Poison Ivy and the Dog Walker

We have had ample rain every week this summer and in most days as well. The hours-of-use-clock on my lawn tractor is testimony to lushness in Charlottesville this summer. Temperature is another matter. We had very few days with temperatures above the long-term, 30-year average daily maximum. This is not an exemplar of a CO2 enriched world. Charlottesville is in-the-chips compared to most towns of our size. So employment as a dog walker is not a head-turner. A niece-in-law of mine is so employed.

Leashed as well as free range dogs are likely to come into contact with poison ivy only to carry the urushiol, the oil that causes the rash, back home and into the loving arms of the dog’s owner. Dogs are affectionate, great face lickers and lap sitters! If Fido got in a poison ivy patch, you might well get the rash yourself.

It has indeed been a lush growing season for poison ivy. Lawns are as green as can be with no end in sight. I might have to mow the lawn all the way up to Halloween.

The urban legend about urushiol is that some years back it was a component in the lacquer paint used to decorate toilet seats for the tourist trade.

So where does the poison ivy story go from here? The word on the street is that over the last half century the growth rate of poison ivy has doubled.

Now there is thought to be a more potent chemical version of urushiol. That might mean quicker redder rashes. The upside is that while inside the embrace of your car you will note that poison ivy is one of the first to turn colors in the fall. Red and yellow are the common colors. The reds are sugar-bound pigments. The more robust the growing season, the redder the poison ivy. Great news.

Be miserable. Just don’t scratch the rash.


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