kerfuffle (noun): a commotion or fuss, especially one caused by conflicting views.
We had a kerfuffle here in the wee hours, 3:00 am, two days ago (Wednesday, January 22nd).
Something woke Conall. He let out of low growl from his post on the floor beside my bed. That woke me. Conall stood, took a couple steps toward the dog door in the sunroom next to my bedroom, and let out a warning bark.
Not wanting him to go outside and start a bark fest at a fox (the usual object of Conall’s ire at this time of night), I also got up, saying “Stay!” in a stern voice as I followed him toward the door.
Conall took a couple more steps and put his nose against the interior flap of the dog door. It has two flaps, for better insulation in winter. He cautiously and silently pushed both flaps out, as he often does, especially at night, to get a better sense of what’s out there before actually jumping through.
Fearing he wouldn’t stay inside, I grabbed his hips.
In that same instant, Conall lunged forward, pushing his head all the way through the dog door, then quickly recoiled back into the house, the metal strips on the bottom of the flaps loudly snapping back into place against the magnets in the frame.
As my brain processed this odd behavior, wondering why he moved backward when he could easily have slipped my grasp and gone outside if he wanted to, my nose is hit with the reason: SKUNK! The horrible, pungent, loathsome odor of skunk spray followed Conall into the house. Arrgghhh!!!
Obviously Conall and skunks have conflicting views which lead to a lot of fuss!
I grabbed the plastic dog door block resting against the wall next to the door and slipped it into place as quickly as I could, but it has to align with grooves on the frame and in the dark – with obnoxious skunk spray oozing its way through the spaces around the door flaps, a good-sized first dose having already made its way inside along with Conall – it took me a few tries. It’s a task made more difficult when one is gagging.
Heart rate returning close to normal, I checked Conall, who’s pacing around me. Thankfully his face is dry so it appears the flaps of the dog door protected him from a direct hit; he retreated just in time. His pacing is probably because he inhaled a good dose of the spray and is as upset at the strong odor as I am.
Finn slept on his dog bed the entire time. He didn’t move, totally unconcerned.
New Lesson Learned
It doesn’t take much skunk spray to stink up an entire house. Trust me on this. Within seconds, the stench permeated my entire 1200 square foot, open floor plan house.
Adrenaline dissipated, Conall calmed down, I eventually went back to bed. The odor was so bad, though, I couldn’t relax or stop thinking about its awfulness. I opened the window above my bed a crack, but the outside air smelled as bad as the inside air and just brought in cold stink.
Somehow, an hour later, I managed to fall back to sleep.
When I awoke around 8:00 am, the house smelled horrible. I was surprised I slept through it. I quickly opened a couple windows to try to create a cross-draft and circulate some fresh air through. Thankfully temperatures have been unseasonably warm – in the mid-30s – so I’m not throwing quite as many dollars out those open windows.
In all previous skunk encounters (see this post), the damage was done to my dogs outdoors. My car might suffer an insult as I drove them home for the scene of the skunk crime, but I could bathe the stink off them before letting them into the house.
This incident was the opposite. The dog – Conall – wasn’t hit and didn’t require a bath. But the inside of the house got bombed. Everything that absorbs odor – furniture, bedding, clothing – did.
As did the exterior of my house. The door that has the dog door insert had some new stains on it, thanks to the skunk. The snow, exposed concrete pad and deck near that door also smelled, having been saturated along with the door.
I decided to deal with all that later.
First, I needed to go xc skiing. I needed some fresh air. My nose can only take so much.
Kerfuffle Part Two: The Social Fallout
Cross-country skiing conditions were good. Conall got to meet lots of nice people and dogs, and I enjoyed being in the fresh clean air. It was a nice break from what awaited me at home.
Good procrastinator that I am, I decided to run into town after skiing to pick up some groceries.
After about five minutes of shopping, I started to smell…skunk. Not as bad as at home, of course; more like the mild odor left on one’s clothing after sitting in a Starbucks for several hours. Still, it’s embarrassing to be the cause of such a suspicious odor, so I started speed shopping, hoping no one would notice.
I got in line at the checkout. The checker’s a friendly one. She’s chatting up the gentleman ahead of me as she bags his groceries. Meanwhile I load my groceries onto the conveyor.
Saying goodbye to the gentleman, she looked at me while I’m still loading my stuff, smiled and said she needs to take a quick step away. She turned to the checker at the stand behind her, and I thought I heard her say something like, “Do you smell…?” As she stepped back to her post, she turned her head back toward the other checker and said more clearly, “It smells like skunk!”
“It’s me,” I offered with a sheepish smile.
“Oh!” she said, surprised, smiling at me with curiosity. I could tell she’s anticipating a good story.
