I’ve been told that in rural Maine, the presence of skunks is one of the first signs of Spring.
Friday it snowed 8″. Sunday was gorgeous – 50 degrees, clear blue skies, and lots of melting snow.
Today (April 4) it snowed another 2″.
But the skunks are, indeed, out and about.
We found out.
The hard way. The hard, stinky, smelly way.
The problem with skunks is that they are actually very curious, friendly creatures. They love sniffing around, investigating new sites, sounds and smells.
Unfortunately, they tend to have panic attacks when they feel threatened.
They feel threatened very easily.
Our Mr. Skunk was sniffing around the base of our compost pile, on the other side of our driveway across from the house. Our compost pile hasn’t been doing much composting lately – it’s mostly a bunch of frozen vegetable peels, frozen apple cores, coffee grounds, eggshells and dead leaves. But I guess that particular day, when temperatures finally rose above freezing, the defrosting, enticing eau du garbage was nothing short of heavenly – if you are a skunk, that is.
At the same time, my husband was giving our dog his last walk of the evening before we turned in for the night. It was 11:50 p.m. and Spencer, our Standard Poodle, was also drawn to the compost pile before doing his business.
Alas, Spencer came nose to nose with the skunk.
Before my husband registered what was happening, our dog sniffed the skunk.
The skunk sniffed the dog.
And then Mr. Skunk had his panic attack.
He sprayed our dog!
Luckily the dog wasn’t on his leash, so my spouse didn’t get it too.
Spencer was one very unhappy dog.
He sneezed a short succession of tiny, desperate sneezes. Frantic, he rolled around in the snow. He pawed at his ears and eyes with great agitation.
“Dear,” my husband called to me from outside, “I think you need to come out here.”
“I’m in my pajamas!” I replied, blissfully unaware of what perils lurked beyond our front door.
“You. Need. To. Come. NOW!” my husband said, in the same desperate hushed tones you use when telling someone Really. Bad. News.
Alarmed, I stuck my head outside the door, still in my pajamas. One whiff and I knew what had occurred.
“DO SOMETHING!” my husband yelled.
“Okay, give me a sec!” and running back inside, I dashed . . . to the computer. I did a quick Google search. I typed furiously: HOW TO REMOVE SKUNK ODOR
Bless you, Google. I sat down, put on my glasses, and started reading.
“WHERE ARE YOU?” my husband yelled.
“I’m reading!” I yelled back.
Incredulous, my husband started to open the front door.
“Wait! I’m not done!” I screamed, panicked. “I’m just getting to the good part!”
“Well, what am I supposed to do with the dog? I can’t leave him out here!” my husband hissed.
“The first thing is, if you are near the dog, or you try to clean him up, it says that your clothes will absorb skunk odor. So,” I instructed, “you need to take off all your clothes before you start taking care of the dog.”
“It’s 26 degrees outside!” he yelled.
“Fine. Just drop your clothes at the door and come in. Let me open the windows and then you can bring the dog into the bathtub.”
“Then what?” my husband said, shivering in his skivvies.
“I don’t know! I’m still reading and I’m not up to that part yet! You keep interrupting me!” I retorted.
The Internet gave a few suggestions, including commercially bottled skunk deodorizer, which I didn’t happen to have in the house. The problem was that it was now midnight. The closest store was 40 minutes away one way, and here in rural Maine, nothing is open past 6 or 7 p.m. Plus, I really couldn’t see leaving the poor dog outside for 2 hours until I, still in my pajamas, would get dressed and drive to the closest late-closing Wal Mart nearly an hour away. You’ve probably heard the one about tomato juice. But I didn’t have tomato juice on hand, either. So I tore through my kitchen cabinets, bringing forth anything derived from tomatoes, can opener in hand.
Diced tomatoes! Heinz ketchup! Don Pepino’s pizza sauce (I really hated to open that one, since I brought it all the way from my home town and ration it carefully)!
I told my husband, “Just start pouring it over the dog!”
I ran back to the computer.
Until now I thought we were managing real well as a team. I was the research person, he was the implementor. I guess my husband had other ideas.
“I need help with this,” he called.
“Fine.” I pouted, realizing that my pajamas would smell like skunk. Now it was the two of us in just our underwear, pouring cans of diced tomatoes and the ketchup bottle over the dog. It was not a pretty sight.
“Oh – – I forgot to mention,” I added, “it says you have to leave in the tomato stuff for 20 minutes!”
“How am I supposed to get the dog to cooperate for twenty whole minutes?” my husband groaned. Indeed, the dog was looking about wildly, trying to find an avenue of escape from the confines of the bathtub.
