Last night, my dog was sprayed by a skunk. No glancing blow, the skunk delivered a direct hit. I opened the back door to find my dog cowering shamefacedly by the steps, tail between her legs. Odoriferous fumes mushroomed toward the second-story window, waking the children.
Since I did not have cans of Campbell’s on hand for the recommended tomato soup bath, I grabbed the nearest tomato product I could find: a large jar of basil and garlic marinara. After liberally dousing my dog with the sauce, a 20-minute bath ensued. Most of that time was spent washing chunks of tomato from her sodden fur. This was perhaps not my best idea, especially as garlic-enhanced skunk fumes continued to envelop us.
Prior to this experience, I’ve been fond of skunks. From a distance, these crepescular black-and-white striped mammals are charming, with their thick fur, short legs, and powerful front claws for den-digging. Skunks are omnivorous, enjoying a varied diet that includes grubs, earthworms, eggs, insects, berries, grasses, nuts, and fungi. In more populated areas, skunks appreciate garbage cans, as well as the odd bowl of pet food. (Did I perhaps leave out a bowl of dog food yesterday?)
Now that my experience with skunks has taken a turn for the worse, I’ve learned that skunks carry just enough odor-inducing chemicals for five or six uses, after which they require about ten days to produce more. (The author of the article from which I learned this seemed reassured by the skunk’s limited supply of spray. As for me, I’m taking it as a warning and stocking up on tomato soup.) Skunks are reluctant to spray unless it’s absolutely necessary and will hiss, stamp their feet, and raise their tails first. Apparently, my dog missed the warning signs.
Twenty-four hours later, skunk vapors still drift through my house, a pungent reminder that, once again, nature triumphs over man…and dog.
by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Coordinator