If you spend time in the outdoors, eventually something will go wrong. It’s a law of nature. But if you survive, those epic failures become the best stories! We’ve all read about amazing accomplishments in the wild, but now it’s time to tell us about the not-so-great times and what you learned from them. Share your best #EpicTrailFail stories on your own page, include this paragraph as a header, and then provide a link in the comments here or here. We’ll curate and circulate the best stories in future posts. We can’t wait to read about what you’ve survived!
Arionis of Just A Small Cog and Rebecca of Wild Sensibility.
“Meadow! Nooooo!” I screeched, looking over my shoulder just in time to watch my wooly Malamute twist and turn in the air with a ballerina’s grace, dropping to the ground with her cheek and neck aligned perfectly with something black, oily and grotesque beside the trail. I swear it happened in slow motion, like watching a car wreck.
My two Malamutes and I were hiking trails in a forested park outside Seattle on a mild and damp November morning in 2004. From experience I knew exactly what was happening: Meadow was applying what I referred to as natural “perfume” to her thick wooly coat.
Malamute Perfume comes is various scents, even colors. They’re all natural. Meadow loves trying any new one she comes upon.
Having nailed her target on this particular morning, Meadow arose with a grin and a dark greasy streak staining the thick white fur of her chin and neck. As I approached to see what she found so attractive, its fetid odor pummeled me like a boxer. It quickly became obvious that days before our stroll in the woods, this…organic material… was a living breathing creature of some kind, or came out of the digestive tract of some living thing. I’d never encountered anything so offensively odiferous. Ever. Now, this putrid, disgusting substance was on my dog!
Inspecting Meadow, my glove contacted the slime, creating a new cloud of Malamute perfume that hit with a full-on assault to the nostrils. Intense gagging ensued. The glove was history, and – to my shame – I admit that I tossed it off trail into the undergrowth because I couldn’t bear to carry it with me.
In an effort to immediately address the situation, I tried first a stick, then a handful of fallen maple leaves… but nothing at hand could wipe the offending glop or stench off Meadow’s thick and dense fur. Even my other Malamute, Maia, didn’t want to get near her.
I smelled that awful odor the rest of the hike, even when Meadow was behind me. She’d come near, seeking a treat, and rather than let her take it out of my hand, I’d toss it well behind me. Thankfully we encountered only one other person on the trail that morning, and I quickly warned her of Meadow’s horrific smell. She didn’t pause to greet either dog.
Arriving back at the car, a Mazda Tribute SUV I christened the Rolling Dog Crate because the back seats were always down and covered with a sheet of vinyl to keep the interior safe from wet and muddy dog bodies and the occasional upset stomach, I realized I was out of the baby wipes I started stocking because of Meadow’s propensity to perfume herself. I had no option but to load both girls into the car and get home as quickly as possible – a drive of at least 30 minutes. I rolled the back windows half way down – more than usual when driving on the freeway – and my own driver’s side window was down as well, something I would never do in a Seattle November. The stench was that bad. Luckily – and unusually in November – it wasn’t raining. I turned the heater on full blast to counteract the cold fresh air.
To make things worse – yes, worse! – during the drive home Meadow sat right behind me, leaning against the back of my seat with the “dirty” side of her face and neck, leaving a vile skid mark of…some dead or shitty thing…on the upholstery and releasing the odor at full strength yet again. Every time she moved another wave of vileness was released.
I literally pinched my nose on that drive home, breathing through my mouth, especially at stoplights. It’s a miracle I didn’t throw up.
Once home, letting the dogs out of the car, I was again assaulted with the putrid order. How can it stay that strong for that long? What the hell is it? That’s when I saw just how badly Meadow had stained my vehicle’s interior. Not just the upholstery on the back of the driver’s seat and headrest, but also the inside of the passenger door and window, all marked with greasy dark brown smears and streaks. Every adjustment of her position during the long drive home added to the carnage.
I ushered both dogs into the yard, refusing to let Meadow into the house until she was clean. I wasn’t sure I could get the stuff out of her fur, but I had to try.
But first I grabbed Formula 409 spray, some upholstery cleaner, paper towels and rubber gloves and went to work on cleaning the car. Even the strong smells of the cleaning compounds couldn’t completely overcome the odor of the…goo. Nearly a full roll of smelly, wet paper towels got deposited into plastic grocery bags – triple layered – and dumped immediately into the garbage can for pickup later in the week.
That task accomplished, I focused on cleaning Meadow. I hooked up a hose in the yard. I didn’t really believe water would help much, but I figured anything else I might try – like soap – would require her fur to be wet, so gently hosing her face and neck was the logical first step. If necessary, I’d take her to a professional groomer, although that’s not something I normally did, nor wanted to do. Hell, they’d probably turn me away as soon as they smelled her.
To my surprise, with enough spray force, nearly all of the slime washed out of Meadow’s fur with just water. She didn’t like having water sprayed so close to her face and ears, but she saw I was in a, shall we say, stern mood, and didn’t argue.
A follow-up with a warm soapy washcloth removed the remains of the smelly substance. Success! And relief.
I wish I could say this was a rare occurrence. In fact, this was the third time in the space of two months that Meadow had rolled in a scent she found delightful but I found disgusting. Unlike Maia, Meadow loved getting dirty and smelly, even as a pup.
I never did figure out what type of Malamute Perfume Meadow applied that morning. To this day, I can say it was the most foul-smelling substance I’ve ever encountered, and that’s saying a lot (without going into disgusting detail). Truly.
A few months after that incident I read about a contest sponsored by the manufacturer of a product designed to remove smelly odors from animal fur. I submitted a short version of this story in May 2005 to the Petrotech/Sea Yu Corp Stinky Dog Contest. I wasn’t the overall winner, but I did receive a canister of their product, Petrotech Odor Eliminator, as a prize. The next time Meadow rolled in something disgusting, I tried it. It didn’t work. (Maybe that’s why it’s been discontinued and replaced with other products.)
While Meadow’s attempts to perfume herself diminished over the years, she never stopped altogether.
What disgusting, smelly things have your dogs gotten into?
Writing this and thinking about my “smelly dog” made me think of Phoebe Buffay (Friends) and her song, Smelly Cat. Here’s a fun compilation of Phoebe performing the song on the show over the years, with some notable guest musicians:
Feature image: Meadow the goofy wooly playing in our Idaho yard in 2008. The reason the rest of her fur isn’t as long as around her head is because I trimmed her every three months in order to keep her fur from matting.