Sometimes Life Stinks

There are definitely downsides to dog ownership. Like skunks. Skunks may very well represent the worst aspect of dog ownership. Hands down.

We’ve owned our dog for less than three years and have had to deal with at least 3 skunking incidents. Murphy makes sure that certain aspects of the occasion will always be true:

  1. It will most likely be dark when it happens.
  2. It is guaranteed to be at or near freezing outside.
  3. At least one of you will be occupied in such a way that you can’t imagine a worse possible time to deal with a skunked dog.

The first time she messed with one, she managed to kill it.  Unfortunately, it still sprayed her and it all happened just as my husband was preparing to herd the children out the door to head to school.  Not understanding how caustic the oils are, we tied her up outside so that he could run the kids in and I could go to work.  It wasn’t until we were both home that evening that we attempted to deal with her.  We learned our lesson that time.  You have to drop everything to deal with a skunked dog or a) she suffers discomfort and/or pain and b) the stink lingers longer.

Another time nearly saw the end of our marriage as we struggled to keep our cool after he woke me up in the middle of the night to help with the skunked dog.

And then there was last night.  Things were going well at first.  We all had a meal together at the table.  My husband ran Jane to her Destination Imagination practice.  I read to Hal and had the great joy of watching him take over the reading for the first time.  Then he had a great cello practice with his Dad.  Daryl practiced his viola.  All was going great.

Until it was time for my husband to leave to take Hal to basketball practice and pick up Jane.  Rose, the dog, was excited and hopeful about tagging along.  I remarked that he could take her with him and he said he planned on it.  But as soon as he opened the door and she ran out, he was yelling at her.  His frustration rose as he called to her and angrily deposited her back in the house, like he always does when she runs off instead of waiting for him by the car.

As she ran past me, I first noticed the ridge of hair along her back.  Obviously, she had been chasing something.  Then I noticed a bit of foam around her mouth and heard her snorting.  Then. Then I smelled it.  Just as she took off down to the boys’ room.  Within seconds, my husband opened the door.

“Did she get skunked?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said, wrinkling my nose.

“I just smelled it,” he said apologetically.  He almost looked grief stricken and torn.  Hal was about to be late to his first ever basketball practice.  “Can you get Daryl to help?”

“Just go,” I said, as I headed to the supply box that had the extra bottle of hydrogen peroxide and the rubber gloves.  I called to Rose who ran into her crate.  I called to Daryl to get her on the leash and back outside.  I Googled the deskunking recipe.  I mixed the ingredients.  Daryl hurried in and said that Rose had been rolling on the grass and managed to unfasten her collar and run off.  He couldn’t see her since it was dark.

I grabbed the flashlight, found the discarded collar and leash outside, and chased down the dog.  Then he held her more tightly while I went back inside for the supplies.  We did the usual soap her up with peroxide, baking soda, and dish soap, rinse her (and us, incidentally) with the garden hose, wash her with the dog shampoo, and dry her the best we could.

At one point, as we struggled with a squirming, wet, stinky, bleeding (she rubs her face raw when this happens) dog, we heard a little chirping bark sound a little ways off.  Is that the skunk? I thought.  Daryl echoed my thoughts out loud.  The noises continued.  “I think that skunk is mocking us,” Daryl said.  I couldn’t help but agree.  I certainly felt mocked.

The brief times I had been in the house, I could tell that the house was going to stink to high heaven.  Not wanting to exacerbate the problem, I kept her outside.  Daryl and I stripped down and threw our clothes and his sheets in the washing machine.  We used the meager supply of Febreeze on the carpet and couch.  I attempted to dry off my best and newest pair of dress boots that I had been wearing when the incident occurred.

I wrote on the chore calendar that Daryl, who had clearly not been enjoying himself but never once complained or refused to do what I asked, had earned an extra $2.  When Jane returned home, I ordered her to fix Daryl some hot chocolate.  When I returned from picking up Hal, I sprayed Daryl’s bed, which stunk terribly, with the new bottle of Febreeze before pulling the guest mattress in their room for him to sleep on instead.

All in all, it was an exhausting and stinky evening.  Anyone want a dog?

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Midnight Antics

There are a couple of things that are guaranteed if you need to get up earlier than usual. The first is that something will keep you from getting to bed as early as you planned. That happened to me last night.

The second is that something will wake you up in the middle of the night. That happened last night too. If you are lucky, it’s just the dog barking or a wrong number phone call and you are able to quickly return to sleep. Slightly less lucky and you’ll be comforting a crying child. Really unlucky and you’ll be comforting that child while they throw up at the toilet or stripping sheets off a bed that he or she peed in.

The truly cursed will have a night like mine. Sometime shortly after 1:00 in the morning, I was awakened by my husband asking me if I remembered the concoction we had used the last time Rose, our dog, had been sprayed by a skunk. My sleep-addled mind initially thought that’s all he wanted – my recollection. It wasn’t forthcoming. The smell soon traveled from ground zero through the entire house to accost my nostrils in our bedroom.

