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Camping adventure: bow, arrow, deer tick

June 28, 2019
Gunther had a “bulls-eye” rash on his belly.

June 28, 2019

P. and I watched Jackson this week.  We had adventures, but mostly we let our seven-year-old great nephew pretty much have his own way.  Only we didn’t let him play with his compound bow with target arrows.  At least not in the house.  Not in the yard! In fact we asked Becky to hide the arrows somewhere in a place remote from the bow.  Jack got the bow from his Uncle Patrick a month or two ago.  Anyway, we handed Jackson off to his paternal grandma, Susan, at noon today.  Of course, Gunther has been sound asleep this afternoon.  

Here’s a weird thing.  P., G., and I drove to Crane Lake, Minnesota, last month over Memorial day weekend to camp with our son Todd and his two pre-teen sons.  I had returned to Billings from several days in D.C. to lobby congress to end the “forever wars.”  Our group, “Votevets,” joined with a conservative military veteran’s organization “Concerned Veterans for America.”  Early the following morning after I returned we jumped into the car that runs, and drove all that day.

We stopped in the usual places, including the Theodore Roosevelt National Park badlands.  Also Fargo.  I can’t remember all the places.  We let Gunther poop and eat and drink and pee.  We also did all of those things for ourselves.  And gassed the car. Rained off and on.

With the miracle of the cell phone we listened to the radio, to podcasts, and we used Strava, a GPS-type app, to navigate the many roads of Northern Minnesota.

The weather was unsettled, clouds, rain. Some distant lightning.  We drove on. Got later and later.  We were on track to find Crane Lake in the rain when we got to a huge sign announcing road closure.  Turned around, drove 40 miles back to a cool little town.  Later and later.  After midnight by then.

Todd told us to drive on a quiet road.  With chorus of frogs.  You’ll come to a town, he said.  A real town, we can’t miss it.  Look for a blue house with white trim across from a moose.

About 3 a.m. Strava had me turning onto a dirt road in the woods.  P. objected, so I got out and scouted the road with a flashlight.  Wrong road.

Back on the dirt road.  We came to an intersection and, with no guidance, took a chance on a right-hand turn.  Came to a few buildings.  Todd’s words about “real town” haunted my memory.  We kept going. Started raining.

At 3:30 a.m. we came to a real town with a big metal moose.  It was Crane Lake.  We pulled up to the blue house Todd described and crept onto the enclosed porch with a couple of beds.  Smelled like old bedding.  Todd came out and greeted us.  We slept until maybe 8.  In the morning I noticed Roland and P. were cuddled together.  We hurried off to get some coffee and find the guide who would take us in her boat to our camping place, somewhere in Ontario, Canada.

Our guide was this young woman who worked several summer jobs, including guiding rock climbers like Todd and Cyrus and Roland.  After stopping at a dock where a pair of Canadian border agents checked our passports and asked us questions, our guide took us a few miles more to a rocky point on an island where she had stowed a canoe.  This was a prime camping spot because we would be about 5 feet above the water, open on three sides for a breeze to keep away the mosquitoes and gnats.  After showing us how to hike to a good rock climbing place, she roared away in her boat, promising to return in four days.

Mostly the weather was overcast, the bugs stayed away.  Some kind of critter — a beaver?  Otter? — Kerplunked into the water at odd hours, mostly at night whenever I crept out to use the homemade bathroom.  We finally did see it swimming, but we couldn’t tell what kind of dude it was. We heard loons.

At one point Gunther had a red circular rash on his lower belly, then a couple of dime-size red rashes.  I didn’t have my phone to take a photo.  The rash had faded out by the time we got to Duluth, where Todd and his family live.

After our camping expedition, a couple days in Duluth, and our return to Billings, I called Dr. Kate Kilzer, Gunther’s veterinarian.  She prescribed medicine for possible exposure to Lyme disease.  I must add that P. and one of the boys found ticks, probably wood ticks.  Wood ticks don’t transmit Lyme disease, deer ticks do.  They are considerably smaller than wood ticks.

Of interest, the dosage of doxycycline Dr. Kilzer prescribed for Gunther, a 20-lb dog, was half the amount a human takes.  Fifty milligrams twice a day for about a week. I buttered the pill and basically poked it down his throat. That was one day. The other days I just poked it down his throat. Great having a smallish dog.

None of the others of us had anything like a circular rash, but we didn’t look for one either.  If we had had one we probably wouldn’t notice. The weather was chilly and we didn’t go swimming.

Last week I noticed I had aching joints in places I’ve never been bothered by that before, so I phoned Dr. Malters’ nurse, who advised me to be seen.  He took a blood to test for Lyme disease, but also prescribed a course of doxycycline, 100mg twice a day for a week, which I started yesterday.  

He noted that most people who get Lyme disease do not recall seeing a tick or getting bitten.  Todd, who works in a hospital emergency room, says he prescribes doxycycline for anyone with a rash or other symptoms of tick-borne illness who shows up during the summer.

Lyme disease can have dire consequences, including lifelong disability, if not treated early.  When I worked for a home infusion pharmacy we delivered intravenous antibiotics to a woman in Lewistown, Montana, who had to self-administer the antibiotics daily long-term, yet she still deteriorated to the point where she couldn’t legibly sign her name.

Fortunately, the deer tick is not apt to be found in Montana—yet.  However, with our changing climate, that may change. At this point, Dr. Malters said doesn’t camp in the Eastern United States because of deer ticks and Lyme disease risk.

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