I obliged, sharing what happened, working it for all the laughs I can get. The checker laughed sympathetically. The couple in line behind me were eavesdropping and laughing.
I explained I had no idea my ski clothes – hanging on a rack in the spare bedroom because I had just washed them yesterday – had absorbed so much skunk odor until I got into the store.
The checker, in an effort to make me feel a little better, said she has an extremely keen sense of smell.
We all agreed it was lucky Conall didn’t take a direct hit.
The couple behind me asked about using tomato juice on dogs; I told them that’s a myth and shared the ingredients for de-skunking shampoo (since I’m now a pro at mixing it).
And then I got the hell out of the grocery store.
Arriving home, Finn’s in the yard waiting for us, which is typical. What’s not typical is he’s unwilling to go back into the house through the dog door to greet me and Conall from inside.
A bit later, after Conall’s been out in the yard for a bit, he too refuses to come in through the dog door and for the first time since he first learned to use the door as a wee pup, he woofs at me to let him in through the nearby sliding glass door.
Clearly I needed to address the skunk odor on and near the dog door.
I mixed de-skunking shampoo and used it on the dog door flaps and frame, inside and out. I then chipped away some ice away so I could pull up a door mat that sits in front of the dog door; it reeked. I tossed that beyond the fence gate into the driveway. I’ll have to bag it and haul it to the dump. Later.
The ice and snow I removed from atop the mat stunk pretty bad, too. I heaved it over the fence into the snow-covered field beyond.
I then scrubbed the cement in front of the door with the de-skunking shampoo. I think it helped, but the odor was still detectable.
Both dogs remained reluctant to come in through the dog door so I bribed them with treats to show them they wouldn’t die.
I opened several windows to the cold air, hoping to move some of the stinky air outside and replace it with non-stinky air. I imagined dollars floating out my windows.
Finally, having done everything I could think of to address the outside odor issues, I peeled off my ski clothes and took a shower, wondering how long I’d smell clean, how long before my clothes, skin and hair started to smell like skunk again.
Day Two, Post-Kerfuffle (Friday)
From Healthline.com: The noxious scent of skunk spray can be long-lasting and overpowering. Skunk spray contains sulfur-based organic compounds called thiols. These compounds let off an immediate blast of acrid scent, reminiscent of rotten eggs.
Skunk spray also contains thioacetates. Thioacetates remain dormant at first, but can morph into smell-producing thiols when they come into contact with water or humidity. This can happen days or longer after the skunking occurred. It’s the thioacetates in skunk spray that give it its staying power.
Compounding this stinky situation is the sensitivity of the human nose, which can pick up skunk smell in tiny quantities — as low as 1 part per 10 billion.
I’m avoiding people and especially any indoor activities away from home until my own house – and me, and my clothing – stops stinking so bad. Every time I return home, walking from garage into house, I’m hit yet again with the odor and reminded just how strong it remains. Thankfully, my brain quits screaming about it within a few minutes, and I’m able to ignore it until the next time I leave, giving my olfactory nerves and break, and return.
Luckily most of my clothes are in a closet behind a door that’s always closed, at the far end of the house, so they have mostly been spared.
I’ll be washing lots of bedding (the dogs’ and mine), throw rugs and anything else made of fabric over the coming days. Those things are like sponges, soaking up the stench, holding it inside the house. I figure I should wait until the odor dissipates a bit on its own before doing all that laundering. No sense cleaning stuff, only to have it absorb some lingering odor all over again.
Not much I can do about upholstered furniture. Only time will fix that.
I had to attend a court hearing yesterday afternoon. I’m the guardian ad litem for children in a custody matter. Walking into the courtroom, I apologized for the skunk odor surrounding me. I told my tale of woe, bringing some comic relief – even the judge’s clerk broke into a smile – to the parties prior to the start of the hearing. I’m learning it’s best to be up front and open. Being skunked is, ultimately, funny.
I found the skunk’s tracks in the snow later on the morning of the kerfuffle, returning from the grocery store debacle. It made some interesting trails, little circles of exploration followed for a straight line, then another circle, all up and along my driveway until it reached my fence, which it easily slipped through into the dog yard. Here’s hoping, after it’s surprise encounter with Conall at the dog door, it never returns.
Healthline.com offers this tip for removing odor from homes: Place bowls of vinegar in each room of the house and leave them in place for 24 to 48 hours, or until the scent is gone.
Looks like I’ll be shopping for some vinegar. Worth a try.
All these years I thought having my dogs get skunked was the worst. Now I know better. Dogs can be washed. Having your house skunked is THE WORST.
Featured image: skunk tracks along my driveway.