Spring is a time of great anticipation. People look forward to seeing the snow melt away, the birds return to their perches, the trees burst with leaves, and the grass poke its way up through the ground. And spring also signals the resurrection of any number of animals from their winter slumber.
As you know from what I have written previously, my dog has a delightful demeanor to complement his incredible cuteness. However, when spring comes, and all manner of wildlife re-enter their natural habitat, Reilly becomes a crazed canine eager to protect his turf. When he is patrolling our backyard compound, he surveys every inch of land looking for any hint of intruders. He does not permit any creature to encroach on our property. It’s as if by osmosis that he’s picked up the mantra that I, as boy of seven or eight, would utter to unwanted guests (mostly bullies) who dared to tread on my lawn: “Hey, get off my property!”
It really is something to watch. Reilly will eagerly wait at our back door. He might even wimper a bit. One of us will open the door and he charges out into the backyard. For the most part he is chasing ghost because there is nothing out there. But on some occasions, Reilly the hunter sees a squirrel and chases it up a tree or, when a neighbourhood cat cruises along our fence, he throws his body furiously against the fence and barks his fierce command, “Get off my property!” Of course both efforts are futile. The squirrels always outrun Reilly so he just pees in protest at the bottom of the tree they ran up. And the cats are just too smart to let him catch them. The one or two times Reilly has cornered a cat, a quick swipe to the nose has been enough to send him scrambling.
There is one backyard critter that Reilly has gotten up close and personal with on two spring nights in back to back years: the urban skunk. The urban skunk is an independent animal that has adapted to city life by turning the narrow gap underneath people’s decks into their homes and making neighbourhood garbage into their gourmet meals.
GAME 1: SKUNK 1, REILLY 0
When Reilly was two (just a pup don’t you know) he found out about skunks the hard way. I had just returned from an evening function at work and decided to put the garbage to the curb the night before instead of waiting until the morning (mistake #1). Reilly usually helps me take the garbage out so I opened the door and he joined me (not a mistake, he usually stays out of trouble when he joins me for this chore). While I was dragging the trash to the curb, he started crying at the gate going into the backyard. I hate crying so I opened the gate and let him tear off into the yard (mistake #2). I made a couple of trips back and fourth, finishing up the weekly garbage chore, when Reilly ran into the front yard and starting rubbing his face in the grass, looking up at me and blinking desperately. I went to help him (mistake #3) and caught a wiff of the most putrid smell you could imagine. Most people know the smell of skunk from a distance but anyone who has smelt it up close knows why few predators want to sink their teeth into the rodent. The odour is so strong it permeates every pore of your body and might leave your nostrils in a few hours if you’re lucky or in a few days if you’re not so lucky.
I knew I had to act fast if I hoped to help the little dog free himself of the stench so I ran him into the house (mistake #4) and down to the laundry tub. I had a container of anti-skunk shampoo (I must have anticipated this event) and started scrubbing. It didn’t really work. By this time I stunk, Reilly stunk, and my whole house stunk because I had carried the puppy into the house. Seeing that my efforts were ineffective, I ran upstairs, threw the dog into the backyard – desperately hoping that the odourous culprit wasn’t waiting to strike again – and made my way to the grocery store and bought a bunch of tomato juice.
Upon my return I dumped the juice on the dog and left it to dry (just like the internet told me to). It still reeked. We couldn’t leave the dog outside for the night so we brought him in and took him to our spare bedroom. Meanwhile, the skunk, probably a little pissed that his garbage night rounds were disrupted by my dog, pranced up and down our street and let random malicious spurts of disgusting odour off as he made his way along. Of course the windows were open at this point (mistake #5) and the crippling stench was now penetrating every corner of our house. To make matters worse, the poor dog had taken it face first: the skunk sprayed him when he had his mouth open so every time he burped he let out a fresh blast of the awful perfume.
It was a long night and we never really did get rid of the smell. I had to take the next day off work to do battle with the stench. I aired the house out, put some weird internet concoction on the dog, and prayed for relief from the smell. The scent never really left but it did fade. Even Reilly started to smell a little less gross as the days and weeks rolled on. However, for at least six months after the skunk attack, if Reilly was out in the rain, he would come back in the house stinking like he was just sprayed.
If our backyard is Reilly’s kingdom, the skunk showed us who reigned supreme that night. In our neighbourhood, the skunks rule the night – especially garbage night; a message that the canine population better honour – or else!
See how Reilly faired in his next encounter with a skunk in the next post.