I was awakened at 3:15 a.m. by the smell of a skunk wafting through the open windows of my bedroom.
The smell dragged me to consciousness so abruptly, it took 30 full seconds for me to comprehend where I was, much less why I was now awake. I am not fond of being awake at that hour, particularly when I am expected to be at work a few hours later.
So, here I was, lying in bed, fully awake, but unable to open my eyes for longer than a few seconds at a time (partially due to my need for sleep, partially due to the horrid, caustic skunk odor permeating everything around me).
Two things struck me as I lay there thinking for the next hour or so: one, how incredibly strong the skunk odor was, despite my room being on the second story of our home in the middle of Williamsport, and two, why I was the only one jolted awake. The fact that my husband was still snoring loudly next to me was no surprise - he could sleep through a natural disaster.
But three dachshunds - I must stress the hound portion of their heritage - were also sleeping soundly in the same room.
Miriam, with the best nose of the bunch, can zero in on a perfectly camouflaged rabbit sitting still as a statue from 20 yards away with one or two sniffs at the end of her leash, rain or shine. With a nose like that, why wasn't she awake, too?
If the smell was strong enough to burn my nostrils, how could the dogs, with noses many times more sensitive than mine, be sleeping happily at my feet?
Perhaps it was because they were under the covers, where the smell was much less intense. I'm pretty sure it wasn't because of the competing smell of my feet - or at least I hope not.
As Walter seems to prefer to sleep ON my feet with his nose pressed against them every night, it's hard to believe the atmosphere is too offensive under there, but who knows in my years of clinical experience I can say without a doubt that dogs are weird. Walter certainly is no exception.
For some reason, my dogs don't act as if they care about skunk odor at all, even when I take them out at night and it is clear to me that a skunk recently has been in the neighborhood, they make no indication that they are remotely interested or concerned.
Rabbits, sweet and gentle, are my dogs' arch nemeses - as evidenced by the ridiculous barking at 6 a.m. almost every day (sorry to all my neighbors - so sorry). Perhaps they simply are the product of very specialized German engineering: they were not designed to rid the world of skunks - just rabbits and rats and other such "vermin."
That being said, I have no idea how my pack of dachshunds would react if a skunk meandered into our area with them running off-lead - I hazard a guess that they'd get a snoot full, and probably mess the poor, unsuspecting skunk up pretty thoroughly anyway.
When I was a kid, my parents took our then terrier pup for a walk at the local junior high school early one summer morning while my sister and I slept.
It was a morning no different from many others that summer with one exception.
Tigger, the pup, on his usual canvassing of the wooded area surrounding the football field came upon a baby skunk.
Apparently, he conducted the introductions in the normal doggie way, only to find that sniffing this "puppy's" rear end was a very unpleasant experience, indeed. Fortunately, the skunk didn't actually touch Tigger, and Tigger was too surprised to pursue the relationship further, so no potential for rabies exposure occurred (a very real concern whenever wild creatures make contact with pets or people).
The smell woke me up that morning, too, I do recall. I'd be willing to bet most of our neighborhood was aware of the skunk drama, too.
I remember drifting outside to the backyard, still in a haze from sleep (it was still very early) to find my parents grumbling in undertones at Tigger, a soggy, smelly, sad mess struggling mightily to escape the bath he was getting in the big, old-fashioned galvanized washtub.
My parents didn't have tomato juice, so Tigger had the most expensive bath of his life - in V8 juice.
Yeah, that didn't work well, at all.
I can still remember the smell that came off him for weeks afterward, especially after he'd get wet on a rainy day. There really is no mistaking that smell.
Nowadays, we can benefit from some newer products out there that can do a bit of a better job to remove the odor of skunk spray from our pets, but it seems the most effective method is something that can be mixed up at home.
The recipe, discovered in 1993 by an astute chemist, Paul Krebaum, has been circulating via word of mouth and the internet ever since - because it actually works to neutralize the odor at a molecular level.
Isn't science wonderful?
Here is the recipe, taken from Krebaum's website:
The skunk remedy recipe
1 quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide
1/4 cup of baking soda
1 to 2 teaspoons liquid soap
Combine ingredients in a plastic bucket and mix well.
For very large pets one quart of tepid tap water may be added to enable complete coverage.
Wash pet promptly and thoroughly, work the solution deep into the fur. Let your nose guide you, leave the solution on about 5 minutes or until the odor is gone. Some heavily oiled areas may require a "rinse and repeat" washing.
Skunks usually aim for the face, but try to keep the solution out of the eyes - it stings. If you have any cuts on your hands you might want to wear latex gloves for the same reason.
After treatment, thoroughly rinse your pet with tepid tap water.
Pour the spent solution down the drain with running water.
Never, ever store mixed solution in a closed bottle, sprayer, etc. Pressure will build up until the container bursts. This can cause severe injury.
For lots of information about Krebaum and his recipe, including some excellent answers to frequently asked (and infrequently asked) questions, visit his website: home.earthlink.net/~skunkremedy/home/skunks1.htm.
A heartfelt note of thanks is due to Krebaum for his generous gift to all pet lovers in sharing this concoction with anyone and everyone.
Countless tomatoes have pointlessly lost their lives in the past, and now can be spared the indignity of being used as a saucy (rather ineffective) dip for skunked pets. I'm not sure how many other vegetables have seen the same fate, but I'm guessing not too many other families tried V8 juice for this purpose.
Daverio is a veterinarian at Williamsport West Veterinary Hospital.