Is there any animal so feared on the North American continent than a skunk? Ok, maybe a grizzly bear, but aside from the animals which can eat you, is there any other mammal that strikes terror in the heart like a skunk? They are actually very cute animals, especially when babies. Their faces are actually sweet with their liquid black eyes and white stripe. Then there is the stink. I tried to describe the smell to someone in England who had never smelled one. The solution used on hair to make hair permanently curly, with rotten onions and garlic, and something else you can’t quite put your finger on other than: yup that’s skunk. A smell so strong at close range it is nauseating.
Anyone whose pets go outside are at risk for a skunk encounter. Dogs seem to be the most reliable pet for getting sprayed because they are intimidating to the animal and they won’t usually back off and leave the skunk alone. It doesn’t matter about the intelligence of the dog either. I had a border collie, a breed known for its keen intelligence. He got sprayed twice.
Fergus was an incredible dog as all border collies are. His intelligence was often a source of amazement. One night, he was looking out of the bedroom window and insisted to be let out. He ran around the corner of the house and ran back in approximately 20 seconds. I didn’t smell the skunk until he had gotten into the house and was trying to rub the stink off on the carpet. I grabbed him and put him back outside. It was 2am and there was no tomato juice in the house. At the time, it was the only remedy I knew. Off to a grocer store 15 miles away to purchase several cans. The cashier commented that my dog must have gotten skunked. I thought maybe she smelled it on me, but no, she said the only people who came in at 3 in the morning to get that quantity of tomato juice were people whose animals got sprayed. I arrived home to the most miserable dog I’ve ever seen. He sat on the back porch with his head hanging, drooling because he was nauseated. Soon, I was hanging my head and drooling because my stomach was nauseated from the smell. I used several cans to juice him and he had to spend the night outside. For the next few days, he smelled like rotting tomatoes and faintly of skunk. We bathed him and then he only smelled of skunk when he got wet. I thought with his superior intelligence, there wouldn’t be a second time.
A year so later, I was working outside and an adult skunk just strolled through the yard just feet from me. It ignored me so ignored it. I figured it was just passing through and didn’t think any more about it. I saw the same skunk every day take the same path and figured it lived somewhere close by, on the property, possibly under the deck or a shed. About a week later, Fergus came around to where I was working to inform me he had been sprayed. He just pawed me to get my attention and looked intently at me until I figured out the problem. I saw the spray before I smelled it. An oily streak down his face between his eyes. At least it wasn’t 2 in the morning and I had tomato juice on hand. I got the juice and started trying to work the tomato juice onto his face without getting into his eyes. He was lucky he didn’t get sprayed in the eyes. It will temporarily blind an animal. Fergus seemed remorseful, penitent, apologetic, and glad I was doing something about the stink. The kids watched me from the open sliding door. I was slathering the dog and lecturing him on the point that we leave the black and white stinky kitties alone when the critter himself came around the corner of the deck. I remember a feeling like I imagine the cold hand of death would feel. I tried not to squeal, scream, or otherwise frighten the skunk. I did fiercely whisper to the kids to get away from the sliding door so they wouldn’t get the skunk disturbed enough to fire at the house. The screen was not going to stop the spray. Mean while, I held Fergus’ head in my hands and had him look at me. He was wondering what was up, but border collies will obey anything their master tells them. I was afraid if he saw the skunk, he would bark and then get us both sprayed. I watched the skunk doing skunk-like things. It was digging around the foundation looking for goody grubs to eat and it worked its way around the foundation which made an “L”. Poke here, dig there, nose the soil to lay bare a tasty morsel, and then quickly eat it. It took its time like there was nothing to hurry for. You know the term: sweating bullets? I did that. I prayed to EVERY deity I could think of, even thought of about 6 Hindu gods. Meanwhile, the critter came closer to the end of the foundation where, in just a few feet from where the foundation came to a corner, Fergus sat, and I knelt. I openly grovelled to the fates asking them to spare us. I tried to cut deals, I made promises all of which got more and more frantic as the skunk got to the end of the foundation and the choice was to continue around the corner or walk straight ahead within inches of us. What did it choose? To my horror, it spotted us or smelled the tomato juice and waddled over to us. I began sweating mortar shells and started making pitiful little noises because of the hyperventilation. Fergus saw it out of the corner of his eye but I wouldn’t let him turn his head. The skunk boldly walked up to the anxious dog and whimpering woman, smelled the dog’s side, and then tested him with a bite. That broke the spell. I was on my feet hollering, I turned the dog loose, it was every critter for him or her self. The skunk jumped back, in surprise. The dead thing he was going to munch for lunch just came to life in a whirl of fur, feet, yelping, screaming, and pounded away at a furious pace. I turned to look and the skunk was running towards us. The kids say the sound I made was inhuman when I saw this. I don’t remember anything other than I hoped the dog would round on it to slow it down. He was vaccinated for rabies, I wasn’t. The skunk went under the deck and Fergus beat me to the back door. I think he thought I should protect him. We cowered in the house until it was time for Fergus to get a rabies booster in case the skunk was rabid. The dog and I crept timidly out of the house and bolted for the car.
