As summer winds down, one of the things I can be confident of is that my chances of getting poison ivy go down significantly. For some reason, this is something that seems to be a challenge for me every summer. It has happened every year like clockwork for the 20 years we have been living in the ’burbs, so one would naturally think after such a long time I might have an inkling what the stuff looks like so I could avoid this pathetic ritual. But obviously I don’t or I wouldn’t be sitting here furiously scratching the inside of my knee as I write this.

The other mystery, of course, is how the stuff ends up covering every square inch of my body. My theory is that I go into some kind of fugue state while I’m gardening, roll around in poison ivy and then forget I did it because it usually shows up all over my back, stomach, arms and legs, in the crevices of my elbows and knees, and even between my fingers and toes. I am, quite literally, the human blister.

The first two years I had no idea what was going on and I thought I’d picked up fleas from the dog. Both years I went to see my dermatologist and was utterly and completely shocked when she would inform me that I had poison ivy. Year three, I started to recognize the symptoms, and by the fourth year, I just routinely called the dermatologist for a refill of prescription anti-itch cream.

Of course everyone who knows I go through this thinks I am an absolute moron.

“How can you not know what it looks like after all these years,” asked my husband as he watched me scratch the skin off my arm.

“I don’t know,” I whined. “It’s sneaky. It changes color and it blends in with the friendly plants. Then it jumps out and grabs me when I walk by.”

He looked at me skeptically.

“No, seriously,” I protested. “I DO know what the stuff looks like and I swear, the only place I’ve seen it is way, way, way in the back of the backyard where nobody goes except the dog.”

“Well clearly you DON’T know what it looks like and it must be somewhere else too because you’re covered in it.”

“Hmmph,” I hmmphed.

“Hmmph,” he hmmphed back. And then I went off and scratched some more.

A couple of days later, I happened to notice that I was not the only member of the family scratching. The dog, it seemed, also had a mean itch.

“Does HE have poison ivy,” I asked the vet as he examined the dog.

“No. he just has dry skin,” he said smiling. “Dogs don’t get poison ivy.”

“Lucky dogs,” I said scratching myself.

“However, if they run through the stuff and get the oils on their coat, it can be transferred to humans.”

A pause. A moment. And then slowly it dawned on me. “Aaaugh. I’ve been getting poison ivy from THE DOG!!! That’s just great.” I glared at the dog.

“Now what do I do,” I asked no one in particular.

The dog sat down and scratched.

Yeah, that’d be about it.

— For more Lost in Suburbia, follow Tracy Beckerman on Facebook at facebook.com/LostinSuburbiaFanPage or on Twitter at @TracyinSuburbia.