The spray down

It’s only a matter of time.

As a pet owner, we all know the dreaded encounter between our frisky Fido and the stinky, striped nocturnal menace is lurking somewhere out there in the shadows of a quiet summer night. And as is typical with most situations of this type, it’ll hit you when you least expect it.

Like 10:30 p.m. on a Sunday, when the kids are fast asleep and the entire neighborhood has just dozed off, only to be awoken by your shrieks of terror.

Seems what we had written off as our dog’s crazed obsession with a certain dark corner of the yard, sandwiched between the garage and the fence, was not as trivial as once thought. After months of tearing off into the night with a ferocious snarl, and nothing to show for it, the family pet finally met her match. In a culture clash of epic proportions, our Australian shepherd came snout to derriere with her French foe, Pepe Le Pew. With her nighttime nemesis finally in her clutches, our pup learned one of the hard lessons of doggy adolescence: those squirrels with the white racing stripe are much more fun to chase than catch.

As spouseman dozed on the couch and I retreated to the domestic dungeon in an effort to scale Mt. Laundry, the cowardly canine beat a hasty retreat back into the house, unsure how to handle her recent fumigation.

For those who have never had the distinct displeasure of smelling eau de skunk at close range, allow me to explain. See, it’s sort of like being at ground zero for a nuclear blast. At first, you think to yourself, “What is that strange odor that I cannot put my finger on?” This is because the workers at the ol’factory have gone on strike from the sudden assault to their sense. However, the olfactory workers soon return with a vengeance and begin putting in double overtime. The other senses also get in on the action as this time, with the eyes tearing up and the nerve endings going sizzling like bacon. Of course, the common reaction is to plug one’s nose and breathe through the mouth, which of course, only results in a horrendous gag reflex.

Suffice to say, the smell is nothing like the faint, musky smell you get driving down a country road at night with the windows down. We’re talking a garlic-mace, rotten-egg dirty bomb right in the kisser.

Anyway, spouseman was the first contact, post-dousing. He awoke to find himself face to muzzle with the whimpering, foam-splattered animal. As the fog of sleep wore off and the fog of skunky revenge closed in, he bolted like a jack rabbit. However, his efforts to direct the offending party away from any furniture or carpeting and out the back door only resulted in the bewildered animal seeking refuge through the open basement door and into a pile of dirty laundry. As I turned to rebuke her, the stench had fully blossomed into a mushroom cloud of sulphurous haze.

Before any more damage could be done, I corralled the dog up the stairs and outside, where she promptly tried to remove the sticky residue with a vigorous, all-over body shake. Now, this is typically the part in a movie like “Marley and Me” where the audience would be reduced to fits of laughter at the protagonist’s misfortune. But, when it’s your own bare skin being peppered in skunk spew, there is really nothing funny about it. Now starring in my own hellish nightmare, I let out a bloodcurdling scream and barrage of curse words that were purely R-rated.

Of course, by now the kids were awake, adding to the chorus of late-night hysteria, and it’s safe to say, I did not do a good job of keeping my composure (for which, I apologize to my neighbors profusely.) Blame it on the fumes, but getting skunked has a funny way of pushing one’s panic button. However, the haze is only temporary. Once the noxious gas dissipates, you realize that with a little googling, things could have gone more smoothly. For example:

- Don’t panic. Even though the dog is rolling around on the shag carpet in the living room and foaming at the mouth, screaming will only lead to more chaos and domestic carnage. Keep cuss words to a minimum, it sets a bad example for the kids – and the neighbor’s kids, who have now lined up to spectate.

- Gently wipe the excess fluid from the dog with a paper towel. Unless the dog is squirming like a greased pig, in which case you tie her to a tree in the back yard with a rope and call the fire department.

- A simple household mixture of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish soap can be applied to the affected fur. Allow to dry and remove with wet rag. Or, immediately run to the grocery store and buy enough tomato juice to fill a kiddy pool because you once heard from an old roommate that it works.

- Douse dog with juice until it looks like a Charles Manson murder scene. Rinse. Repeat. Repeat again, until dog’s fur turns bright pink and the faint odor of spaghetti sauce hangs in the air.

- Indoor odors can be removed with small bowls of bleach, which soaks up the smell. Opening every door and window and running several fans on high speed for a week, or vacating the premises all together, also helps. This may also aid in avoiding the neighbors, who will want to know a) where you learned to curse like that, and b) why your dog is pink.

- And last but not least, go easy on your furry, four-legged companion. Chasing skunks is only fulfilling their primal urge to hunt. Plus, their sense of smell is hundreds of times stronger than your own, so they don’t like smelling like skunky pizza any more than you do.

And the smell, well, you get used to it with time, and they say it goes away eventually. As for the skunk, he’ll likely be back for another game of late-night hide and seek. Maybe the dog will be a little smarter the next time, but keep that tomato juice handy just in case.

– Missy Votel