Story: Makes Scents to Me

For Mischief Monday, I’m posting a story about some mischief that took place a few years ago.

From out of the darkness came a sound I didn’t recognize. A series of high-pitched chittering chirps streamed from the rhododendron, where the back halves of my two dogs stuck out, tails wagging furiously.

Something was in the bushes. And it is written in the Doggy Codex that if Something is in the bushes, it Must Be Investigated. Thoroughly.

I might have ignored their activity if the sun were overhead and sheep-shaped clouds were grazing across a blue sky; chirps belong to the day. But it was an hour shy of midnight, and the sounds were becoming more insistent, increasing in intensity and volume.

“Jasper! Lilah! Get out of there!”  I hurried toward the dogs in a Neanderthal lope, trying to run while shining my flashlight low under the branches. The Something in the bushes was probably not in the mood to be confronted by the front parts of two nosy, exuberant dogs. I could see them pushing further in, swaying branches marking their progress.

As I ran, I ticked off the possibilities. Neighbor’s cat? I quickly dismissed the idea, even though the scraggly mop-and-dirt colored thing had a history of teasing my dogs and stalking my sparrows. Squirrel? Nope. It was not a proper time for those bird-food thieves to be out and about. Besides, all the neighborhood squirrels know to high-tail it up the nearest tree at the first jingle of a dog collar. Bird? Nah. Not on the ground. Not at night.

By the time I got close, all that stuck out of the rhododendrons were the dogs’ tails. There was a high-pitched angry buzzing mixed in with the chirps. Even without knowing what the Something was, I could tell it wasn’t happy. That’s when I heard: “fffttt, fffttt, fffttt,” a spitting squirting sound.

Then it hit me. Well actually, it hit the dogs. But the smell hit me, the unmistakable aroma of skunk.

To folks who live in or drive through wooded areas of New Jersey, the smell of skunk is not uncommon; a few times a year, you’ll catch a waft of it as you drive down the back roads of the state, and a few seconds later, you’ll come across a flattened black-and-white creature painted on the side of the road. The smell lingers, and you drive through it, the scent lasting long enough for someone in the car to inevitably comment in New Jersey shorthand: “Skunk.”

But at this moment, I learned that the smell of freshly sprayed skunk juice is much more potent than that experienced in a drive-through cloud. It is eye-wateringly intense. It is tasted, even with mouth tightly closed. It is something more felt than smelt. A wave of pure skunk stench chased me down, tackled and immobilized me.

The two dogs backed up quickly, Lilah extricating herself from the bush a little faster than Jasper. But the Investigation was incomplete, and the dogs were reluctant to leave it so; they stared intently at the bushes, which continued to emit more chirps and buzzes.

“JasperLilahCome!” The three words melded together into one desperate sound. “Now!”

Jasper’s tan muzzle and Lilah’s black snout turned in my direction.  There was a dark spot between Jasper’s eyes where he must have taken a direct hit.

“Come!” With gritted teeth, I willed my two dogs to walk toward me, as I watched the little black and white intruder march out of the bushes behind them.  He chittered, stamped his feet, and began to rotate like a tank turret preparing to take aim. Target identified. Ammunition locked and loaded.

I fought through the pungent stink the last few feet toward the dogs, grabbed them by their collars and yanked them up onto our deck, dropping the flashlight along the way.

I looked over my shoulder and watched as Pepé le Pew sauntered—oh did he saunter, with a rakishly proud waddle—across my yard and under the fence.

The fragrance of Eau de Don’t Mess With Me hovered around me like a malevolent fog. My eyes, nose and lungs clamored for escape, demanding that I let go of the dogs, but I wasn’t absolutely sure the skunk hadn’t done a complete Elvis and left the building. I also didn’t know if he had brought a friend along. I didn’t want to imagine what skunk plus skunk smelled like. One was enough, thank you very much.

Jasper sneezed several times, and gave a collar-rattling shake of his head. Lilah snorted. They looked up at me, pleased with the night’s accomplishments so far.  Lilah wagged her tail, and Jasper joined in, causing swirls and eddies of concentrated skunk aroma to storm my overloaded senses.

Two snouts lifted, nostrils flaring as they tried to pull information from the air.  Was the Something still in the yard? They had to Know. Agitated, Jasper and Lilah pranced and circled as I tried to hold on to them.

The dogs still had Things to Do, which, at the very least, would involve a complete inspection of the rhododendron where the Something had been, an exhaustive following of the animal’s trail through the yard, a thorough Perimeter Check and probably some Barking, just in case.

“Brian!” I dragged a hundred pounds of reluctant dogs away from the edge of the deck toward the house. “Brian!” I tried kicking at the storm door. No response. My husband was probably on his way to bed.

I managed to transfer both collars to one hand and pulled my cell phone out of my back pocket with the other. I muttered the Pick It Up prayer three times before he answered.

“What?” His usually laconic voice was clipped.

“They’ve been skunked. The dogs have been skunked! Come. Down. Now.” I was reduced to giving dog commands to my husband.

Brian has one speed, and it’s not a fast one. While I’m sure he felt he hustled his way downstairs, I, in my skunk-filled world, felt like he must have stopped to brush his teeth, check his email, watch all six seasons of Lost, complain about the ending—and then come down.

He stepped outside, opened his mouth to speak—and then snapped it shut and stumbled back against the door.

“Exactly.” At least I had company in my misery.

“What do you want me to do?”

