Monday, September 3, 2007

Skunk 101

It serves me right. No more than a few weeks ago I was gloating to people that my 7-plus-year-old dog Chagall had never had the stinkiest encounter possible...with a skunk.
Well, let me set the scene...

When I first moved in to the third floor of this wonderful old house in Watertown, it was early summer of '06. Chagall and I quickly got into the habit of going out the back door and into the fenced-in rectangular backyard just prior to bedtime.
My pup loves to explore the day's accumulation of smells before emptying himself out and curling up in bed with me for the night. Within a few weeks we became aware of a nocturnal yard companion. As I opened the back door one night, with the light from the kitchen illuminating about one-third of the yard, and only the screen door between us, I caught a glimpse of that distinctive black-and-white-striped critter. I slammed the door just as Chagall recognized the intruder.
Ever since that close call, I check the part of the yard that I can see before letting him out. There is a very bushy, heavily-treed large section to the right that is pitch black.
Now you've got the picture.

Last week Chagall and I got home very late one night. Rather than go up to the third floor and come all the way back down in a short period of time, I just let Chagall out back to do his business after a quick glance for anything unwelcome.

I puttered inside the house for 5 to 10 minutes so my dog could get his final fill for the night. All of a sudden I heard his "I thought I saw a puty tat. I did. I did." bark. (He teases my mother's cat, Princess, with it every weekend.) I opened the back door and ran down the steps. Chagall came flying around the corner shaking his head violently from side-to-side. It was either a skunk or a porcupine. When he got a little closer there was no doubt.

I ran back in the house and slammed the door on my poor stinky boy. I went into a dead sprint for paper towels and the old standby tomato juice. I knocked on my landlords' bedroom door to alert them to my crisis. Luckily there was some V8 juice in their frig.

When I finally got really close to Chagall and started the decontamination process, I was surprised by the slight sweetness of the smell on my dog's fur. It was far different than the stench overpowering the air.

Several tomato juice dousings later we went to sleep. An old sheet and towel on my bed. An embarrassed and agitated puppy and a tired owner. By that point the smell was negligible, but by noon the next day it was back strongly on the top of Chagall's wrinkled head.

My landlord has, with the greatest possible affection, renamed my baby "Skunk Blossum." Sounds and smells right to me.

Even after using some over-the-counter "skunk be gone" products lent to me by friends and the formula for a magical removal elixir - hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, vinegar and water - there is still that "Pig Pen" cloud over Chagall's head. I've always heard that the smell lingers, particularly on rainy days, for three to six months.

Doesn't it just figure that after all the years of trips deep in the woods and to dog parks, that my baby boy would get outwitted by a skunk on his own turf.

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