Doering column: What her nose knows
Afew months back, the Newcomersí book club that I belong to was assigned to read, ěMarley and Meî by John Grogan. For those of you not familiar with this book, you will laugh with abandon at some of the antics that Marley the dog puts his owners through.
This book brought me back in time to the very first dog we adopted in 1971, during our first year of marriage. After babysitting this Benjy-type dog, we adopted her and named her Scalawag. Like many dogs we have since owned, Scalawag was especially farouche, and she would get into all kinds of trouble.
Now, back to the year 1975. The setting: our second story apartment in Brookfield, Wisconsin during a cold November Sunday evening around 10 p.m. After visiting my parents, we arrived back home with our two-year-old son, Brian. I walked back inside, carrying Brian, and Don stayed outside to let Scalawag do her last evening duty.
Don soon heard loud barking, along with a scuffling sound. He called for Scalawag to get away from the garbage cans while walking to the door to let her inside. Before he knew it, a blur of white and gray rushed through the doorway and up the stairs to our apartment. I saw this blur of fur run frantically into our front door and the stench nearly knocked me over. Faster than you can blink an eye, Scalawag was rubbing her face on our carpeting, curtains and all of our cushioned furniture. Don arrived, too late, of course, yelling ěDonít let the dog get in!î
Never in our lives had we ever been consumed by such a horrible odor. Both of us were screaming, ěHoly Toledo,î along with other expletives, as we watched Scalawag frantically trying to get the smell off her. No sooner had the three of us arrived back inside than our neighbors started calling, asking, ěIs your place on fire?î Thinking back on that question, even a fire would not have smelled as bad.
Don quickly corralled Scalawag and we could see a yellow liquid streaming down her face ó she had lost a match with a skunk! We learned, at that instant, that only the Devil could manufacture an odor as bad as skunk spray. After frantically researching our Encyclopedia Britannica, we learned that tomato juice is supposed to get rid of the smell. However, back in 1975, stores were not open that late on a Sunday evening, and all we had to bathe the dog in was homemade stewed tomatoes. We quickly put her in the kitchen sink, cutting as much fur off as we could, washing her three times in the tomatoes. Our eyes were tearing up from the smell and we could swear we saw a haze in the air.
After Scalawag was bathed, we opened every window in our apartment, immediately becoming chilled to the bone. After showering and changing clothes, we tried to go to sleep, tossing and turning, to no avail. We could not escape from the cold or the stench. So we all packed into the car and drove back to my parentsí home. We rang the doorbell around 2 a.m. and Mom opened the door, surprised to see us standing there.
Immediately, she exclaimed, ěGood Lord, what did you get into?î After another good whiff, Mom knew what had happened. We pleaded with her for sanctuary, and she said, ěThe Holiday Inn is only five miles away!î After seeing our crestfallen faces, she took pity on us and reluctantly allowed us into her home.
That following morning, I headed back to our apartment to steam clean all of the carpeting and furniture, burning incense the entire time. After another shower, Don headed to school and friends and strangers alike pinched their noses and would not go near him. Don felt like a pariah in the classroom! The smell did not leave our bodies for almost a week. That entire winter, we left the living room window open and burned candles and incense every time we were home.
A few days later, we called our vet to ask how to prevent Scalawag from getting into another ěskunk shuffleî and he told us that a dog will never learn.We were terrified Scalawag would get into trouble again with a skunk, but luckily, she did not. However, until the day she died nine years later, every time she was wet, we smelled a faint skunk smell. Scalawag entered doggie heaven knowing what her nose knew ó not to get near a skunk again!
Jennifer J. Doering lives in Salisbury.
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