Velo gets his skeptic face on

Does anyone really enjoy cautionary tales? Maybe they do when they involve actual tails. One summer morning right around 3am, all three of my dogs raced out of the bedroom into the backyard. Well, two dogs raced into the backyard while one whistleblower border collie type raced to the screened sliding door to assess the situation and then back into the bedroom to report that the “other” dogs were causing trouble. Vainly trying to hold onto what was otherwise a spectacular night’s sleep, I heard strangled barks. Odd. I whistled the dogs in and immediately rued their prompt recall as undiluted essence of skunk filled the house. My panicked brain froze and I put the dogs into a down. Whilst I thought the dogs were headed “down” some of the sleep fog dissipated as I realized that Velo, in extra slink mode, was making a break for my bed! No. Heck no. One less-than-purely-positive grab later and the miscreants were ensconced in my office; shortly thereafter they were relegated to the backyard. They were in each location only long enough to really let the stink set in.

Skunks are mammals in the weasel family and are known for their ability to spray a liquid that produces an “unpleasant smell.” My, what a dainty way to describe this vile effluvium! Said liquid can cause irritation and temporary blindness and can be detected by the human nose 3.5 miles downwind. One can only imagine the effect on the sensitive canine nose. As a point of fact, Baloo, the Belgian Tervuren’s eyes and nose were running, and, why yes, why not go ahead and vomit as well. The next fun fact that I can confirm is that the muscles located next to the skunk’s scent glands allow them to spray up to ten feet with a high degree of accuracy. Both dogs appeared to have been blasted right in the face.


Velo, Dice and Baloo in less skunky times

Velo, the Border Collie/Whippet cross was a puddle of utter despair so I couldn’t even assess his physical damage. I tried to check Dice, the whistleblower, to ensure that he hadn’t partaken in the fun, but he wouldn’t come within ten feet of me. Was it the odor that I now shared or the insane glint in my eyes? With a sufficiently menacing hiss I was able to recall Dice close enough to confirm that Mr. Perfect retained his title. The only potentially good news is that once the skunk runs out of supply it takes about ten days to reload. As if the dogs were EVER to regain yard privileges.

Baloo gets a bath

Skunk odor in dog fur is best addressed immediately. Being a veteran owner of some seriously naughty dogs, I did in fact have the ingredients required to neutralize the scent. Although, I have to admit I didn’t expect a skunk incident in my downtown Larkspur backyard enclosed by 8-foot-tall cat proof (ha!) fences! One quart of hydrogen peroxide, a quarter cup of baking soda and 1 – 2 teaspoons of Dawn dishwashing liquid (times two) were located. A tomato juice bath only reduces the scent, rather than neutralizing the molecules. The dog tub was set up in the back yard and we were all set. I was prepared for a throw down with the dogs but to the vast disappointment of the on looking cats, the victims were uncharacteristically meek. One must be careful with the hydrogen peroxide mixture, particularly around the dogs’ eyes, but the skunk had already blasted the concept of ocular safety out the door.

Happily, the night was warm and the concoction is remarkably –  although not completely – effective. Subsequently, of course, each dog had to have a full bath. The night was not, however, warm enough for a shivering, sorely traumatized wet whippet. He had to be wrapped in blankets. That was as far as my empathy went. Sadly, I had dithered with the dogs in the house too long and the house reeked. Happily – I guess – my nose was on overload so I couldn’t fully appreciate the disaster. Yet. The next morning and the subsequent return home after work assured me that this was a gift that was going to keep on giving for some time. It was also great fun to run into my next door neighbor Betsy (also looking a bit tired) in the morning to immediately be asked “did you get skunked last night?” Good times. I am quite sure that Betsy is reassessing my invitation to the neighborhood. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to scream quietly at your dogs in the middle of the night?

One might correctly point out that it is my job as a dog guardian to effectively manage the dogs. Dawn, why don’t you just close the animal door at night? Right. Well, I direct your attention to my prior blog, “The Cat, the Rat and the Girl” to explain why the CATS need the door. I guess I just have to choose which middle of the night misadventure do I most want to have?

As a matter of fact, I did close the animal door, much to the cats’ dismay. I also walked the perimeter of my house and Betsy’s as we ascertained that the skunk was getting into her yard and then ducking under the culvert fencing between the yards. She placed a large rock to block under the gate access. Betsy also put a pail of water outside the front of the house in case our pungent neighbors were suffering from the drought. Smugly dusting off our hands, we thought, “problem solved!” However, just to be on the safe side, on a subsequent morning when I had an early morning hiking date, I carefully turned on the outdoor floodlights and cased the yard to make sure there were no skunks about before letting the dogs out. One can’t be too careful, right? Besides which, what kind of numbskull dog would want to get skunked twice? Well, out go the dogs and BANG! skunk in the ivy. Too late, I whistle them back amidst a billowing wave of skunk. Dang, isn’t that skunk out of juice yet?

At this point I am out of hydrogen peroxide because what kind of idiot lets her dogs get skunked about three days apart? One 6am trip to Lucky’s, another skunk neutralizing bath session (at least it was daylight at this point), a slight postponement of the hike and my hiking partners solicitously insisted that we still join them. Betsy, on the hike, mentioned that she heard a “skritch, skritch, skritch” noise outside her bedroom window. Sure enough, the skunk had moved the small boulder away from his hole under the fence. Skunks 2, Dawn Zero. Later that day, Betsy’s husband had on his work clothes and was putting pavers down. The next morning, the dogs and I automatically walked to the back door. The three of us looked at each other, the back yard and then decided the front yard was much nicer anyway.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the skunks live here too. Maybe I would feel better about it if they helped out with the property tax from time to time.