wmthomas-sliderBy William Thomas

Worst summer ever for ticks. Every time I walk the nearby trail, I get home with at least one or two on me. Getting a tick off you or your pet quickly and efficiently before they engorge in blood and create infection is crucial.

The correct maneuver is to use fine-tipped tweezers to first grasp the tick by the head close to the skin and steadily pull upward without jerking or twisting. No tweezers? Then use a plastic glove or a tissue to steadily pull the tick away from the skin so that all the parts come out of the skin.

Although every doctor or vet will confirm that this is the best method, everyone seems to have an opinion on tick removal. From lit cigarettes to globs of petroleum jelly, from safety pins to beer caps — there are a lot of bad ideas out there.

None, however, are as bad as the method used by Berni and Shirley on their big ol’ friendly yellow lab Monroe. As it turned out, their method of removal was similar to the napalm-fueled, scorched-earth technique used by the U.S. Army in the Vietnam War.

True dog lovers and frequent pet rescuers, Berni and Shirley panicked when Monroe walked into the house with an inflamed red knot on her neck. At the centre of this little ball of blood was a large evil tick.

“Don’t rip it off!” one of them said. “That’s the worst thing you can do.”

Although Monroe seemed calm enough, the “parents” freaked. Out the door and onto the back lawn with the dog, they started shouting out whatever tick removal remedies came to mind.

“Alcohol!” screamed Shirley.

At this point, Berni was thinking he could really use a good stiff drink but there was still this damn tick to deal with.

“Alcohol! I’m pretty sure I read it somewhere!” yelled Shirley. Berni was skeptical but, Shirley being a nurse and already coming out of the house with a bottle of rubbing alcohol, he was willing to give it a try.

Impatient and watching his wife dab the insidious knot on the neck of the beloved pet, Berni took the bottle of alcohol and essentially emptied it on the side of the dog’s neck. Nothing. The blood-sucking tick refused to budge.

‘Heat!” yelled Berni.


“Yeah, like if I heated up a piece of steel with a torch and then …”

Not time for that, Shirley ran for the house and was back in seconds with a box of matches. Bernie instructed her to first light it, then blow it out and finally zap the tick with the still-hot head of the match.

And that’s exactly what Shirley did as Bernie clutched the dog hard to his chest. But in the alcohol-enriched atmosphere around Monroe’s head, well …

“The match kinda reflared,” remembered Bernie. “I mean it went out and then it lit again and …”


For a split second, both Bernie and his dog’s head were encased in a bluish, yellowish ball of flame.

Warning — of all the erroneous remedies for the safe removal of a tick, setting you and your dog on fire in the backyard is probably the worst. Even the guy who suggested using a beer cap wouldn’t try this trick, even after emptying a “Two Four” all by himself!

“Time seemed to stand still,” said Berni as he found himself slapping his beloved Monroe on her head and face in order to put out the flames.

The dog, not quite grasping the concept of first-responder procedure, tried to make a run for it, which caused terror-stricken Berni to body slam her to the ground in order to continue to beat out the fire.

Finally, with the blue and yellow flame extinguished, the smell of burnt fur and singed hair swirled around the backyard. Speechless, Shirley wasn’t sure she saw what she saw, believing instead her mind had screened one of those old silent slapstick movies starring Buster Keaton and a stuffed animal.

“You know it seemed like a lifetime but really it was all over in a few seconds,” recalls Berni.

And they all sat there on the lawn for a moment of reflection — the wife with hands covering her face, the husband with no hair on his arms and two white arches where his eyebrows used to be and the dog with charred fur and no whiskers to speak of. And Monroe had that look on her face like “what the !*#+! were you two thinking?!?”

After things calmed down and no sirens were heard in the distance, they all relaxed and Monroe did what she always does when she thinks she’s done something wrong. She trotted over to each of them and licked their faces. Berni thinks it was an act of love but then again she may have been trying to cool off his second-degree facial burns. The whole episode lasted only a few minutes so you can just imagine what it would be like spending a “Weekend At Bernie’s.”

Oh and after all that — Berni ripped the tick off the dog’s neck with his fingernails. Again, not a recommended technique but way more safer than the self-mollification method. Everybody lived and Berni is confident that any day now, Shirley will begin speaking again.

Dogs — they make us crazy and they make us better people.