Skunked again – literally


Perhaps you’ve seen the Seinfeld episode of the horrible smell that just wouldn’t go away – the smell that no amount of washing could remove. I now have some idea what inspired that show – a skunk.

For it was a skunk that I encountered early on a recent morning; and the memory lingers still many days later. It all began with a 3:15 a.m. back yard visit by the family dog, who aggressively encountered the little striped one, not far from the back door.

Once thoroughly sprayed with that unspeakably horrible substance, the dog retreated back through the door; through the house, and under a bed. An invisible fog with the smell of burning tires quickly followed; penetrating everything; the bedding; the carpeting; the clothing; and apparently me.

The dog got three baths — to little apparent effect. I took a long hot shower and changed into clean clothes –to similarly little effect.

There was no need to tell my co-workers. One approached my office/broadcast studio door, stopped dead in her tracks, and with a look of horror uttered just “skunk!”

She kept her distance, but it was too late.

An hour later she was in her personal car, picking up her husband who greeted her with the declaration “something smells like a skunk.” That vile smell was spreading from person to person like the plague.

I was invited to work from home.

In fact, I took an additional day’s leave to try to de-skunk the house — and ponder how I could be so unlucky. But a call to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources gave me some comfort that at least I wasn’t alone encountering skunks.

Area Wildlife Manager Rich Staffon, in Cloquet, says the skunk population does appear to be peaking, although there’s no good survey to document that.

Anecdotally, Staffon agrees with me there’s been a lot of skunk bodies on the roads this past summer. He shared the story of his brother, who’s recent experience was very similar to mine, starting with a dog in mad retreat from a fresh skunking and ending inside the house.

Staffon says skunks weren’t really native to the pine forests that used to cover northeast Minnesota. They’re more of a prairie, open-forest kind of critter, but they probably followed people up here.

Skunks like to live among people, under our buildings and in our wood piles. They’re happy to eat our garbage and the other critters we attract like mice.

Staffon says the DNR has been getting a lot of skunk calls these past few months, almost universally with the question “how do you get rid of the smell?”

There are many answers on the web; some likely better than others. Most say tomato juice is fairly useless. There are some commercial products like skunk smell removing shampoo for dogs.

Then there’s the one concoction you can stir up at home which includes Dawn dish washing liquid; baking soda; and hydrogen peroxide. Mixed in the correct quantities, it makes a paste that can be rubbed into the affected dog’s fur.

But it comes with a couple of caveats. It just might bleach your dog another color. It can burn the dog’s eyes. And people who’ve tired it warn not to try to bottle the stuff, because it just might explode.

I gotta tell you, when it comes to that skunk stink, you just might be willing to accept an occasional explosion to get rid of it.