Skunked in Winter!

The snowiest, coldest winter in memory has been challenge enough, trying to entertain and burn off the energy of a young, super-hyper, over-the-top energetic young dog. It has been so brutally cold, and the snow at the side of the roads has been piled so high, that I have not been able to take my lovely rescued blue Weimaraner Maisie for the daily hikes she had grown accustomed to. There has not been the opportunity to pull the car over and park by the roadside, and the wind has been too bitter cold, anyway, to make a walk feasible.

One day last week, out of the blue, the temperature got into double digits, a bit of sun poked through the clouds, and I jumped at the chance to let my Crazy Maisie stretch her long limbs. I bundled up with an ear flap hat, scarf, Yak-Traks pulled onto the soles of my fleece-lined boots for traction, and managed to nudge my car onto the edge of the road without getting stuck in the mountain of plowed snow. Maisie leaped out of the car as though she was dock diving, air-propelled, and plowed through the snow blanketed fields as though she was a living, breathing snow mobile.

I was chilled through and through, but disregarded my own discomfort (numb fingers despite my best ski gloves) because she was having such a grand time. And it’s all about the dog, right?! As we headed back towards the parked car on the dirt road (no dirt visible beneath the packed snow) I decided not to slip on Maisie’s leash while approaching the little road — my hands were so cold, and there was not another soul in sight on foot or in vehicle. Maisie waited by the back of the car for me to catch up and let her in, when something caught her eye on the road and she started after it. “Wait!” I commanded, which has always caused her to pause in her forward motion — except no command was going to be equal to the fascinating waddling gait of the small black and white creature that was trundling rapidly away from us on the snowy road. White and black tail held high, there was only one thing this could be — the most unwelcome creature in a dog owner’s universe — except, perhaps, a porcupine!

“Nooooooooooo!” I yelled, realizing in one fell swoop that Maisie was about to get her first education about how an animal the size of a cat can drive away predators many times their own size. Maisie wasn’t preying, she was only curious, wanting to give it a good sniff — and boy did she get a face-full, withdrawing in shock and shaking her head. When she didn’t leave immediately, the damn skunk had the moxie to come back at Maisie as if to drive her away, then turned and gave her another shot of perfume for good measure.

Mix a Batch of “Skunk Shampoo”

I fruitlessly called out “Come” in a tone I hoped sounded less desperate than I felt, knowing I’d be traveling home with the stench to end all stinks — and then have to get the poor dog de-skunked. As soon as I got home I closed Maisie in the mudroom and rushed for my copy of The Dog Bible, where I knew there was a recipe for “skunk shampoo.” I knew I had purchased a couple of quart bottles of hydrogen peroxide to have on hand, after a skunk encounter the previous year (I highly recommend you do the same — skunk encounters are shocking and you certainly don’t want to waste precious time heading off to a store when your dog is getting smellier by the second!)

In a big jug I poured the whole quart bottle of 3% hydrogen peroxide, measured ¼ cup of baking soda, and pumped in a teaspoon of Dawn liquid (the best grease cutting dish soap). I poured in an equal amount of very warm water. I stirred it up and got poor Maisie into the shower with me, pouring the solution over her head and neck and rubbing it in vigorously, before dousing her again and again, rubbing it into her legs and chest. Then I took the spray attachment and rinsed her repeatedly, until I couldn’t smell anything nasty when I sniffed right on top of her head. The Dog Bible also said that a gallon jug of white vinegar (something every grocery store has cheaply) or a big bottle of peppermint mouthwash can be used effectively, rubbed into your dog’s coat, then followed by shampooing and generous rinsing. Make sure to give your dog a lot of nice treats after this scenario, as he will be as traumatized as you are by the overwhelming stench and even the possible burning sensation of the skunk spray. If ever there was time for a super-tasty treat (like a real salmon Liv-a-Little), I’d say this was that time!

It may still seem like winter to us, but apparently skunks have their own internal clocks and the one Maisie encountered was risking the exposure of the road for the convenience of a plowed path. Try to keep your dog under your control in areas and at times when skunks may be trundling about — and lay in a good supply of the ingredients above because forewarned is forearmed!

—Tracie Hotchner
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photo credit: Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis) DSC_0030 via photopin (license)