6: The Dastardly Duo

6: The Dastardly Duo

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

The Dastardly Duo

Sometimes when you get in a fight with a skunk, you can’t tell who started it.

~Lloyd Doggett

My husband realized it too late. That black tail did not belong to our cat.

On pleasant evenings, Bob enjoyed strolling along a circular path that wandered from our yard, across a field, through an abandoned apple orchard, and back to our home. Our young inexperienced Weimaraner hunting dog accompanied Bob, the pup nosing at every interesting (sometimes cow-pie “ripe”) smell along the way. Our black cat, tail always high, trotted behind them.

One evening at dusk, as this trio strode among the apple trees, Bob thought the dark shape twenty feet ahead was the cat. But, too late, he noticed a white stripe along the creature’s back.

Bob instantly swerved backward. The cat crouched low beyond Bob’s feet and hissed. But the dog bounded ahead, yelping with excitement. Game to flush!

Bob tried to run and tripped over the cat. The dog howled in surprise as he caught the skunk’s spray full force. Breeze-blown smells settled on Bob. Somehow the cat escaped.

My husband arrived home and rang the doorbell. I answered and shouted, “Retreat! Retreat! Down the driveway. Strip off everything out there.” Then I slammed the door.

Skunk odor as one passes along a breezy country road smells bad, but bearable. Skunk odor close enough to wage full attack on both nostrils encourages upchucking.

Fortunately, darkness had descended, so Bob, near the end of our ninety-foot-long driveway, removed his stinking clothes without fear of the neighbors gawking at him. Nude, he raced up the front steps and into the bathroom, slamming the door.

With one hand I held my nostrils closed. With the other I passed Bob two quarts of my freshly canned tomato juice. He bathed—and bathed—and bathed—and soaped and rinsed—until the hot water heater ran cold. Finally he invited me in for a smell-test. I declared him fit to leave the bathroom.

Again holding my nose, I lowered Bob’s clothes into a black trash bag, tied it tightly and dumped it at the end of the drive for garbage pick-up. However, this black plastic apparently was not designed to contain smells.

On the driveway next to the garage, I filled a galvanized tub, immersed the dog in soapy water and slathered his silver-gray hairs completely with more tomato juice. I worked the juice deep, into all of his skin. After half a dozen washings, I wrapped the shivering pup in an old cotton blanket and carried him, odor-free, into the garage. His ears drooping, eyes downcast as if ashamed, he curled up and whimpered nonstop.

The next morning, the garbage collector phoned me from the far end of our block. “If I load that bag into my trash carrier, imagine what will happen when I scramble and compact my load. Half the folks on my route would phone my boss asking why I hadn’t washed out my truck.” He pleaded with me. “Please don’t make me take that smelly bag. Don’t you have a burning barrel? On county property, you can dispose of that stuff yourself.”

Skunk-odor-filled clothing burning in a steel barrel does not resemble breeze-filled sniffs when out on a drive. In self-defense, I gathered the dog and cat into my little Honda and drove the fifteen miles to town, hoping for a couple of pleasant hours while the kerosene-doused burning barrelful smoldered and dissipated.

I’d warned the neighbors about leaving the barrel without fully extinguishing the fire. One friend, half a block away, promised to call the fire department if the barrel’s fire blazed out of control. She thanked me for destroying the skunk-perfumed clothing at a time when no wind blew toward her house.

I had reached city limits when Bob phoned me. “Please pick me up from work right away. I’m taking a sudden vacation day. I’ll be waiting outside the building.”

When Bob shut the car door, the dog howled from the back seat and clawed at the window. The cat hissed and flattened herself under the passenger seat. Bob immediately untied his shoes and ordered, “Stop!” I slammed on the brakes.

He jumped out and dumped his smelly leather footwear into the nearest trashcan along the street, banging the lid down tightly. The dog cried a moment longer, but calmed down with the offending leather shoes gone.

After Bob climbed back into the car, he explained. “I was at a meeting with my boss when he sniffed and said, ‘I smell skunk.’ My partner, Howie (who knew the truth) said, ‘Hmm, I don’t smell anything.’ ”

Bob chuckled at his friend’s loyalty. “However, I hightailed it out of there.”

My husband explained, “We need to buy me new wingtips right now.” Why hadn’t he noticed the horrible smell at home when dressing? Was his nose still suffering last evening’s assault? We don’t know.

We glanced around to be sure no one had seen us dump the shoes in the trash, then raced away, headed for the nearest shoe store.

From then on, whenever Bob called the pup for an evening’s trek through the orchard, the dog slunk on his tummy toward his master, whining pitifully. Only weeks later did the animal agree to accompany Bob on evening jaunts. But the pup always trotted close to my husband’s side, never ahead. And only if the black cat stayed home.

~Geni J. White

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