THE CUTEST, SCARIEST THING YOU EVER DID SEE
by Todd Hartley
My son and I got to see a family of skunks while walking along the Roaring Fork River the other day. There was a mother and four little ones about the size of kittens, and they were marching in a line through the underbrush with their tails sticking straight up in the air. It would have been the cutest thing ever, except that we had our two dogs with us, and our dogs love to chase little critters.
As you might expect, I was terrified. I screamed for the dogs to come to me, but they rarely listen and once again failed to do so, and both made a beeline for the skunks, seemingly intent on giving chase.
Thankfully, something about the way the skunks smelled and the fact that they didn’t run away made my dogs uncertain, and they didn’t go charging headlong into disaster. They kept their distance, and when one of the junior skunks charged at them, emboldened by the power of his mighty stench, my dogs fled the scene.
The air was thick with skunk smell, so at least one of the critters must have sprayed, but I was pretty sure my dogs hadn’t been hit. It didn’t seem as though they’d gotten close enough. However, after we’d resumed the trail and hiked a bit and the smell didn’t go away, it became clear that both dogs had suffered glancing blows.
I washed them with a supposedly anti-skunk solution that worked a little, and though they made things kind of stinky around the house for a couple of days, my dogs got off easy. Things could have been infinitely worse, like when Windy got sprayed.
Windy was the big, shaggy Newfoundland my family had as a pet when I was a kid growing up in Connecticut. She was a great dog and perfect companion for four young children, but she liked her critters, too.
Windy loved to splash through the brook in our backyard and chase frogs. Every so often she’d actually catch one, and then she’d lie down on the lawn, drop the frog between her paws and wait for it to jump so she could chase it again. If the frog didn’t jump, she’d bat at it until it did, and eventually we’d wind up with a dead frog on our lawn.
Anyway, Windy had a lot of fur. When she got sprayed by a skunk it got deep into the shag, and she reeked. Luckily, Windy had decided as a puppy that our kitchen floor was too slippery for her, so she slept in the garage and never came inside, sparing our house from the smell.
But Windy still stank after multiple baths, and something had to be done. So my dad packed her in the station wagon, opened all the windows and drove Windy off to the pet groomer to have her sullied locks shorn.
They returned an hour or so later, and my mother, siblings and I all came out to the garage to see Windy’s haircut. My dad threw open the back door of the station wagon to reveal what looked like a black Labrador retriever with an extremely short buzz cut. Windy looked up and saw us, and if a black dog could turn beet red in embarrassment, she would have. The poor thing was mortified. She jumped out of the car and bolted for the woods, and it was a couple of days before she came home.
But back to skunks: One of my personal favorite skunk stories doesn’t even involve a dog. It involves a girl — call her Gwen — who got sprayed after inadvertently surprising a skunk near her house. I knew Gwen because she was friends with a girl I went out with in high school, though neither girl went to the same school as I did.
My girlfriend and I were going to a party with some of my friends, and we agreed to give Gwen, —whom I’d never met before — a ride. We swung by her house, Gwen came out to the car, and she was drop-dead gorgeous. But Lord almighty did she stink. She’d been sprayed earlier that day, and even after four or five showers, she was skunky.
She was brave, through, and she wanted to go out with us, so we rolled down the windows and headed to the party, where we got to watch a bunch of drunk idiots try to hit on a pretty girl without coming close enough to smell her.
Todd Hartley’s friends weren’t actually idiots, for the most part.