Dogs and Skunks

Meet Addie. She’s an Australian Shepard. Generally, she’s very smart and wants to be the pack leader. She likes to herd kids, other dogs, deer, etc. She’s been going through behavior re-training to learn how to listen to verbal commands with an electric collar. We rarely have to actually shock her at number 3 out of 10 to get her to listen. She was doing great until tonight.

As I normally do near the end of the nightly walk, I let her off the leash on the last half-block towards home. She kept right with me and obeyed all commands. The other dog, Jake, bolted after something in the darkness, so Addie followed along at full-speed.

Jake came running back at first call. Addie didn’t. I called again. No response. Did a zap at 3. No response. Did a zap at 4. No response. I can hear her in the neighbors leaves running around. Zap at 5, no response. I work up to 7, which is two levels higher than she’s ever been zapped, no response. Five seconds later, I hear a yelp and her coming racing towards me. She bolts through the brush and runs towards my leg. It’s dark, so I can’t really see much, but I hear her running. She runs up to me, touches my hand as she’s supposed to do, and then I smell it. The automatic barn light kicks on, flooding the area with light. She’s soaked. She then starts rubbing her face on my leg and then she drops to the ground to roll around. Argh.

I remember from one of my college biochemistry courses the fun we had figuring out the composition of skunk spray. One part of the class was to figure out how to remove the smell of the thiols by figuring out reaction equations. The lab part of that one day was to actually try it. If you could successfully open, transfer, and disarm the smell, you aced the lab. This lab class was designed to test your ability to work with lethal chemicals, without actually killing yourself or others; just stinking them up a bit if you failed. I managed to pass the test, and disarm the smell. However, what’s easy on paper, took a few tries of titration and reagents in the lab. This was one step on my path to successfully completing BSL-4 certification.

The trick is to use common household materials to disarm the smell. The recipe works well, for the most part.

Addie, however, is soaked in it. She also has a dense layer of fur underneath her hair, which is also soaked in the skunk spray. It was up her nose, in her eyes, dripping in her ears. She clearly failed to heed the raised tail warning from the skunk and took a full blast to the face at point blank range. And now my pants are wet with skunk spray.

After 30 minutes of scrubbing with “the mixture”, most of the smell was gone. And finishing a warm oatmeal shampoo bath, she was fluffy and smelling better. However, a day later, and a fresh nose later, she still was strongly skunked. A second scrubbing and bath later, she’s much better. She still smells. As far as I can tell, it’s in her nose and some of the dense fur around her neck. It’s not strong, but noticeable. Time for plan B; either ask the vet what they think or bring her to a groomer to get her a deep cleaning.

Fun times. Maybe I should make Addie do the biochemistry equations.