Copyright © Judith Shaw
I grew up in the country, in a part of Westchester County that hadn’t yet been developed, but I don’t recall much about skunks. I have a hazy recollection of our Standard Poodle getting sprayed, but I wasn’t the one who had to deal with the stink. We saw—and smelled—dead skunks on the road, but that was about it.
As for Ron, Australia doesn’t have skunks. His years in Seattle seem to have been skunk free, too, so he didn’t have any practical knowledge either.
Picture this: It’s 1997. We’ve just moved back to the U.S. from Australia. The four of us—five if you count our dog Zelda—lived in a rented house in the town of Lenox, MA. We had a biggish back yard, unfenced.
We’d tried an invisible dog fence, but Zelda kept getting zapped while we were watching TV, so that didn’t last long. And, anyway, invisible fences keep dogs in. They don’t keep critters out.
It was about 8:00 on a Friday night when we heard her scream. Ron rushed to the back door to let her in.
Zelda was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, thirty-eight pounds of solid steel in a body the size of a Cocker Spaniel. She was fearless, except when it came to squeaky toys . . . but that’s another story.
Ron opened the door, and Zelda ran inside crying. She raced up the stairs and dove onto our bed, where she frantically tried to wipe the painful spray off her face. By the time we got to the bedroom, picked her up and carried her to the basement, it was beyond too late. The whole house stank of skunk, and our doona was stinkier than anything.We had no idea what to do. Vet offices were closed, and we didn’t know anyone with dogs we could ask for advice. I turned on my computer.
Eighteen years ago the Internet was not what it is now. Even so, Google came to our rescue. There were many websites about skunks+dogs, and many prescriptions for getting rid of the paralyzing smell. Most were built around tomato juice: bathe the dog in tomato juice and all would be well.
So who has a pantry filled with tomato juice? Maybe survivalists in the Utah mountains, but not us.
Bicarbonate of soda was popular, too. The box of baking soda was in the refrigerator to help diminish food odors, so it might work on skunk—but one box would not be enough.
And how should we use it? Sprinkle it on? Soak the quilt in baking soda and water? Those poor smelly feathers would never be the same again.
In the end, we bathed Zelda in a solution of baking soda and water, made her a bed in the basement and left her there.
Back to Google.
I found an article on the molecular composition of skunk spray and learned that it disintegrates when exposed to sunlight. Eureka!
Next morning we hung everything that had touched Zelda (doona, sheets, the clothes off our backs) on the clothesline to be deodorized by the sun. After two sunny days the smell was gone.
I don’t know if Zelda ever saw a skunk again. She was way too smart to get skunked twice.