Friday, October 2, 2015


It’s getting to the point where I’m afraid to let my dogs out into the yard after dark, because when I open the door to let them in again, I never know what I’m going to find on the steps.

Ever since Willow tangled with not one, but two different porcupines within two weeks’ time, and cost me over $4,000 for “de-quilling” at the vet’s, my yard has begun to look like a fortress.

To reinforce my chain-link fence, I have purchased chicken wire, plastic fencing on spikes, zip ties, and everything short of razor wire, and I still can’t keep the wild varmints out…or Willow, a.k.a. “Houdini,” in.

A couple weekends ago, I let out the dogs at about 11 p.m. and could hear them running around in the yard and playing with this big rubber ball they have. And believe me, I’m all in favor of anything that might tire them out, so I left them out there for about a half-hour.

When I called them in, only Eden, my new dog, came. Her eyes were wide and she seemed really excited about something. She kept running up to the door and then turning around and running back down onto the ground. Her actions reminded me of that old TV program, “Lassie,” when Lassie the collie would go get help for her buddy, Timmy, who seemed to get into trouble and need rescuing every week. Lassie would run up to people, bark, and then turn and run toward wherever Timmy was, and people would follow her.

So I jokingly said to Eden, “You want me to follow you? Has Timmy fallen into the well again?”

I, in my nightgown and slippers, decided that maybe, just maybe, Eden really did want me to follow her. So I grabbed a flashlight and let her lead the way. She led me to the far corner of the yard. As I followed her, I could smell something – a horrible stench that got stronger with every step, until my eyes started to burn and water.

When we reached the fence, Eden stopped and stared through the chain links. I looked where she was looking, and saw Willow, lying on the ground and pawing at her eyes

My first thought was, “How the heck did she get out of the yard?”

My second thought was, “Well, she didn’t tangle with a porcupine this time…she tangled with a skunk! Should I be relieved?”

My longtime friend in Scotland, Pam, once told me they don’t have skunks over there (lucky people) so she was wondering if I could describe their odor to her. She said she was imagining skunks smelled something like a septic tank.

That made me think long and hard about exactly how to describe a skunk’s stink. I’ve pretty much concluded it defies description.  But to give her a vague idea, I told her to think of the smelliest armpit she’s ever smelled – and then multiply that odor by 100.

So I opened the gate and went over to Willow, whose face was soaked with skunk spray. I led her back into the yard and used the garden hose to flush out her eyes. Then, I tried to remember where I’d put what I’ve always referred to as the miracle in a bottle – Skunk-Off by Thornell (there are other products using the same name, but Thornell is, in my opinion, the king).  Skunk-Off comes in a bottle that’s about the size of a bottle of hand lotion. You squirt some of it onto a cloth and wipe the dog, yourself or your clothes with it, and it immediately eliminates all traces of skunk odor – permanently. One small bottle is good for about four skunk attacks. And, unlike other products, it can be used around the eyes and on mucus membranes.

The problem was, even though I knew I’d bought some Skunk-Off to keep on hand in case of emergencies, it had been packed away in one of the 40 trunks in the basement when we’d moved into the new house.  The thought of rummaging through all of those trunks made me want to fling myself down the basement stairs, but I tried to remain calm. Having no alternative, I began my search.

Only 10 minutes later, I found the treasure I was searching for. Clutching the bottle as if it were a roll of 100-dollar bills, I bolted up the stairs, grabbed some paper towels and headed outside to de-stink Willow. The stuff worked amazingly, to my relief. The instructions said to allow the dog to air-dry outside before letting it back into the house.  So I left Willow outside. But first, I, with flashlight in hand, examined the entire perimeter of the fence. I found an area where a hole had been dug under it, and figured that’s where Willow had escaped. So I stuck some wire fencing into the ground to block the hole.

Then I went back into the house…and washed myself with the Skunk-Off.

About 15 minutes later, Eden, who was in the house with me, ran to the back door and whined, clearly agitated.  I figured she just wanted to go outside to play, but I didn’t want her anywhere near Willow until I was certain she wasn’t smelly any more.

But Eden was insistent, even coming up to me and barking.

Finally, I flipped on both of the outside lights, opened the back door and looked out. To my horror, there was Willow, once again on the other side of the fence, this time in an area closer to the house. About five feet away from her was a skunk – a huge, nearly all-white monster of a skunk.

“No!” I shouted at Willow. “Don’t move!”

Willow briefly glanced at me, then bolted after the skunk.

At that point, I was so frustrated, I was ready to drink the bottle of Skunk-Off, hoping it would cause my swift and merciful death.

The next day, I was running late to go to a Labor Day party, mainly because I’d spent half the night tending to Willow. I backed my car out of the garage and noticed something lying on the front walkway.

It was a dead skunk…a badly mangled dead skunk. And it wasn’t the big white one I’d seen with Willow. It was a small black-and-white one.

That’s when I realized it must have been the first skunk Willow had encountered when she’d escaped. The big white one I’d seen her with apparently was the second.

 I had no choice but to leave the skunk lying there.

When I got home after dark that night, all I can say is the only thing worse than the odor of a skunk is the odor of a dead skunk that’s been lying out in the hot sun all day.  So even though it was dark out, I grabbed a shovel, scooped up the corpse, carried it out to the woods, dug a hole and buried it. All the while, I had the distinct feeling the big white skunk was watching me and saying, “You murdered my brother! Wait until the gang hears about this! Revenge will be ours!”

So until I can afford to have the entire yard filled with concrete and then sink prison-like bars into it, I’m going to have to keep a close watch on Willow “Houdini” Breslin.

With my luck, she’ll escape again and bring home the only remaining living timber rattlesnake in the state.

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