tick Twister, dosing them up with a preventative like Bravecto every 12 weeks (if pills are your thing). But in my opinion the easiest way to do so is by using a pair of tweezers.
So, gather together your 'tick removal pack' - a pair of tweezers, a vessel to collect the uninvited guest and some antiseptic spray or wipe. Then you part the fur to reveal where the tick is attached to the skin, get the point of your tweezers right at the top of its head, squeeze the tweezers together, pulling upwards, and the whole tick should come off quite easily, mouthparts fully intact.
After you've removed it, put it in your vessel, look at it for a bit, asking the question 'why were you even born?' then take it to your vet so they can identify its genus and also test to see if its carrying Lyme Disease and, if so, whether your dog needs treatment.
Always wipe the site of the bite afterwards with a sterile pad or spray some antiseptic on it and, voila, tick gone and life can continue in a joyful fashion.