When Cali Got "Skunked"

Here she is: recovering from a full-face skunk hit. At the time of this photo the worst was over for Cali the Black Laborador —- in spite of the somewhat mournful look you see in her portrait --- and she would soon be able to sleep in the cabin. The skunk attack had come in a hedgerow, while we were on a mid-day Sharptail hunt. Cali, while coursing for a scent of birds, had disappeared into a windfall, from which her startled yelp, mournful cries, and refusal to come out when called, told us something was wrong. Sensing the worst, our Guide moved upwind and walked in to coax her out. A moment later, his vocal warning and the take-your-breath-away cloud simultaneously reached us at the field's edge. Pepe Le Pu had struck. Heading back home in the open back of a pickup, it was obvious Cali could not see much and was a very unhappy Labrador. We fretted over the possibility of the skunk being rabid (a mid-day encounter can be a tip off).Back at camp, our concern must have been visible, as the owner approached to see if we needed help. "Dog got sprayed by a skunk," I said. "Do you have any baking soda?" "Yes," he said. "Bottle of hydrogen peroxide?" "Sure do." "Can you get them and a bucket", I said?

No time to search the Internet for a recipe: the need for action shown on the faces of all who looked on.

I filled the pail with water, poured in a third of the baking soda, and stirred it in with a stick. Then I mixed in a third of the small bottle of hydrogen peroxide. (Not wanting to turn her into a 'Paris Labrador', or hurt her eyes and nose any further, I made sure the first bucket-full was dilute.) Over Cali's head and front quarters it went. In a matter of minutes the smell subsided dramatically. Then came anther pail of the mixture, carefully poured over her body from head to tail, and followed by a game of fetch-the-stick in the river.

After she shook off from her first swim, we carefully massaged a more concentrated batch into her front coat. It was obvious that she appreciated it, sensing that life was getting better by the minute. We made her wait a few minutes more before the final game of stick fetch. A few hours of drying off in the kennel finished the job.

There's no better proof of this treatment than an effective emergency response. The brew is cheap, made from common ingredients, and almost magical in effect. In the stink of the moment, we didn't bother with the usual drop of dish soap added; and we didn't end up smelling like skunks ourselves, which was a great relief.

Notable paradox: the mixture was completely worthless on Cali's all-plastic field collar. No amount of soaking and scrubbing in our mixture would remove the smell from it. Apparently, Pepe's active ingredient can permeate polymer pores, where the nasty stuff is protected from breakdown by even the activated peroxide. One more score for natural materials.

That night there was some joking about having to paint a white stripe down Cali's back to warn others off, had we not been able to get hold of the baking soda and peroxide. The moral of the story: keep the ingredients on hand if your dog is in skunk territory. And forget the tomato juice even if you have an Italian Lab.