Groomed 

As soon as the weather warms up, nature starts to get busy. Although the nights are still cold the seasonal changes are already beginning to affect Archie, who suffers from allergies, and in particular flea allergies.

Every month, I dutifully hand my dogs a chewable tablet that is supposed to protect them from fleas and worms for thirty days. The tablets are effective because they kill eggs that are laid on the body so the fleas never hatch, but what they can not prevent is an adult female flea out in the wild, hitching a ride on one of the dogs completely ignorant of the futility of her mission and having a go anyway.

It is apparently the flea saliva that dogs are allergic to and fleas drive Archie crazy. It takes a matter of weeks once the warmer weather spurs the fleas into action before Archie is scratching and biting himself around the clock. In typical boy fashion, despite the fact that he has been neutered, he has discovered that lying on his stomach and using his front legs to lever his tummy back and forth over the carpet can not only scratch his stomach, but also have, er … unexpected pleasurable side-effects. I have lost count of the number of times we have been woken at 4am to the sound of rhythmic rubbing accompanied by soft moaning from the floor.

Yesterday, I decided to try and get a jump on the fleas, before the itching kicks in and I have to give Archie daily doses of anti-histamine (although bromide in his tea might be more appropriate). Once the itching gets bad, the itch-scratch cycle kicks in and needs no flea to keep it going.

As the weather was warm on Saturday, I brought a handful of combs, some treats and some flea powder and set them all up on the outside table, then placed Archie up there too. He allowed himself to be liberally dusted and then brushed, at first with his normally grooming brush and then with the flea comb.

Next it was Lucy’s turn. Although she rarely scratches, it does not mean that she escapes the occasional lodger. One year when I went through this ritual with the dogs, I found seven fat females in Lucy’s fur, even though she had been the picture of serenity, while Archie had been scratching himself raw.

For Lucy, I had a further treat, a comb called the de-furminator. It is even more fine toothed than the flea comb and the idea is that by combing her fur regularly, it will take out all the fur that is about to shed before the cushions and the carpets do. I certainly get a lot of fur out when I use it with her, but it seems to make no difference to the amount she can still spread around the house.

I found no fleas, but both the dogs had enjoyed a sun bath and a brush and their coats smelled lovely. Of course all this was lost of them and no sooner had they enjoyed a liver treat each to reward them for their good behaviour, then the sound of a neighbour’s dog barking had them leaping off the table and running up the muddy path along the side of the house in their endless task of guarding the fence.

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