Plea to Universe: Enough Skunks, Already!

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!”

Busted.

“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.

Moving On

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.

animal tracks in snow
Looping tracks in snow, nearing fence to dog yard. More tracks along my driveway are seen in the feature photo.

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.

19 thoughts on “Plea to Universe: Enough Skunks, Already!”

  1. Aaaugh! I just realized yesterday that we have a skunk living in the crawlspace beneath my bedroom. I was going to try to escort him out by throwing mothballs in that area (I know it works for squirrels), any other ideas? I hope your house starts smelling better soon. Unfortunately, I think you’re going to need to tell your skunk story over and over for a long time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, unfortunately, as long as I stink of skunk I’ll be telling that story!
      I have no idea how to convince your resident skunk to move on. Maybe use a live trap, enticing it in with some sort of yummy bait? But then what? I did once watch a man release a skunk from a trap at a trail head, and it didn’t spray him as he lifted it from his vehicle and opened the cage door, but maybe that skunk had already “shot its wad” so to speak (I read it takes them up to ten days to refill their supply of spray)?
      Or, since you don’t have a dog that will annoy the skunk near your house, maybe it’s best to let sleeping skunks lie, learn to get along? Might be hard to sleep though, knowing it’s in your crawl space…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Jeff, I noticed this on the Consumer Reports website, tips for encouraging a skunk to “move along” after setting up living quarters near or under a house:
        If you find a den and have a dog, you’ll want to gently persuade the skunk to change lodgings. Because they do us a favor by eating bugs and other pests, the Humane Society encourages homeowners not to kill skunks but to chase them away through “mild harassment.” This may include:

        Repeatedly repacking the den hole with dry leaves or straw.
        Putting used kitty litter, which acts as a repellant, near or inside the den.
        Lighting your yard beginning at dusk and adding some noise, perhaps a portable radio.

        Don’t try to trap a skunk yourself. Skunks that become a nuisance need to be carefully live-trapped and removed. This should be left to a professional. To find one, start by calling your local cooperative extension office.
        ***
        A friend suggested a motion-detecting light on the side of the house might help keep skunks away.

        Like

  2. This happened to me a few years ago. A skunk sprayed against the side of my house and the odor permeated everything! The bowls of vinegar worked. But you’re right, that first night was horrible.
    Hope the skunky odor is fleeting!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A couple of days ago, walking at the slough, Bear was suddenly drawn to a gamey smell. I have a pretty sensitive nose for a human and I took a long draught of the smell and pulled her close. “No way.” Dead skunk? Living skunk? Skunk passing? It didn’t matter to me. We were not lingering to learn. Occasionally they pass my house in the alley. Bear immediately does her livestock guardian dog thing. It makes me think of the huskies who don’t bark. THEY got skunked. I sent up a few thoughts of gratitude to the powers that brought me this big white dog. I had enough skunk back a few years ago to last a life time.

    By the way, I found the best thing for skunk fragrance back in the day was dish soap and peroxide. It worked on the dogs.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, I can relate! Near the first year renting the house we now own, Moxie and Ludo stepped outside for a pee and Ludo lingered. After a bit I called to him and he came running from the other side of the yard, into the house, up onto the couch and then running back and forth like he’d just seen a ghost! He was not quite two years old then and the smell followed him into the house. “Skunk!” I yelled.

    We spent the next hour bathing Ludo, but the damage had been done. He, and consequently my house, took a direct hit. It was awful for WEEKS!

    As fate would have it, I had my inspection less than a week later. As soon as I opened the door the property manager said “OH!” and I said, “Just for the record, we do not grow or even SMOKE marijuana; my dog got hit by a skunk!”

    We laughed hysterically. She said she was glad I told her because one of the main reasons the owners require inspections is to make sure the tenants aren’t growing marijuana. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Too funny about the house inspection! I’d forgotten than to some people the skunk smell is similar to marijuana smoke.
      I posted a version of this story on my personal FB page. A couple coffee-loving friends took umbrage at my relating my stinky ski clothes in the grocery store to smelling like I’d sat in a Starbucks for hours. (I don’t like coffee so never drink it but I’m not adverse to spending time with friends in coffee shops. They usually have great scones.) I pointed out to those friends that there is a chemical basis for the similarity between dissipated skunk smell and coffee, so I’m not crazy to find them similar. Later, it occurred to me that life-long coffee drinkers, like smokers, likely lose their ability to notice the smell of coffee on their clothes if they’ve spent time in a coffee shop. I sure can, long after I leave.
      I’ve put bowls of vinegar throughout the house today, hoping it helps. So far…not so much. Tomorrow will be a big laundry day. So. Much. Fun.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow! That’s an odoriferous experience.

    My experience is that a dog mixes it up with a skunk or porcupine one time. Lesson learned and it never happens again.

    Though there may be dogs out there who don’t learn well.

    I don’t know if you Facebook but this is a really funny skunk video.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No shit!
      When it comes to skunks, Conall has been a slow learner, although this last experience proves he’s finally getting the message. He was quick enough to avoid getting a direct hit, but my house was not so lucky.
      So far, I have never had a porcupine encounter with any of my dogs over the years. Hoping to keep that stellar record going.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thankfully I’ve never encountered this situation before. Wow, what a crazy kerfuffle indeed! Amazing how such a little animal can cause such a BIG stink! Now you have to put bowls of vinegar around the house? To me, that smell would be just as bad. That comes to a life long aversion to vinegar resulting from my childhood when my mom thought dousing us with it was the best treatment for a sunburn.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, be thankful you haven’t, Ari!
      I’m not sure which odor is worse, skunk or vinegar. Well, okay, skunk is worse. Now, after a couple days of vinegar in bowls around the house, when I come in after being away for a few hours BOTH smells hit me, but each is a little less intense than the day before. So I think it’s working. I’m hoping once I work up the energy to wash all the things made of fabric that absorbed the skunk smell – area rugs, dog beds, my own bedding, towels, etc., that most of the strong skunk smell will finally be gone. I’m sure I’ll catch whiffs of it for weeks.
      Vinegar for sunburn? I’m so sorry! Having never heard of that treatment, I googled it, and apparently it’s a thing; no science to prove it works, but it’s offered as something to try. No wonder you don’t like the smell!!

      Liked by 1 person

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