“Rub in the tomato stuff real good!” I suggested. “That way it will go beyond his fur and go close to the skin!”
I have to say this: we work well together, my husband and I. The smell was starting to go away, and the minutes were flying by.
“Okay, let’s start rinsing him off,” I suggested. It was now well after midnight and I just really, really wanted to get to bed.
I now realize why the experts suggest tomato juice and not diced tomatoes. Diced tomatoes do not come out of dog hair. They cling with a ferocity that evades the most vigorous massage. So now I had one dripping wet dog, with clumps of diced tomatoes stuck to him from head to toe.
Spencer did the only thing a dog could do.
You know how dogs shake those rolling, tsunami-like shakes, and water goes flying everywhere?
The problem was, it wasn’t just water. There were diced tomatoes on the walls. Diced tomatoes on the floor. Diced tomatoes all over the bare-skinned bodies of my husband and Yours Truly. And there were still plenty of diced tomatoes embedded in Spencer’s fur.
“Now what?” my husband said.
“I’m going back to the computer!” I cried. “You stay with the dog and don’t let him out of the bathtub!” Grabbing a towel, I wrapped it around my body so I wouldn’t leave a trail of diced tomatoes throughout the house as I ran back to the computer. I only hoped the towel wouldn’t smell like skunk now, too.
Tomatoes, the Internet said, will neutralize but not remove the smell.
Darn! Why wasn’t that the first entry on page 1 of Google? If we rinsed off the tomatoes, the skunk smell would return!
The Internet suggested a mix of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and a few drops of dishwashing liquid. Yes! Luckily I had all of those things! Triumphant, I ran back to the bathroom, mix in hand.
My husband was not faring well with the dog, who looked pathetic.
Spencer (click to enlarge)
I poured the mix on the dog, and it did seem to work. The smell was pretty much gone after repeated scrubbing, washing and rinsing. My dog began to relax. Then he started thumping his tail, downright bright-eyed. He felt better!
We toweled him off (praying that any residual odor would come out of the towels). Happy with his tail wagging, Spencer jumped out of the bathtub.
We then started cleaning up the bathroom walls, tub, and floor from those obnoxious chunks of diced tomatoes. The tomato pieces were small enough to cling and resist grabbing, but too big to go down the drain so they simply clogged the bathtub. It was not fun, especially at 12:45 a.m.
Finally we showered off. I used Irish Spring bath gel, whose overpowering fragrance seemed to do the trick. I stuck the towels and our underwear in the washing machine, hoping the “hot water, heavy soil” load would be enough to kill any remaining odor.
We went to bed at 1 a.m., exhausted but relieved, realizing that any future dog-walking would be fraught with peril.
You would think that Spencer would have been sufficiently traumatized to avoid anything skunk-related. That he would have learned his lesson. But no. The very next day, he made a beeline for the area of the compost pile.
Spencer was out for revenge, but I knew that it would not end well. Stupid, stupid dog!
Fortunately the skunk was not there.
A few hours later, Spencer started barking frantically at the window. Looking up at us, directly in the eye, was Mr. Skunk. I could almost hear him saying, “na-na-nyah-na.”
Looking at one another through the window . . . (click to enlarge)
Then the most awful thought occurred to me: what if it wasn’t a Mr. Skunk at all? What if it was a Mrs. Skunk? And she was going to give us lots of little baby skunks?
The next day, I went to town and bought skunk deodorizer. I also replenished my supply of diced tomatoes and ketchup, just in case. And I bought two boxes of mothballs, to sprinkle around the compost pile. Skunks, according to the Internet, hate mothballs.
But I noticed a slight skunk odor in the car. “That’s funny,” I thought, “the skunk didn’t spray near the car, and the dog wasn’t anywhere near the car.” On the way back from the store, I realized that smell was coming from . . . me! Horrified, I was so embarrassed! The lady obviously thought I was buying the the skunk deodorizer for myself. “Yeah, right,” she was probably thinking disgustedly, “that’s what they all say – – that the deodorizer is for their dogs! Sheesh!”
When I got home, I took another shower, using plenty of Irish Spring bath gel. I used a bit of hydrogen peroxide with baking soda, for good measure.
All was well until bedtime. I decided a cup of tea would be in order, so I trudged into the kitchen to put the kettle on the stove.
What was that scratching noise I was hearing?
“Dear, I need you to come in here,” I called to my husband in the same desperate, hushed tones he had used two days before.
Mice! Behind the refrigerator!
The next day I returned to the store. I filled up on D-Con granules, mouse bait bricks, and spray-foam insulation sealant.
Because I used to be a Girl Scout.
And that means I’m prepared. For whatever Spring will bring.