September 2006

Skunked again

By Suzanne Strazza

So my dog, Tessa, has this not-soendearing habit of joining me whenever I venture out to pee (Remember, I live in a tent so the world is my toilet). Well, about an hour ago, she followed my half-asleep self outside, took off at a full gallop and returned, seconds later, oozing skunk.

First, she rubbed her face against my car tires; then, feeling sorry for herself, she tried to snuggle up to me. Still taking care of my business, I was trapped, unable to escape her fragrant body. So I screamed for help.

Soon, Tom and I were fumbling around in the dark for headlamps, the hose and anything to kill the odor.

Believe it or not, Tessa didn’t enjoy having fire-roasted plum tomatoes poured over her snout, even though they were organic.

Earlier this evening we’d had dinner at my friend M’s house. M is new in town and not yet used to having her name and personal life dragged out in public so I’ll go easy on her by keeping her name a secret until she’s been around a bit longer, knows more people and is therefore more likely to be embarrassed.

The reason that I bring up this dinner is that my first significant skunking experience was with M way back in our troublemaking days of youth. One fair summer evening, on our way to a party, we strutted (thinking we were hot stuff then) out the front door right behind her dog, S p a r r o w . Sparrow startled a skunk and got sprayed. Being right in the line of fire, we got sprayed too and even the entire downstairs of M’s house was coated with a fine patina of stink which wafted in though the open front door.

Knowing that something tomato-y was in order, we rubbed down Sparrow with tomato paste, opened all of the windows of the house and proceeded to the party.

Fortunately, that evening’s festivities took place on our host’s deck (outside being key here). Throughout the night, amidst the chitter and the chatter someone would occasionally ask, “Do you smell that? Is that skunk?” Feeling sly, we of course responded, “Hmmm, there must be one in the woods somewhere.”

Needless to say, one whiff of myself the next morning convinced me that I had fooled no one the night before.

M and I have laughed many times about this escapade, along with just a few others – but that’s a story for another time. But as I lie here awake, at 3 a.m., nostrils burning and stomach churning, I can’t wait to tell her.

One other significant skunking incident included someone else’s dog and someone else’s house, and an extremely pregnant me. We were house-sitting and dog-sitting two days before my due date, so needless to say I was miserable, hot and cumbersome.

Sweet Ouzel (may he rest in peace) went out for his last jaunt of the night and suddenly yelped in astonishment. When we got him back inside, he ran around our friend’s house rubbing against the walls (upstairs and down) and rolling on the carpets trying to get the offending oil off. Being slightly less than agile and particularly sensitive to smells, I sat on the floor dry-heaving. When I finally got my wits back, I washed the poor creature in powdered Tide.

It didn’t work; not on the dog or the woodwork.

We were never asked to dog-sit or house-sit again.

So, tonight, poor Tessa has been banished to the outside of the tent, although, since she ran through here trying to get away from the liquid tomatoes, her perfume is still with us. I have my face pressed up against the screen, straining for fresh air.

I know that Tom is feeling anxious, that this will be the last straw and I will demand four walls and a roof over my head. Admittedly, if I did have indoor plumbing then I probably would have stayed inside this evening and this wouldn’t have happened, but it could have been worse.

Although, right this second I can’t think of how.

Tomorrow, I will go to the store and buy massive amounts of Summer’s Eve, having heard somewhere that the vinegar and water formula works well without the red staining of tomato juice. I’ll try anything – it’s got to be better than Tide.

My tent smells, my dumpster smells, my car smells. My olfactory senses have been thoroughly assaulted. The smell brings back memories. I laugh as think of the other skunkings and pray that one day I will laugh about this one too.

Because right now, it’s not really feeling very funny.