Skunked Again!

When Sophie, the cutest dog in the whole wide world, pounced on a skunk in the blackberry thicket last summer, I was positive that could nothing on the face of the earth could stink quite so badly. Wrong. It took only three baking soda-and-peroxide baths to get Sophie smelling tolerable again. As for me, one hair-washing shower and a load of laundry did the trick.

This time, I’m pretty sure I won’t be so lucky.

Last Sunday, a couple of hours before daybreak, a terrible odor woke me up. Skunk. No doubt about it. It’s a common smell out here in the country during February and March, which is mating season for the little devils. But this time was different. The odor was stronger, fouler and way more pervasive than it ever had been. When I finally gave up on going back to sleep and began wandering about the still-dark house, I discovered that the smell had permeated every square inch. Downstairs, upstairs, front hall, back hall—the whole house stank.

It was worse than all the mice, rats, squirrels and possums that have ever died in the walls of this old farmhouse, combined. An eye-watering, headache-inducing, gag-provoking odor that defies description. It smelled like hundreds of skunks had joined hands to play Ring-Around-the Rosy in our yard and then sprayed the house simultaneously when they all fell down.

How the heck were we going to deal with it?

I figured the quickest place to find answers was google. The first thing I learned was that skunks prefer not to spray if they have other options, because they don’t want to waste the precious stink juice stored in the glands under their tails. A skunk will growl, spit, fluff its fur, and stomp the ground before it resorts to spraying.

Except during mating season. Get two or more amorous young male skunks competing over a pretty girl and watch out! An angry or agitated skunk can discharge fluid, either in a fine mist or a water pistol-type stream, with an accuracy of up to 15 feet. And he can do it five or six times before his ammunition temporarily runs out.

So what are unlucky human bystanders to do about the odor? Launder all affected apparel. Set mattresses, pillows, and upholstered furniture outside in the sun. Open windows and use fans. Yeah, right. Like it’s possible to wash every single item of clothing and every sheet and towel a family owns. Or open windows and turn on fans when it’s 24 degrees outside. As for setting furniture in the sun, when is the last time we’ve seen the sun shine in middle Tennessee? I’m pretty sure it was last October.

I came across two other interesting pieces of advice. “Fabric will hold a skunk odor for a very long time,” one website warned. “It may be necessary to burn or bury the damaged items.” If that’s not an acceptable option? Simply wait it out. “The odor will eventually go away on its own,” I read. “This usually takes from two to four months.”

Alrighty then. I guess I’ll start marking off the days on my calendar with a big red X until I hit the month of May. Or maybe even June. In the meantime, I’ll spray myself liberally with Febreeze every time I leave the house and hope for the best.

But if you turn and run the other way when you smell me coming, I don’t blame you one bit.

(February 16, 2014)

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