5: A Tail-Raising Tale

5: A Tail-Raising Tale

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Dog

A Tail-Raising Tale

Fun fact: Many commercial products are now available that do a better job of “deskunking” dogs than the traditional tomato-juice bath.

My heart melted when I met him. Scooping up the light-as-a-feather puppy, I held him nose-to-nose. The tiniest pink tongue flicked out and graced the tip of my nose with a moist kiss.

Convinced this teeny brown pup was part Chihuahua, I named him Pancho and slipped him into my coat pocket. But he morphed — in size and attitude. He was fearless, and his reckless abandon often landed him smack-dab in the middle of trouble.

Overnight camping trips particularly brought out Pancho’s wild side. He would rocket out of the car with excitement when we arrived at our campsite. One time, he leaped out the open window the moment we arrived. I lost him in the nearby meadow, but occasionally I’d see him hopping up and down like a jackrabbit. As I set up camp, and then fished, my eyes scanned the valley for signs of my wayward friend. It was growing late — too late. I bit my lip. Time to go into tracking mode.

Halfway across the meadow stood a gnarled climbing tree, so up I went. Perched out on a limb, I gently rocked my body back and forth to allow my eyes to catch movement in the twilight. What kind of trouble was Pancho in this time?

A-ha! There he was, leap-frogging near some boulders. I licked two fingers and whistled his call. His head swiveled toward me — but only for a second. His nose went straight up in the air. He rotated his body and then dashed into the thicket, hot on the trail of a great sniff.

Scraping both hands, I bumped down the tree. “Get back here!” I yelled.

He didn’t.

I charged into the deepening shadows of pines and aspens, but I couldn’t see well enough in the twilight to realize something was amiss.

Then it hit me. I sniffed again, and realized exactly where Pancho must be. And there he was, legs planted far apart, glaring at a small black-and-white animal.

“Pancho,” I whispered. “That’s not a cat. Come.”

He didn’t.

The skunk, on the other hand, did move. His beady black eyes stared straight at the dog, ignoring me completely. He arched his back and hissed, tiny sharp teeth showing white against his black face.

I took one step back and also hissed. “Pancho, back away now.”

He didn’t.

The dance began.

The skunk was kind of adorable, stamping his clawed feet. But when he started hopping backward, all cuteness melted away. I took three steps back.

He raised his gorgeous, plumed black-and-white tail. Swallowing, I slithered behind an ancient aspen tree, several more feet away.

My canine cocked his head and held his ground.

Suicidal fool.

“Come. Now,” I squeaked in horror.

The skunk wobbled forward, and my dog’s growl shifted to frantic barking.

Oh, this was not good.

The skunk whipped his rear around and sprayed. Pancho shook his soaked body, whining pitifully while the skunk serenely waddled away — in triumph.

Pancho eyed me cowering behind my tree and made a beeline to me.

I panicked. I didn’t want to touch him, so I grabbed a low hanging branch and swung my feet off the ground, dangling just out of his reach.

Fortunately, Pancho dashed to a thick patch of grass, flopped over, and rolled on the ground. I lowered myself and slipped back to camp. There, I grabbed some defensive tools. The last thing I wanted was for him to spread his stink on the sleeping bags.

When Pancho slunk into camp, tail firmly between his legs, I was ready — lasso and stick in hand. With my head turned to the side, I prodded him to a bush far away from camp and tied him there.

Now, all I wanted to see was red — red tomato juice, tomato sauce, tomatoes.

I scrambled back to my family’s freshly made sandwiches and, in a blur of motion, lettuce and pickles flew over my shoulders. Gleefully, I held up slices of tomatoes. “There you are, you red beauties.”

Glancing at my stunned family, I asked, “Do we have catsup?”

The speechless group held their noses and backed away. Apparently, I hadn’t fully escaped the skunking after all.

I growled. “Well, do we?”

Finally, my sister rustled in a bag and, with her arm ramrod straight, bravely handed me a bottle. I locked eyes with her, and she froze. “Make me a garbage-bag apron. Dump the stuff out of two plastic grocery bags — no, make that four — and tie them on my hands. Tie my hair back, too. Now.”

Bless her. She also pinched a clothespin on my nose.

I turned, ready for battle.

After Pancho and I both had several tomato and mud baths, we returned from the river, dripping. Pancho smelled less horrendous. Still, he would spend the night whining, tied far away from camp.

Just as we drifted off to sleep, someone mumbled, “How are we going to get him home tomorrow?”

Windows wide open — that’s how. We drove away from the serene valley with our heads poking out the windows and Pancho blissfully asleep at my feet.

~Sandy Wright

More stories from our partners