by Carol Dunn
HUERFANO — I’ve always heard skunks are afraid of people. So I’ve never much been afraid of skunks. However, after my recent experience with the skunk variety Huerfanus stinkus, I’ve changed my mind. Around midnight, I took a break from writing to let the dogs out for a potty break. One, a ten-pounder, is a runner that thinks she’s tougher than coyotes, so I had her on a leash. As I was picking my way over the sidewalk, trying to avoid the ice, the other two dogs bolted for something in the yard, which I’m sure they thought was a kitty they could playfully mob. And it was sort of a kitty, but a black and white kitty that didn’t want to be playfully mobbed. The yelps alerted me that something was amiss. And then a stink cloud traveling 600 miles an hour hit me. SKUNK! Ok, up to that point I was thinking there is NO WAY it’s a skunk, because skunks hibernate in winter – don’t they??
Well this fella was up and around way past his bedtime. I only had a moment to notice that the skunk was tiny, about the size of a muffin, with a tail that was at least a hundred times as big. And it was violently flicking the tail in all directions. This thing was all tail and smell. And it was really irritated that we had interrupted its midnight foray. It kicked into turbo-fumigate, and then it started chasing me – probably because I was attached to the leash of the one dog that didn’t get to mob the “kitty” yet. Well, I had never formulated plans for eluding a skunk attack, since skunks are afraid of people. Maybe it has rabies, I thought. Either that, or this little stink bomb didn’t know what it was supposed to be afraid of. And here I am in my slippers dragging the dog toward the house, while she still wanted to investigate. Slipping and sliding, I managed to evade the evil stink machine without falling on my butt. When it couldn’t catch me, the skunk zeroed in on Poppy. Now, Poppy is about eight pounds and ten years, with cataract eyesight and old-lady hearing. But her nose still works pretty well, at least it did up to the time it got a pint of skunk spray squirted into it. Then she was yipping and yipeing and running around in circles because she couldn’t exactly see what was chasing her, but she knew for sure she didn’t want to be attacked by it and its attendant stink cloud. The skunk was on a haphazard course of destruction, spraying everything in sight. The trees, the house, the rocks; it might even have been aiming for the moon. Everything in sight got doused thoroughly.
At this point I made one of my worst decisions since moving to Huerfano. I put the dogs in the laundry room. Thinking back, maybe rabies would have been better. At least rabies would have smelled better. The stench was so strong, it woke up our kid, who emerged from her room clamoring, “What IS that smell?” Next was the husband, “WHOA – cough choke cough. Is that SKUNK?” The smell in the house was so bad, it made me wish I could smell something better right then, like the landfill. It wasn’t like the horrid odor of a skunk squished on the highway. This was so strong it was metallic. I could actually taste it, because it had embedded itself into my nasal passages and was creeping toward my brain, which was shrinking back in terror.
Now, remember, this is after midnight. And I believe the scariest realization was that these dogs needed to be bathed – tonight. (Next week: Bathing skunked dogs after midnight.)
Wins over 20 awards at the annual Colorado Press Association convention, including General Excellence for the second year in a row World Journal Staff Report