Loving my dog in spite of the smell



I strained to loosen sleep’s grip on my brain. I’m not a morning person like I used to be.

“Kathy, you need to get up,” I heard The Mister saying. At the same time, my mind began to register something. A smell. Was it—? Oh no!

“The dog got hit by a skunk,” he continued.

He said he was pretty sure it she got it full on—he had looked outside and seen her rolling around on the deck, desperately rubbing her face on the wooden surface. I groaned. The sharp acrid smell of something like garlic on steroids told me he was not mistaken.

I am a princess in the morning, I admit. The Mister gets up before I do and stokes the stoves and starts coffee at oh-dark-thirty, and then feeds the dog and lets her into the backyard to relieve herself.

Only that morning, she didn’t relieve herself.   Instead, she tangled with a skunk which might be taking up winter residence behind the woodpile attached to the back of the ell, and it relieved itself.

I stumbled down the stairs, blinking as my eyes to adjust to the kitchen light, stopping to pour myself a cup of coffee before helping find supplies. The Mister checked online for the right formula to use for de-skunking a dog. I crossed my fingers that we still had the right stuff—it has been a long time since we’ve needed it, and I hoped we had not gotten so complacent as to let our supplies dwindle.

I found the requisite quart of hydrogen peroxide in the bathroom closet. Whew. Unopened, perfect. I didn’t have any bulk baking soda boxes anymore, but The Mister said he needed just a quarter cup of it, and measured some out from my baking supplies.  I found a bucket, and he mixed it all up with a dab of blue Dawn dish soap and began readying the bathroom. I fumbled around in the utility cabinet for old towels and brought him a pile of them.

Meanwhile, Honey was throwing herself against the metal storm door, barking beseechingly, desperate to be let in and get away from that ghastly smell.   When we had the bathroom all set up for her, I opened the storm door just wide enough to slide my hand out and grab her collar. The smell just about brought tears to my eyes as I drew her inside, through the back entry and around the corner to the bathroom.  I threw her in and closed the door.

She hates baths, and we hate bathing her. The Mister assured me he would call for help if he needed any, and I was grateful to him for being willing to do the dirty work even though it was going to make him late.

I didn’t hear any evidence of horrific struggle, so I went about my own business, packing The Mister’s lunch and readying the washing machine for a load of stinky towels and clothing. I also dug the baby gate out of the utility room closet and barricaded the door to the study. No way was she coming in there with me and my new carpet that day. I knew she’d give me that sorrowful penitent look, but nuh-uh.

I knew she wouldn’t be truly contrite, either.  And sure enough, an hour later when she and I headed outdoors for farm chores and a morning walk in the woods, she acted as if she could not wait to go back out and find that skunk and teach him a lesson.

“Well, if she does indeed have any brain cells and do any actual thinking,” I said to my sister on the phone later that day when she wondered why the dog would get into a skunk more than once, “I think she feels like she’s being pre-emptive when she goes after a skunk. You know, get him before he gets her.”

“Huh,” my sister said. I know. It didn’t make sense to me either.

The skunk had gotten her full in the face, and The Mister had taken it easy with the peroxide mixture so as to avoid getting any in her eyes.

“So does she still have it on her?” my sister inquired.

I wasn’t sure. I really smelled skunk everywhere, and nowhere.   I knew that the fact that I couldn’t discern the smell anymore could not possibly be a good thing.

When the furniture guy showed up with my brand new couch three days later, he assured me that my house did indeed still smell like skunk. Everywhere.


Loving a dog often makes me understand the meaning of grace. She doesn’t deserve it, but she gets loved nonetheless. And after a while, she even gets let into the study to lie at my feet while I write.

What the heck. I can’t smell it anymore anyway.


Kathy Bernier

About Kathy Bernier

Backyard farming since 2007--raising our own, saving up for hard times, rejecting consumerism, and hugging the land.