If you have seen me recently, you may
have noticed that once again, I am injured. And once again, there is a great story to the injury: one that includes a large amount of clumsiness and little to no grace on my part.
It was a skunk: a skunk who seemed to have more natural grace than I.
I was lying out under the stars one night, contemplating whether I wanted a sweet or savory bedtime snack, when Elvis, the mighty quart-sized African hunting dog, started barking up a blue streak.
I effectively ignored him while I made my final decision on the snack.
I would have both.
The barking became incessant, obnoxious, and somewhat frantic. Suddenly it was clear to me that Elvis was after something specific, not just the breeze in the oaks.
He’s not that smart.
Elvis is a small-ish and round-ish Corgi Basenji mix, both very intelligent breeds, but I think in Elvis’ case, the brains of both cancelled each other out.
He’s certainly loveable.
Anyway, the barking…
It slowly dawned on me, as I imagined my bowl of ice cream with potatochip sprinkles, that I needed to get up and do something about this. There was definitely a visitor in my yard and Elvis wasn’t going to let it slink off quietly.
Having just returned from Florida, where I managed to cut my foot on an oyster shell, I was thinking clearly enough to run inside to get shoes before confronting whatever creature I was about to encounter.
I ran back outside, clumsily slipping my feet into flippies and grabbing my phone to use as a flashlight.
Elvis – still going off.
I stumbled my way out the door, off the deck, phone over my head shining ineffectually into the vast dark of night. I could see nothing.
I had the thought, “Is it a mountain lion? Is this going to be my chance to see one up close? Oh Jesus, is it a mountain lion???????”
Suddenly, I spied two distinct white stripes glowing in the blackness and thought, simultaneously, “Oh holy shit,” and “Dammit, not a cat.”
I was more panicked about being attacked by a skunk than the thought of a mountain lion in my yard.
Primal survival mode kicked in and suddenly my world was all about not getting skunk spray on me.
At all costs.
I started calling for Elvis, using my sternest, most urgent voice, and he thought he was in trouble and rolled over onto his back with a submissive hard-on – right at the feet of the nocturnal demon.
My mind was racing, “Don’t get sprayed. You can’t cook for people if you smell like skunk. Has Elvis already been hit? Or has he not? Don’t grab him in case he has. Ow, my foot. Elvis, stop the supplication and get your curly tail over here. Oh dang, it’s turning around. On no, the tail just went up.”
Elvis, get your sorry ass inside.
Miraculously, he quit cowering and ran to the back door. I followed, not letting him into the house until I had sniffed every square inch of him, relieved that I had saved him, saved me, saved the evening.
Ice Cream, here I come.
As Elvis and I sat in the kitchen reliving our near miss, my foot began to blow up like a balloon and was purple before I could even take off my shoe. I watched it, fascinated at the speed with which it was deforming – right before my very eyes – and it struck me that maybe I had done something to it.
So I took a picture and posted it on Facebook, because isn’t that what we do in these situations?
An f—ed-up foot seemed a small price to pay for the security of being inside without needing a tomato-juice bath.
Later, much later, after the adrenaline had worn off for both of us and my foot looked like something you might see on a troll, I let Elvis out for one last pee before bed.
And wouldn’t you know, that damn skunk was still in the yard, just waiting for the return of the annoying little mutt.
Bark bark bark yipe yipe yipe.
Cursing him, I dragged him by the collar, through the back door, all the way across the house to the bathroom, avoiding actually touching his fur, and plunked him down in the shower where I proceeded to pour a gallon of vinegar over his head.
Having done all I could do at midnight, I went to bed.
The next day, the dog smelled like a distillery and my foot was broken.
But is this the end of the story?
The next weekend, a friend and I camped in the desert – the sandy desert, not the wooded desert. In the middle of the night, Elvis began barking. I had no idea what he was after but I figured it must be something innocuous and I didn’t want him keeping up my friend.
So I lay in my bed on the sand and called him back to me. He came, he lay down, I fell asleep, and he got up and started going after whatever it was. I spent the next hour calling him back, trying to get him to shut up, pissed that I wasn’t having a peaceful night.
The next weekend I camped in the same spot and the same thing happened and I kept calling him back to bed, dozing off and then waking up to the barking again.
It was agonizing.
And remember, I have a broken foot so running around corralling him in the dark was not an option.
The next weekend, same place, same routine, and I figured, “Oh, to hell with it. He can bark until his throat’s hoarse for all I care.”
Yipe yipe yipe.
Next thing I knew, he was trying to crawl into my sleeping bag with me. And his face was wet.
Moreover, he smelled.
Remember what I said about his IQ level.
Since when are there skunks in the desert?
There is probably one in the entire southeast corner of the state of Utah and my brilliant dog found it.
Maybe he’s smarter than I think.
Suzanne Strazza writes from Mancos, Colo.