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  • Kristan Higgins

Luther v. Skunk

Luther, that friendliest and sweetest of dogs, loves all life forms (except wasps, which he tries to eat). Dogs, cats, deer, bunnies…all are playmates waiting to happen for my dear doggy. He will occasionally engage a possum, which inevitably curls up and bares its hideous teeth in a Joker-esque smile. Luther takes this as a game of “Wake Up, Little Possum!” and nudges the large rodent with his nose as it hisses at him.


And so it was that, during a thaw several weeks ago, one such beastie came out into the field where Luther likes to sit and stare into the forest, hoping to see deer or coyotes. What was this? A potential friend? Like his owner/mother, Luther is always eager to engage.

Meanwhile, Luther’s parents were inside, enjoying a glass of wine and each other’s company. I came into the living room, inhaled and said, “I smell weed.” Which was odd, because McIrish and I don’t smoke anything. It took a minute for the penny to drop. Marijuana is often called skunk-weed. Ah. Not weed then. An actual skunk.


“Where’s Luther?” I demanded urgently.


“At your mom’s?” my hubby suggested, hope and despair mingling in his voice. Luther does enjoy an evening visit next door, but I didn’t think we were going to be that lucky. I had seen far too many skunk corpses on the roads, since it's mating season for our striped friends. McIrish went outside, called our doggy, who came bounding into the garage. McIrish looked at me, desperate to believe our pet had been spared. I gagged. Luther had been sprayed, so close I could taste it.


Readers, washing the skunked dog has always fallen to me, as McIrish is usually cleverly away. Once, my mother’s Irish setter, Abby, was sprayed while mom was recovering from something and I was home to help her. Mom didn’t have tomato juice, but she did have a six-pack of V8 minis. We still have a photo of me pouring the 5.5 ounce cans over the head of a very sad doggy in the harvest gold bathtub.

Another time, McIrish was at the fire academy when Digger was sprayed. He came trotting home, the mist of spray still on his face. “Oh, no!” said I. It was about 9 p.m., and my little ones were sound asleep. Then Digger saw the baby skunk--so cute!--who’d gotten the best of him and bolted off for a rematch. He lost.


Luther is a stinky dog for reasons the vet cannot explain. “Luther needs a bath,” I’ll tell my husband once a month. “I’ll do it tomorrow,” says the husband, but tomorrow is always full of trips to Home Depot or requires him to hammer and drill and bang, and inevitably, I am the one who washes Luther, who sits, head bowed, as I lather him up with McIrish’s shower gel (sage and cedar, so both males in my life smell great). It takes three towels to dry Luther, and a blow-dry if it’s cold. I wouldn’t want my pup to be chilly.

And so I felt that it was my husband’s turn to wash the dog. We had a 15-year-old bottle of skunk shampoo, luckily, so as I read the instructions, McIrish put Luther on the leash. We were to dilute the shampoo, put it right where Luther was sprayed (his face, of course), lather it up and let it air-dry. For the first time in his life, Luther had to sleep in the garage. We brought out his plush doggy bed, and he curled up, looking at us with accusing eyes. McIrish got a thick, shaggy blanket and put it over him.

The next morning, yours truly did the baking soda-Dawn detergent-hydrogen peroxide remedy. Three times. I had to toss my dog-washing pajamas, because even after being washed twice, they still smelled like skunk. We took Luther to a groomer for a special de-smellifying bath, and he came home shiny and smooth and still smelling of skunk. “It just takes time,” the groomer told McIrish. Time, and $100 for nothing, apparently. Let’s not forget the two types of “guaranteed” organic doggy-will-smell-great stuff I ordered from Amazon. Meanwhile, our garage smelled awful. Even Chief Brody, my car, reeked, despite its closed windows. I went to the car wash, and we left the garage open for the next few days. Even so, you can still catch a whiff of skunk.

By the next day, the skunk smell on my doggy had dispelled enough that we had our usual evening cuddle in our chair. When it rains, as it has been doing a lot, there it is again, that skunky odor. We are hopeful Luther has learned his lesson. Not hopeful enough that he's allowed out after dark until mating season is over, though.


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