Donna Tavano: Skunked

It was an ordinary August night, my husband and I engaging in our usual somnambulistic and sleep depriving battle of the snores. Duke, the Boston terrier, arose at 3 a.m. for his decade-old ritual of middle of the night leg lifting in the backyard (why is it we continue to share our lives with these mutts?). Groggy spouse staggered to the back door, flipped the light and released the hound. All of this was customary and perfectly predictable until the Incident.

Dog made an approach to the deck on his return, and from my semi-sleeping state, I heard a terrifying garbled howl/scream, unsure whether it emanated from dog or husband. As Duke neared the porch, my husband spotted another black and white critter, aka Pepe le Pew, staking out the territory between Duke and the back door. All he remembers was a white flash of tail as the dog ran through gauntlet of “el stinko.”

Descent into hell was complete as I grabbed the terrier and booked it through the house to the front entry, slamming the French doors in a somewhat laughable attempt to isolate the animal and accompanying noxious odor. While I was retching (be advised, on-site skunk spray smells nothing like the mild version we drive through on the road,) my mind raced, frantically calculating a course of action. In 2.5 minutes, I managed to peel off bedclothes, change into something more comfy and throw-away, locate four mini cans of V8, grab a plastic planter in which to bathe the victim, and leash and harness the dog in the front yard. Simultaneously, a visiting son, awakened by the ruckus, was internet searching solutions. Buckets of warm water were handed through the living room window (curses for not yet installing the outside shower). Wait, I vaguely remembered a potential cure from years ago…autumn…winter…no! Summer’s Eve, a douche of some sort, helpful in these situations. Now the name made sense…but I had none anyway and the nearest open store was 10 minutes away. By a small miracle, I actually had a bottle of hydrogen peroxide on hand and a box of baking soda which, according to visiting son, was just what the doctor ordered.

While gagging, our two-person crew restrained the dog in the container, lathered, rinsed and re-shampooed with Pert. I must admit, the most offensive eau de skunk dissipated immensely after the concoction began foaming. Now 3:30 a.m., what was one to do but stroll leisurely through the village, adorned with pink shower cap and blue rubber gloves. Strangely enough, we did encounter one or two humans, roaming about at that ungodly hour; supposedly running (for exercise) they weren’t wearing hoodies and black gloves so I assumed burglary was not their agenda. I worried more that they were dialing 911 and half expected Harwich’s finest to make an appearance. Also, you’d be surprised how many people have irrigation systems, most of which were incorrectly adjusted and watering us along the way.

Early warning warblers announced our eventual return home. Any bypasser would have sworn it a crime scene, viewing cast off rubber gloves and red towels “bloodied” from V8 scattered across the driveway. Collateral damage included disposed-of clothing, vinegar-infused towels we attempted to wash, and days of lit candles and bowls of vinegar positioned about the house to absorb the odor, a salad séance of sorts. Fears the smell would never leave lingered for days, along with the horrible aroma. We did locate the weasely culprit’s point of entry – a hole in the fence I had deliberately left open for marauding rabbits’ escape from the dogs, which was infinitely generous of me, considering the $60 of blackeyed Susans they destroyed over the weeks before.

In the interests of good karma and public service, here is the MSPCA official recipe for salvation, should you ever experience this manner of assault: one bottle hydrogen peroxide, one-quarter cup baking soda, a tablespoon dishwashing liquid. Mix, lather animal, wait five minutes, rinse, shampoo with regular shampoo. Do not save or seal mixture, it could explode. Keep out of animal’s eyes and do not leave on too long, or Hairy Harry will be sporting blonde highlights.

Plug up holes in fences and block access under decks. Do not feed pets outside, do not feed wildlife. Import a reasonably sized flock of hawks or owls who can’t smell and rather enjoy a small snack of skunk. Lay in a supply of three bottles hydrogen peroxide and three boxes baking soda.

Unexpected benefits – you will no longer care if your dog rolls in disgusting dead beach debris, blows rotten dog breath in your face or suffers bouts of flatulence. It will, at least, mask the lingering stink of skunk.