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Skunk, Dog, or Man?

No matter what the world teaches and preaches, some things never change, especially in the country.

Country dogs eat dry dog food and scraps from the table. Right?

Dog food is a staple from town, picked up after work. Dogs expect dry food and maybe the taste of deer from time to time.

Our dog Sadie fits country life. She’s inside in the winter, outside in the summer. Just how it works.

Sadie is a hunter, though she is not “a hound dog.” If you watch her, she lies in wait for the right moment, then she’s off for the chase. Might be a deer, squirrel, hog, skunk. It doesn’t matter to her. It’s the race and chase she loves.

It matters to me.

A week ago, Sadie was rambling. Gone for hours into the night.

"She’s a dog," my husband says. "Don’t worry, she’ll come home."

And she did, early the next morning, saturated with skunk fumes. It’s winter—15 degrees outside, and Sadie smells like any dead skunk hit by a car.

She comes inside, of course, before we smell her! My husband clamps a lead on her and takes her to the shop.

So the question is not who’s to blame? (That may come later.) The question is how and when are we solving this problem?

We need to problem-solve the dog’s smell as quickly as possible. She’s not hurt. Just smells horrendous, and it’s cold, very cold outside.

We decide to wait until we’ve had a cup of coffee. That’s right. We don’t want to deal with this before morning coffee.

Meanwhile, Sadie is safe and smelling the aroma of herself and her skunk. Neither of us has much sympathy for her.

We agree on keeping her in the shop a couple of hours, until eight o’clock. Then, we’ll start to bathe her. We have all the ingredients and know what to do: 1 qt. hydrogen peroxide, ¼ cup baking soda, 1 tsp. Dawn dish detergent. Mix together, use as a dog shampoo. Rinse with warm water.

We are tortured by what lingers in the air. We bathe her once, then again. Not enough. Still skunky.

I’m told I have the best smeller in the world. Does that mean it hits me harder?

No reprimand for Sadie. Her head is down and sullen. She feels like “a bad girl,” I suppose, though we never tell her that.

We towel her off as best we can. She acts tired and wants to sleep. She was out most of the night. I liken that to a 16-year-old, out doing mischief all night. I don’t care if she’s tired or not. We believe in natural consequences.

We finally let her come back into the house. Within minutes, the stinky smell is everywhere.

There’s no getting away from the smell. The skunk’s scent wins, hands down, but my understanding is that the skunk lost the battle.

After one hour, I felt like I’d descended into a new understanding of skunk. I felt skunked in many ways. The skunk’s defense mechanism was like a Gatling gun—I was overwhelmed, done-in, wiped-out.

I suspect that even the pines of the forest felt the explosion of the scent. However, most of the perfume was absorbed by Sadie and now fills our home.

This smell certainly affected my brain.

It increased my desire to howl like an animal I cannot name. Maybe the sound of a bawl. But then, the throat remembers silence and kindness.

Okay, I’m ready. Skunk, dog or man? Who’s to blame?

We live in the country. Sadie is our dog. The skunk is part of the nature we love. The smell, which we don’t love, goes with the skunk.

What do you think? I’m thinking no one is to blame. The dog acted like a dog, the skunk acted like a skunk, man thought it out and problem-solved the smelly situation. Also, man had to accept what he could not change.

I look out the kitchen window and see the morning light descending the mountain. I hear crows gossiping, probably about the dreadful smell.

The mountain is full of memory and holds the motion of whatever lives here.

Somehow those of us who love dogs and the open countryside must make room for skunks and their smell, but it’s not for the faint-hearted.

God bless,

Pat Durmon

P.S. Thank you for understanding and any Shares/Comments.

Jimmy Durmon bathing Sadie, photographed by Pat Durmon, February 27, 2019.

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