I soon woke up enough to realize that I wasn’t going to be able to give him the magic ingredients and then roll over to return to sleep while he dealt with the dog. As we gathered the hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and Dawn dish soap and looked – unsuccessfully – for some rubber or latex gloves, I suggested that we could surely more easily find a bullet and take care of the problem for good. I wasn’t talking about the skunk.

Before long, I had put some Crocs on over my warm footed pajamas and added a jacket. My husband had donned a gallon sized ziploc bag on one hand, held in place by a hair rubber band. We went outside and the dog ran to us. He sternly ordered her to sit before she could jump on either of us and slipped a leash around her neck. I shined a flashlight on her face so we could attempt to determine where she had been hit.

Can I just make an aside here? If you are writing a how-to on deskunking a dog, don’t bother saying something like If your dog got sprayed in the face…. Of course she got sprayed in the face! She got sprayed because she’s curious and was cornering the thing. Probably hoping to kill it like she did the last one. Are there any dogs that get sprayed anywhere other than the face?

Anyway, back to my tale. This scenario is not conducive to positive marital interaction. Even if you’ve been married for as long as we have. My husband wasn’t sure about putting the concoction on her face so suggested we spray her down with the hose first. It’s winter. In Texas, yes, but it’s still winter. It’s cold out there!

But, ok. I got out the hose and squeezed the trigger at the end. The nozzle, which I couldn’t see, was set to jet spray. He snapped that that wouldn’t work. I snapped that I realized that. He paused, then said he was sorry. A couple of rotations of the nozzle and some more sharply worded remarks later, I was spraying the dog. And him. Because it’s not possible to spray a squirming dog without hitting at least the arms and legs of the person keeping short rein on the leash. Especially when it’s dark and you are trying to do it while holding a flashlight in your other hand. And your spraying hand has gone numb because it’s wet too.

We then got into a discussion of whether to use the concoction. I insisted that the web sources had said to use a washcloth and just be careful around the eyes. He held the shivering dog while I returned to the house for a washcloth. As I stepped back outside, he asked if we should wake up Jane for a third pair of hands.

“I think that would be a disaster,” I said. “You aren’t being very civil.” I had attempted to choose my words carefully so as not to escalate the tension but my clipped manner of speaking gave me away.

“It’s hard to be civil when you are drenched and cold,” he returned in similar tone.

I held the leash while he lathered the dog and then I returned to the house for my cell phone so we could gauge how much time was passing.

“The online resources said 15 to 45 minutes,” I said. “Do you want to tie her out here so we can go back inside or do you want to stay out here with her?”

“I don’t think we are going to be able to wait 45 minutes,” he said as I began to untie the rope for the tire swing that he had pointed out to me.

“It’s the most effective the longer you leave it on,” I replied.

“I think it’s too cold to leave her out here wet that long.”

“Are you really that concerned about the comfort of the dog right now?”

“It’s not her comfort I’m thinking of. She has less body mass than I do and I’m frozen. We might return to an icicle on a leash.”

“And would that be such a terrible thing?” I asked. I’m not particularly charitable in the middle of the night.

After maybe 10 or 15 minutes, he decided he couldn’t smell anything on her anymore so we rinsed her off and then washed her again with dog shampoo. I dried her off and kept her still while he replaced the blanket in her crate with a towel – just in case she still had any oil on her.

As I felt her shiver and spoke soothing words to her, I began to feel some sympathy for her. Not a lot, but a little.

After she was secure in her crate, my husband tried to hand me the leash to take back outside with the towel. As I reached for the part he was holding, he pulled it higher. We played this keep-away game several times before I reached for the dangling loop as he kindly – not the least bit snappishly – explained that he was trying to hand me the part that hadn’t touched the dog.

We had found our manners. We began to joke with each other and plan for storing supplies for next time. Because let’s face it, there will be a next time. There was no hint of the animosity on display earlier in the night.

He had his bedside light on when I crawled into bed beside him. I looked up and noticed a large chunk of greenery on the ceiling fan. It looked like someone had tied a shrub to the fan. There wasn’t a lot of light and I couldn’t see very well, but it’s Christmas and he had helped cut up a fallen tree earlier in the day.

“Why is there mistletoe hanging on our ceiling fan?”

He beamed a huge smile and announced that he had put it there.

The fan is over the foot of the bed, not the head. I said, “Huh. Good thing I’m not under it.” And then rolled away from him, pulling the covers securely to my neck.

“What?!” he asked in feigned indignation.

I rolled back over and smiled as I rested my arm on his chest. “Perhaps you shouldn’t wake me up in the middle of the night to help with something you clearly should have been able to handle by yourself.”

“Oh, ok. What about when you wake me to kill the mouse that got caught by the trap but didn’t die?”

“You didn’t get up to help me that night. You made me stay up listening to the thing die a slow agonizing death. This wasn’t life and death yet I still got up and helped. You didn’t. Who’s the better spouse?”

We smiled. We kissed beneath the mistletoe. Well, just slightly west of the mistletoe. I reset my alarm for later in the morning. And then I lay awake for at least an hour and a half, waiting for sleep to reclaim me.