The Worry Gene


Friday, May 18th, 9:11 AM (for Thursday, May 17th)

I’m a worrier. My mother was a worrier. I suspect her mother was a worrier. It’s in the genes.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to worry about less things. But there’s still a few areas that get me.  Like creepy, crawly things that invade my house and live on flesh.

Ticks. I hate ticks. Really, really hate them.

Ticks like dogs. I like dogs. Eventually, it was bound to happen. I just didn’t think it would be this early in the year.

After our lovely day on Wednesday (which you can read about here A Wisconsin Tradition), Dennis and I returned home to a relatively mellow Charlie and a frantic, yapping Sammy. (That’s a whole other issue).

We’d be gone for awhile so the first thing we did was let the dogs outside in the front yard. After they came in, Dennis noticed something black on the floor, about the size of a large blueberry, but a bit darker.

In a house with three cats and two dogs, you never, ever pick up anything dark and round off the floor with your bare hands. Dennis grabbed a paper towel and picked it up.

It was odd looking and it felt weird. Kind of rubbery. Dennis thought it might have fallen off of a vacuum cleaner or something mechanical. I looked at it, too. I rolled it around in the paper towel.

I squished it.

A thick, gooey, reddish-brown substance oozed out onto the paper towel. I was confused. What was this thing? I thought maybe it was some kind of weird berry that one of the dogs brought in from outside. Dennis, being much more of an outdoors man than myself, knew better.

He calmly took the paper towel from me and went into the kitchen for a good look where there was more light. There he announced that the “berry” did indeed HAVE FEET and I had, in fact, just squished a tick. A big, fat, well-fed tick that must have been on one of the dogs for several days at least.

I was stunned and then horrified. Both dogs sleep in bed right next to me. I’ve been sleeping with a tick for how many nights? On my worrying scale this is about an 8 out of 10. Creepy crawly things that feed on blood might be living in my bed? Not good.

After washing my hands in scalding hot water with lots and lots of soap, I insisted that Dennis do a thorough tick check on both dogs. Where there’s one there could be more. Sammy was clear. He has such a thick undercoat that I think it would be hard for tick to burrow its way to skin. At least I hope so.

Charlie has much thinner fur, however. While checking him, Dennis found a raised spot on his belly. It was small and black and looked suspiciously like a tick embedded in flesh to me. Dennis said he didn’t see feet (I wished he’d stop talking about tick feet. It was totally freaking me out). However, feet or no feet, Dennis couldn’t be sure it wasn’t a tick. He wasn’t sure what else it could be, though.


Then I started worrying. This is not a normal spot. I’ve combed Charlie countless times throughout the year I’ve had him and I would have noticed a dark, raised mole. This was new. If it wasn’t a tick, what was it?

That night in bed (which I thoroughly checked for ticks before crawling in), I wrestled between hoping it was a tick, and knowing that Charlie was sleeping next to me with a tick on him or fearing it might be something worse. Something potentially deadly. Charlie is almost 14 years old. He’s never been that healthy. It could easily be a cancerous growth. A tumor. On my scale of worrying, the health of my animals is a 10.

I didn’t get much sleep Wednesday night. I tried to focus on the tick option, which was better than cancer, of course, but it still made me uncomfortable. First thing Thursday morning I called the vet and got an appointment for 6 pm.

It was a long day. Charlie seemed okay, but he didn’t eat much. Charlie can be picky but it also could be that he was sick. Cancer impacts the appetite, right?

By 2 pm I decided if it was cancer, I wouldn’t intervene. Charlie is old. I can’t put him through surgery or treatment. I would let nature take its course. If the vet said he was in pain I would be prepared to say goodbye and have him put down. I asked Dennis to come to the appointment with me.

After barely touching his dinner, (more proof that it was something serious), we got Charlie ready to go. We took Sammy along, too, because he freaks out when he knows he going to the vet and I thought it would be good for him to have a visit where nothing happened to him. (And I wanted him there for moral support.) Also, we were planning to stop for a hamburger on the way home and Sammy loves drive through food.

We got to the vet fifteen minutes early, which means we had to wait about twenty-five minutes for the vet to see us. They always seem to run late, especially late in the day.

We have a very nice vet. His name is Dr. Ted and he’s very gentle and soft-spoken. He has a very good bed-side manner and he always returns my calls promptly when I bother him with questions and concerns about one of the menagerie.

First the vet tech came in and we showed her the spot. I told her I thought it looked like a tick. She agreed it did have that look but she didn’t see feet. (Ugh! Feet again!)

Then Dr. Ted came and took a look. Definitely not a tick he said; no feet. He turned on his bright examination light and got in close to examine. He got a shaver and shaved the area around it the spot. He felt around. He poked. He prodded each side of Charlie’s belly. He found another spot!

This is it, I thought. There’s more than one spot. The cancer has spread.

And the he looked up and announced that it wasn’t a tick, or a mole, or cancer. It was a nipple.

A nipple. A black nipple. Just one large black nipple. The other one is very small and hard to see. He laughed and said Charlie was asymmetrical but it was in fact just a nipple and he was fine.


Once I realized Charlie wasn’t going to die, I was so embarrassed. I apologized several times for wasting his time. Dr. Ted is a very nice man. He just laughed and said I got the “Overly Cautious Pet Mom Discount” and he didn’t charge us for the office visit.

Although, we did buy tick medication on the way out that makes ticks die if they bite dogs.

It was a very happy ride home in which Charlie wolfed down his half of a hamburger that he shared with Sammy. Then he came home and ate his dinner.

I think Charlie is a worrier, too.


So for my snap shot memory today, I am going to remember that the worst case scenario isn’t always what happens in life. Sometimes a dark spot really is just a nipple.

9:52 AM



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