The skunk? Upon reflection, I don’t think it was rabid. It was acting normal, doing skunk things including investigating something it thought dead. They are totally accustomed to other animals running away, when they don’t, they must be dead. It ran towards us because it wanted to get under the safety of the deck. A skunk bite warranted a rabies booster for the dog and would have been the series of shots for me if I had been bitten. It is better to be on the safe side. The skunk didn’t hang around any more and it moved away from the place where the dead come back to life in a screaming flurry of fur and human. Fergus never tangled with a skunk again. The beagle on the other hand…, well, they aren’t the most intelligent breed.
Bailey is what is called a big beagle around here. She is the largest of the breed standing at 24 inches and weighing over 50 pounds. I have heard people who know dogs call her a harrier beagle. They have more stamina than other beagles, being built much like a quarter horse. Anyway, my son was taking her for her nightly walk, on a leash, when she lunged at something in the shadows, grabbed it, shook it, and spit it out in a hurry. My son watched the cute little baby skunk running off with its tail still cocked. Which caused him to run off, in the opposite direction, dragging the dog behind him. The juicing commenced which was more difficult than juicing the collie. Bailey is the definition of a chow hound. She eats anything and everything to great excess if allowed. She was licking the tomato juice off just as fast as I was applying it. Being a baby, the skunk only had a little to squirt as compared to an adult. So we tried to console ourselves with it could have been worse. We suffered through the post skunk stage and life went on.
The next year, Bailey tried to wreak revenge on the next skunk, but, as is the nature of the beast, the skunk let fly and Bailey got it again. Skunks 2::Bailey 0. That was more of a pain just because it was later at night and none of us wanted to deal with it. The third time was early this summer.
My son went out onto the back porch to get something. He did not bother to dress or turn on a light. I was puttering around in the house and heard a panic frenzy on the back porch, heard clearly because he didn’t shut the door into the house. Bailey raced to the porch and a few seconds later came running back drooling and dripping, and reeking of skunk. I feared the worst. It was on the back porch and the door to the house was open. I walked to the door, looked down at a young skunk proceeding to rip into a bag of garbage which my son had left there instead of taking it to the can as I had asked. I slowly shut the door which resulted in the skunk getting bumped on the head. About that time, the boy hurtled through the front door, in his underwear, breathlessly shrieking there was a skunk on the back porch and he had almost stepped on it. His main worry was that he had left the back door open to the house and was afraid the skunk came in. I laid his fears to rest and told him we would just leave it to finish its supper and it would go the way it came in. That’s when he told me he had shut the outside door and the skunk was trapped. Mean while, Bailey was writhing around on her bed trying to get the stink off. We stood looking at each other realizing someone would have to open the door to let it out. Let me make it clear that it is very difficult to think clearly with your eyes and throat stinging, your stomach churning, and you are not sure dinner is going to stay down. The accusations began. He reprimanded me for leaving the outside door open when I brought in the laundry and I reprimanded him for not taking the garbage to the can. That over with, we sprung into action and juiced the dog. The only place it could be smelled was around her mouth. We realized she had taken the whole shot straight into her mouth. At that moment, she became a martyr and instead of being angry at her for getting it again, she became the hero. Bailey may have kept it out of the house. If it had come in, we would have had to leave the house and hope the critter wandered back out again or risk hunting it down in the house and getting more spray in the house.
Who opened the back door to let the skunk out? Mom of course. A 14 year old has a social life and smelling of skunk just couldn’t be tolerated. Mom’s life is boring and if she smelled like skunk for a while, it wouldn’t be as drastic. Bailey didn’t smell of skunk almost immediately after the juicing which further confirmed it for me that she had gotten it in the mouth. The back porch and the rest of the house was not as lucky. Where she dripped drool reeked throughout the house. It is very difficult to find the spots on a wood floor by smell because the entire atmosphere was noxious and that’s all a human could smell. The cat, on the other hand would stop and sniff areas which I would then tomato juice. It was a cat scan of sorts. She would walk around and sniff different spots which I would clean. Weeks later, it could still be smelled, but at least wasn’t nauseating.
About a month after the event, we went to a local, large mall. I stopped in the bookstore to browse a little and I noticed every time I stood still, I could faintly smell skunk. It was about that time my son came up and whispered to me that he could smell skunk every time he stood still. We looked at each other and determined the only thing to do was to keep moving. It must have been on our shoes.
So, what have we learned from this? The obvious thing about the back doors being shut and garbage put in the can and because this seems to be at least annual event, I investigated other forms of skunk odor removal. Below is the recipe that has the best reputation. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet…probably next summer, but it comes very highly recommend and is said to be more effective than tomato juice.
1 quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide
one quarter cup baking soda
2 tablespoons dish washing liquid.
Use a very large bucket to mix it in because as soon as the baking soda and peroxide mix, it creates a violent reaction. This is what we want. Use it while it is foaming because the oxygen released is what actually neutralizes the odor. It is said to work on clothes, humans, and other surfaces.
May you never be in need of this formula.