“We have to wash them with something. I don’t know. I have to go look it up. Here, you hold ‘em.” I tried to hand the recalcitrant dogs over.

Brian backed away. “Let me go get their leashes first.”

Once we made the exchange, I ran inside, booted up my laptop and Googled “skunk recipe.”

The old tomato juice standby had apparently been replaced with a mixture that actually worked, one that included baking soda, dish soap and hydrogen peroxide. “Luckily, these are items commonly found in many households,” one website offered.

That’s true for a quarter cup of baking soda and two teaspoons of soap. But to properly prepare the deskunkifying brew, I needed one quart of hydrogen peroxide. Per dog.  Per wash. “Because it relies on a chemical reaction, the solution works best when used immediately. Apply to dog at least two times, with a fresh batch each time, until the smell is gone.”

Even my math-disabled and skunked-up brain could figure out that I needed gallons of hydrogen peroxide.

I ran downstairs and back outside, where Brian was standing as far away from Jasper and Lilah as he could while still holding their leashes. This was a bit of a challenge, as the dogs had managed to tie complex knots in their leads that a Boy Scout—with opposable thumbs—would have been be proud of.

“One of us has to go to the store.” Before I could finish, Brian had tossed the leashes over to me and was heading inside. “Get about six large bottles of peroxide.” The storm door slammed shut and I yelled through it. “Comes in a brown bottle…should be near the alcohol and antibiotic creams.” I’m not sure he heard the last part; Brian had closed the door quickly and securely, with a sound vaguely reminiscent of an airlock.

I checked the time on my cell phone: 11:45. There weren’t any 24-hour drug stores nearby. The local grocery store closes at midnight. It was going to be close.

I sat down on one of the chairs on our deck. The odiferous space invader was long gone, and Jasper and Lilah had stopped braiding themselves around me. The scent of the night’s adventure hung heavily in the air, but it seemed a little more bearable; my eyes had stopped watering.

Jasper sighed and lay down in sphinx position, ears alert, in case his investigative skills were needed again.  Lilah settled next to him, her black fur causing her to disappear in the dark night, only to reappear when she opened her eyes and I could see them shine.

The air was warm, with just a hint of autumn creeping in to the end-of-summer atmosphere. Crickets and cicadas provided an ambient soundtrack to the celestial show of moon and stars above us. A great horned owl called out in the distance.

Normally, I’d be in bed by now, checking my email one last time before retiring, and already thinking about the next day’s work. Instead, I was sitting outside on a beautiful evening, enjoying a companionable—though admittedly smelly—moment with two of my best friends.

Sometimes it takes a couple of stinky dogs to make you stop and smell the proverbial roses.

Two dogs making sure the perimeter is secure.

Jasper and Lilah sniffing out adventure on a perimeter check.


What kind of mischief do your pets get into? Do you ever find a silver lining to the mischief?


This post is part of a Monday Mischief blog hop! Stop by some of the great blogs below.

13 Comments on "Story: Makes Scents to Me"

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  1. LOL – sorry, but have to laugh. I’ve been there and done that, but could never tell the story as well as you did!

  2. slimdoggy says:

    Oh dear, I feel your pain. Our dog Sally used to get skunked almost once a month when we lived near Griffith Park in LA. At least it was always in the morning.

    • Once a month! OMD! You would think they would figure it out, but my dogs didn’t learn either. I had another dog that got skunked under a neighbor’s bush. For weeks afterward, he tried to go back because…it might be there. But we love our smelly pups anyway, right?

  3. OMD!! This was beautifully written but I pray that Dakota never gets “skunked!”

    • Thanks! It’s not fun to get skunked, but none of the dogs I’ve had who’ve been skunked learned their lesson. They would go back for more if they could. If it ever happens, though, that peroxide, baking soda and dish soap recipe really works!

  4. Flea says:

    Omigoodness. You had to give this story time and distance before you could write about it, huh? WOW. My babies get into mischief – like the frozen egg Patches brought into my bedroom last week – but nothing tops this story!

    • Exactly! Sometimes distance helps to find humor and perspective where originally it was nothing but skunk. Took Jasper about a year to completely rid himself of that smell. Every time he got wet, the smell came back.

  5. da tabbies o trout towne says:

    my grandfather had a rottweiler a long time ago that got into a disagreement with a skunk…..ono was a big boy…175 pounds…and while a kid at the time, if memory serves…it SEEMED to take forever to bathe him…we did so with the tomato juice bath…we had no more finished drying him off when he made a beeline for the pond that was about 50 feet downhill….it was summer…the water’s edges were filled with the algae that developed over the season…the bank muddy and boasting an “aroma” of it’s own…..ono jumped into the pond, swam out to the middle, then back to shore and rolled, and rolled, and rolled in the mud and algae….before bounding back up to us, demanding pets !!

    • Yup, tomato juice was the old standby, and it didn’t do much good. Either way, I think dogs like to choose their own “perfume.” Seems like that’s what your grandfather’s Ono was saying. Nothing more fun than 175 pounds of muddy, smelly, happy dog!

  6. Oh boy! That was a cool story, well I’m sure not as you were living it! And of course not as you realized you also needed to go to the store, I love the description of hubby ‘hurrying’ to help! 🙂

    I’ve luckily not had an encounter with a skunk – yet! One time a doggie friend came over in the winter and we were so boisterous we were put into the garden to play, we turned it into a mud pit and both had to be bathed before we could come in again! 🙂

    I hope you’re having a fun day,

    Your pal Snoopy 🙂

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