I had my first ever skunk encounter recently. It came in stages. The first stage was an unidentifiable smell of burning tires on the dog, Kiwi. She is a backyard dog, who thinks the fence is there to protect her from strangers. She tends to stand back when gates are opened, like they might suck her out into the great unknown. She has only occasionally gone into the front unsupervised. I get the impression that the gate had accidentally been open so long that she felt tricked into going beyond her borders. She always runs back with relief when I call. All this to say, it didn’t occur to me that there might be a skunk in my backyard; plus, she was not showing any signs of distress.
I didn’t exactly panic at stage 2, when I discovered the skunk in an abandoned live animal trap sitting around in our backyard. but I feel I may have expressed some excitement in cartoonish ways. I think I threw up my hands, ran into the house, and started exclaiming loudly. My dad helped me euthanize the skunk in a manner that would not have occurred to me. I am very thankful for that. He also told me and my girls a story of how he, my mom, and I as an infant (the first little baby they had) almost got asphyxiated by carbon monoxide in the middle of the night many years ago. They were trying to cook a turkey in a gas oven overnight, and woke up nauseated. It is pretty amazing that I, at that tender young age, did not suffer any ill effects from that. Or, he says, with a teasing twinkle in his eyes, they “haven’t really noticed anything in particular over the years…”
Stage 3 of the encounter came close to bedtime, as I began to struggle with the fact that the smell on the dog was rather intense and she always sleeps next to my bed. My girls, taking pity on me in my post-skunk downward spiral, helped me do some research about possible remedies. The most common suggestion was some mix of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda and some dish soap.
So, I put in a bucket:
- 2 Tablespoons of liquid (Dawn) dish soap and
- 1/4 cup of baking soda, then added
- 1 quart of hydrogen peroxide
I followed the suggestion of wearing rubber gloves to apply it to Kiwi. She is a long hair dog, much like a golden retriever. I found that pouring it was ineffective, as it just slid right off her fur. So, I dipped my hand in the bucket and rubbed in the cold solution one handful at a time. I even scooped some of the foam of the solution up off of the shower floor. I am so glad we have a spray nozzle that reaches our shower stall, and that it is an open enough design for me to bathe her there with out simultaneously getting soaked.
Kiwi kept trying to shake, so I knew just “letting it sit there” for 5 – 10 minutes wasn’t going to work well. I just kept massaging it on her sides and beck, trying to make it as pleasant an experience for her as I could. She was not happy with having the solution applied to her belly and legs, but with her training from Scotchpines Dog Training, she was well behaved for the whole ordeal. With no clock in sight, I judged that a few minutes had passed, then rinsed her with lukewarm water. This was followed with a regular washing with no-tears dog shampoo. She usually only gets bathed when she has gotten dirty running out in the Owyhee desert with us, or has gone swimming in Lake Lowell.
There was some odor lingering on her face and nose area, but I couldn’t really wash that the same way. I wiped the area a lot with the drying towel and she seemed to think this was a friendly action and tried to kiss me. It did help get rid of some of the smell, too. Not the kissing. The towel rubbing.
I am glad to report that I was able to sleep 8 uninterrupted hours that night. There was no odor keeping me up or waking me up. So, now I know how to dispose of a skunk and how to clean up the dog. For the next skunk encounter I should not be quite so helpless.