If you’ve been living under a rock, you may not know that we have been battling fleas in our apartment. In the days after we returned from our honeymoon, we noticed that our 16lb Himalayan Siamese mix, Sebastian, was biting and pulling his fur out. After extensive internet research, I diagnosed him with stress and anxiety (because, after all, everything the internetweb says is true). We took every measure we could to make him feel calm and comfy. One evening, as I was lounging on our futon, I pulled Bastian into my lap so I could rub his back. To my complete horror, I noticed about a dozen small, black bugs scramble in all different directions. I so lovingly screamed and shoved Bastian onto the floor.
I looked at Tim and announced our doom. “We have fleas.” We immediately began to wonder how this happened, since we have two indoor cats that never leave the apartment and we are in a second story apartment. But we didn’t have time to answer that question. We put on our shoes and drove to the pet store, where we purchased the strongest topical flea killing products available that wouldn’t kill cats or humans. We returned home, bathed two cats, vacuumed, and spread flea powder on our bedding.
Let me repeat that: we bathed two cats. Have you ever bathed a cat? It is a horrible experience. One that usually ends up with weeping and bleeding, and I am not talking about on behalf of the cats. We survived, though, and waited for the topical ointment and death shampoo to work their magic.
The next morning we combed the cats to determine the status of things. The little bouncing life suckers had not only NOT died, but they had multiplied. In spite of our best efforts, our cats were miserable and so were we. I called the vet, Tim looked into stronger products that wouldn’t nuke an entire neighborhood. Pest control came to set out traps (because we need further confirmation at this point that there are, in fact, little terrorists living in our home???). We applied what the vet gave us, and decided that if things didn’t improve, we would need to bug bomb the apartment. This, however, would require us to leave home with the cats for at least 48 hours.
After some careful planning and lots of research, we decided to pack up the cats and go to Tim’s parents’ house in Fort Myers for a few days so that we could cover every surface of our home in Borax. I could work remotely, and that way we could let the soft, white, sodium borate suffocate the life out of the horrible little monsters that had invaded every part of our lives. On Thursday morning, we put the cats in their crates, vacuumed every little nook and cranny, and spread the contents of four large boxes of Borax over every surface in our apartment. (In case you are wondering, it took four 4 pound boxes of Borax to cover an 800 square foot apartment. We could have used a fifth for good measure.)
When we arrived in Fort Myers, we threw away most everything the cats had touched and bathed them in Blue Dawn, letting them sit in the lather for as long as possible (we got 10 and 7 minutes out of them…that’s pretty good in my book). I misted Sebastian’s lower back with apple cider vinegar since he seemed to attract the worst of the fleas, and we let them hate us behind a closed door in a tile-only room.
As we were thoroughly massaging Blue Dawn into Sebastian’s entire body, I caught myself telling him, “I am so sorry, buddy. I know you can’t understand me, but we have to do this. It’s the only way help you get better.” As the words left my mouth, I started to tear up. I didn’t want Tim to see that was about to start weeping over a soaking wet cat, but so many truths hit me in that moment that I will never forget.
I immediately remembered a chapter in the book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 when the author talks about dipping his sheep into a vat of pesticide to save them from the certain irritation and even death caused by tiny blood sucking parasites. The shepherd can’t rationalize this to the sheep. All the sheep knows is that he or she is being tortured for no good reason. The same goes for toddlers. Have you ever tried to rationalize or level with a toddler? Don’t. It’s pointless, and painful. You cannot explain to them WHY they can’t have ice cream for every meal, you just have to say no and hope they thank you one day when they don’t have diabetes.
I wonder what God is preparing Tim and I for during these first few months of marriage, unemployment, strained finances, hurt feelings, fleas, surprise bills and unpaid taxes, and all of the other not-so-fun things that pulled us out of our “honeymoon phase” really quickly. I have to wonder if some of these things are part of God’s cosmic flea bath for our hearts, our minds, and our relationships with each other. Maybe we needed to be stripped of some things that were making us sick or, even worse, killing us or our infant marriage.
Now that we have returned home, and we have spent hours vacuuming up Borax and washing every washable belonging in hot water, Tide, and more Borax, we hope that every tiny little kitty predator is suffocated, dead, and sucked up into a vacuum filter – never to return. The kitties seem to be resting better already, and Tim and I are EXHAUSTED. But our home is cleaner than it’s ever been, and we plan to stay on top of the vacuuming and flew treatments since fleas lay eggs in cycles and we want to prevent further infestation.
In our exhausted state, we can’t help but enjoy the results of so much hard work while praying we never have to do this again. We also can’t help but wonder what the literal and metaphorical flea bathing is preparing us for in the near future…