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?

Pavlov Shakes His Head

Our dog, Rose, has a crate.  It’s typically nestled back into a corner of the “big room” – this being an all-purpose office, library, sewing room, guest room, exercise space, photography area, and general junk storage.  She stays in the crate when we are not home and also at night when we go to bed.

She doesn’t dislike her crate.  Granted, if we are going somewhere, she’d rather go with us in the car.  And she’d rather sleep on her pillow in our bedroom at night (this is disallowed because I have issues with sleep and she snores).  But she likes her little den just fine.  She’ll even retire to it if she wishes to rest and we are in the big room.

She knows it’s time to get in her crate when she hears the treat bag rattle in the kitchen.  Wherever she is, when she hears the bag, she hops up and runs into the big room, climbs into her crate, turns around, and waits expectantly.  We give her the treat and shut the door.

Sometimes when we have company, the particular guest isn’t interested in sharing the room with the dog – even with the crate.  Such a scenario existed this past weekend so we chose to move the crate into the living room.

By Sunday evening, she had spent two nights in the crate in the center of the living room.  The kids went to bed and I sat down on the loveseat to fold laundry.  The long couch, where she usually lies, was empty.  But she didn’t jump up on the couch.  She trotted into her crate and curled up.

When my husband sat down on the couch, she glanced up at him but didn’t hurry over to be with him.  She was perfectly comfortable.  In fact, she spent the rest of the evening sleeping in the crate.

When it was time for us to retire to bed, I contemplated just shutting the door on the crate.  Before I had a chance to act on it, my husband started the usual ritual by opening the treat bag in the kitchen.

Rose’s head shot up.  She looked around.  And then she ran out of the crate and headed for the big room.  I stood there dumbfounded as I watched her disappear.  A few seconds later, she returned and hurried into the crate.  I know she’s just a dog, but I would swear that she had a rather sheepish look on her face.

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.

Mommy Comes Home

For awhile before my husband got a C-PAP machine to wear while sleeping, I was in the habit of wearing earplugs to bed. I am a hopelessly light sleeper and he snores. The earplugs took some getting used to mostly because the silence was truly deafening. It was like total sensory deprivation. When I would remove them in the morning, the sound – even of a quiet house – seemed so… rich. Intense. Almost too much.

Returning to my boys in my house after spending a week in Washington, D.C. felt much the same. While the trip had its frustrations and its own sources of exhaustion, it was basically a get-away. Jane was a pleasure, my time was largely my own. No one was screaming or bouncing off the walls or acting out. It was a reasonably quiet, reserved vacation.

Within minutes of entering the house, I was on sensory overload. The boys were still hyped up from their own vacation and seeing Mommy again pushed them over the edge. The dog was also excited to have the clan reunited. She was running around, jumping and licking, and in general adding energy to the room. My husband was trying to show me the gifts he had purchased. I was handing out my gifts to the boys. Jane was making plans for the evening.

When my husband left to take Jane to meet her friend at the theater, I found myself alone with children I had grown unaccustomed to wrangling. I managed to sort the dirty laundry from the suitcase into piles on the floor before retreating to the bedroom and closing the door. I called my mom but she was at volleyball and unable to visit. The noise in the living room was ratcheting up louder and louder. It seemed wise to investigate.

The scene that greeted me literally made me dizzy. The boys were prancing around the room, laughing and giggling, waving their arms in the air. They almost looked like natives dancing around a fire. When they saw me, the hilarity redoubled. The real shocker wasn’t their activity though. No, it was their attire.

They were wearing our dirty laundry. Each was wearing either my shirt or Jane’s. Under the shirts, they had layered swimsuits and bras to give themselves the appearance of breasts. The strutting and dancing was performed with chests thrust forward and calls of “Look at me! Look at me!”

I wondered why I had thought my husband was being so generous to me when he said he’d run Jane into town. I was too tired and overwhelmed to yell or laugh, either one. I just pulled the undergarments off the hysterical boys and in a fit of desperation asked, “Who wants to watch Dr. Who?!”

Boo!

With the kids away, it’s pretty quiet around here. Just me and my husband and the dog. So you can understand why I was a bit surprised to hear my husband suddenly shout “BOO!” and burst out laughing at the other end of the house.

Apparently, he had headed down the hall and Rose had decided to follow. She was far enough behind that he was able to slip into the closet before she made it to our bedroom. She walked in, looked around, and walked back out. Then she paused, as if convincing herself that he had to be in the bedroom.

She then returned to the room, checked the bathroom, walked back out into the hallway, and again paused.

A third time, she walked into the room and looked around. This time she actually entered the closet, which is not very big, looked on my side of the closet, then turned and walked out without noticing the fairly large man taking up the other half.

This time, she walked farther down the hall so my husband stepped out of the closet and moved to the bathroom. The dog heard movement and hurried back in to investigate. When she passed in front of the door, he jumped out and yelled “BOO!” The dog reacted as one might predict, which cracked him up.

See, all this time I thought my children were away. But, no. The oldest one, the most childish, the one who will never move out, he’s still here. And I’m very happy about that.

Teddy’s Wisdom

The boys had a large stick in their room. In make-believe world, it was a bow, used for taking down evil orcs or some other manner of beasts. To the dog, it was just a stick, something to carry around.

And so it was that Rose found the stick and picked it up, walking out of the room. Hal was fascinated.

“Mommy! Did you know that Rose can carry a big stick?”

“But she can’t walk softly,” amended his Dad.

I love little moments like this when I feel like we are acting out a children’s movie. Enjoyable on the surface for the kids but a little extra reference that only the grown-ups understand.

*And, yes, I realize the quote is “speak softly” but that’s not what my husband said. It would have been accurate though. The dog doesn’t speak any more softly than she walks.

Addendum: I wrote this short bit a few days ago. It was trumped first by a tumbling bottle of soda and then by a boy who thought a potholder was a towel. Tonight the house seems especially quiet. Rose is spending the night at the vet’s office after slicing her foot pretty bad while chasing rabbits in the yard. It seems appropriate to share one of her tales in honor of the poor dog, who is certainly missing us as much as we are missing her.

Annoying Child Trait #13

Your child can be entertaining himself with a book, jigsaw puzzle, toy, or the dog, but it’s not until you ask him to take care of one of his chores that he will suddenly remember some pressing matter that absolutely must be taken care of immediately.

I find this quite annoying as the free time is then consumed completely by the pressing matter and the chore goes undone. On the bright side, I suppose I should be pleased to have a tool to so easily make sure he remembers to do his homework or relieve his bowels, the failure to do either of those having such disastrous repercussions.