Last night was freezing cold. Probably the coldest night thus far this “winter” (I use “ “s since we haven’t had any snow, unless you count the freak Halloween storm). P picked me up from work, we went grocery shopping, and then came home. My December and January editions of National Geographic were waiting in the mailbox and it was one of those nights when you want to bury under a pile of thick blankets and read… which is exactly what I did as soon as we came through the door with the groceries. Instead of taking our dog right out and getting the chilly part of the evening over with, I thought I would warm up a bit with a cup of tea, curl up in a comforter and quickly skim through the magazines before taking him out.
About an hour later, P and I were ready to start making dinner—pasta with veggies and alfredo sauce, so I put on my favorite sweat shirt and wrapped a warm scarf around my face and put on my winter coat and gloves, grabbed Sampson’s leash, and our apartment keys, and headed out the door. Sampson happily scampered out with me and waited for me at the top of each set of stairs. When I opened the downstairs door he burst into the crispy night air. It was dark, and no one was out, so I didn’t bother to put on his leash. We crossed the road to the sidewalk alongside the park and I gave him a few minutes to sniff around and pee, but it was cold and I was eager to get back inside.
After a few moments I coaxed him back across the road. As usual he walked around the apartment parking lot, sniffing here and there. I walked up to the apartment door and called out for him to come, and heard his dog collar tag tingle tingle off to the side. I spotted him sniffing under a car along the wooden fence that separates our parking lot from the train tracks that run behind our building. Then I heard Sampson let out a little growl/bark, and I yelled over to him more urgently to come. It took a few tries before he started trotting over, and I briefly glimpsed a bit of white sneaking away through a hole in the fence. I figured Sampson was teasing a cat. Until I got a whiff of skunk.
Oooh no you didn’t…
When Sampson reached me on the apartment stairs I bent down to smell his body and took in a deep breath of what I can only describe as a pungent burning tire kind of smell. It didn’t smell like the skunky smell you detect in the air when one gets hit by a car, or sprays something in the neighborhood, it was much more intense. Like it was literally burning olfactory cells in my nose. But I wasn’t 100% sure, because it wasn’t distinctly skunky, just really horribly bad.
I brought him back upstairs and took off my coat and asked P, “Does Sampson smell weird?”
“Awwf! What is that? Skunk?”’
“I thought so.”
I grabbed Sampson goat style (so he was hanging upside down by his four ankles) and stuck him in the bath tub, while I tried to figure out what to do—which means, run to the nearest computer and google, “What to do if your dog is skunked.”
I clicked on the first website that popped up, “Help! My dog’s been skunked!”
It started by saying, “A fresh spray smells so bad it burns your nose. The closest comparison I can think of is the smell of burning rubber or plastic. If you or your pet gets sprayed it is important to work quickly to get the skunk oil out and neutralized. If you do not act quickly the smell can last up to 2 years!”
The website continued with a few tips:
1. Before handling your dog, you may want to put on some old clothes. Skunk spray is actually an oil and is very difficult to remove from clothing.
2. If possible, leave the dog outside to prevent the odor ridden oils from getting into your house.
3. Determine where the spray hit the dog. Depending on your dog’s hair type, you may be able to trim away or comb out some of the affected hair.
4. You can use paper towels to soak up the oils from the coat before you begin washing. Be careful not to spread the oils from one part of the dog to another. Only wipe where the oils are already to avoid making the problem worse.
5. When you’re ready to wash the dog, only clean the sprayed area. Skunk spray is oily and can easily be spread all over the dog. You will most likely have to give the dog more than one bath, so save an all-over bath until the second or third washing.
Well- I already failed with tip #2 as it was freezing outside and we live on the top floor of an apartment building so I couldn’t leave him outside. As for tip #3, I tried to locate where on his coat he was sprayed, but I couldn’t find a wet oily spot anywhere. I tried to wipe him with a paper towel but since I couldn’t find the oil spot it didn’t work.
Next the website said, “A couple old methods used [to get rid of the skunky smell] are saturating the dog’s coat in tomato juice or mouthwash and then bathing the dog thoroughly with a canine shampoo. However the effectiveness of these methods are questionable and it is said that the tomato juice will leave your dogs coat all red.”
I tried to call my Dad, who over Christmas break was telling us about how our old Black Lab Jack used to get in a lot of “wilderness” trouble before us kids were born, and how my dad and mom had to use pliers to pull porcupine quills from his face once. I figured he would have some advice, but he didn’t pick up the phone. Next I dialed my mother, but she also didn’t pick up. So we were on our own.
I had only ever heard of tomato juice helping with skunk smell, so I went to our cupboard to see what we had. There was a jar of tomato garlic marinara sauce, and I figured garlic is better than skunk.
“But Mer, the website says the sauce might dye Sampson red!” P said.
“Do you really care what color he is right now?” I asked.
I stripped down to a t-shirt and underwear, opened the glass panel of the shower and poured the marinara sauce all over the dog, little bits of tomato and garlic matting into his fur. Of course Sampson shook out his coat, as dogs do, sending tomato sauce splattering all over me and the walls of the shower. I imagined it looked a little like the shower after the murder in Psycho. I yelled at him, while reaching down to rub the sauce deeper into his fur, and he, in turn, happily started licking up the sauce that was floating around the bathtub.
And if I couldn’t get P to eat marinara sauce before, I certainly won’t be able to do so after this!
I concluded round one by spraying Sampson down with our shower hose until he looked like a drowned rat.
Next I called to P to give me the mouthwash. Again I figured it couldn’t hurt, and splashed blue minty alcohol over his head and back. Another rinse.
Round three was shampoo. P emptied a bottle on his back from the safety of the opposite side of the glass shower door, while I used my nails to scrub the shampoo deep into his coats. I rubbed and rubbed and rubbed, then rinsed and rinsed and rinsed. We grabbed an old towel from the closet and soaked up the access water from his fur, and P took him out to the hallway to run back and forth a bit to dry off further.
Finally P took a large canister of talcum powder that his dad always sends from Nepal and we coated him in it. I wasn’t sure if it would help but P insisted that at least it smelled nice. Our black pup temporarily became white (“he looks like a skunk now” P mused), and again ran up and down the hallway, leaving puffs of powder in his wake.
“Go smell him” I asked P. My deep initial whiff outside our apartment continued to linger in my nostrils, and I couldn’t tell if Sampson was smelling better or if we had just gotten used to it, or maybe we all smelled bad now. P took a sniff and determined he smelled “okay.”
It took me a while to unclog the bathtub, which was now filled with murky water, wads of black fur, and bits of tomato and garlic. Later when I took a shower I was finding specks of spaghetti sauce in nooks and crannies all over the bathroom.
By 9:30 P and I finally made our pasta dinner.
So much for a quiet, cozy evening.
The rest of the evening Sampson kept giving us his pathetic puppy eyes that said, “What did I do?”… and my co-workers assured me in the morning that I don’t smell, but to me everything still has an essence of burning rubber.