Skunks, Part 2: North Country Skunks

100_1268A skunked dog bath recipe that really works:

Two pints of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide
One-fourth cup of baking soda
One tablespoon of liquid dish washing detergent
One pair of sturdy rubber gloves
One gallon of water

Directions: put on the rubber gloves and mix together in the plastic bucket the hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and dish detergent. Using this foamy solution, lather the dog from nose to tail with a liberal and energetic washing. Let stand for five or six minutes, then rinse the dog with the gallon of water.

North Country Skunks

Sasha loves to catch skunks.

All of my bird dogs have caught at least one skunk. For most of them, one was enough. More than enough.

Susie, Molly, Herco, Jessie, Annie – they all tangled with a single skunk and decided it was a pleasure they could forego. Pete, an English springer spaniel of great hunting and retrieving ability but no mental giant, caught and killed three of them before his dim bulb of a brain established the cause-and-effect connection between the scent of skunk in the wild and the resultant three days of swollen-eyed blindness, vomiting, and discharge of gallons of dog-snot from nose and mouth.

Sasha, a French spaniel whose versatile breed background must include a generous helping of genes from fur-hunting dogs, loves the pursuit of skunks and has caught four so far.

She has somehow avoided the super-saturation spraying that can be a life-changing experience for a bird dog and a powerful motivation to avoid certain unacceptable chase-and-catch behaviors, sort of a condensed twelve-step program with chemical enhancement.

The moderate doses of skunk spray that Sasha has received to date seem to annoy her for less than an hour, and the lingering odor she regards as an eau de chien du chasseur that is the envy of her kennel companions. She is indifferent to restorative measures; I would not say she enjoys a skunk scent-killer bath on a cold fall afternoon, but she does not seem to mind it that much either.

Twice, her point-leap-and-grab skunk catching technique has gotten me sprayed worse than her, which she may regard as a pretty good joke. To quote a wildlife department web page of information on the common striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis):

“A direct hit in the face causes painful but temporary blindness and severe inflammation of the eyes, nose, and mouth. Choking, coughing, some degree of nausea, and possible fainting also may result.”

Yes, indeed.

My latest Sasha-induced skunking resulted in the disposal of a fairly new pair of brush-front pants, a tattered and holed shooting vest, good leather gloves, and a battered pair of hunting boots that probably needed replaced anyway. I was encouraged to sleep in a separate room, in an old sleeping bag, for several nights. For the next two years I could locate my 16 gauge double gun in a dark room by scent alone, and to this day no one ever asks to borrow my orange crusher hunting hat or my whistle lanyard.

On two occasions traumatic misadventures held promise of ending Sasha’s fur-hunting desires. Years ago, on a late summer evening walk, she dropped into the slouching point that tells me she is on fur instead of feathers, but when she broke point and began barking the object of her attention proved to be a badger rather than a skunk.

A merry time ensued as Sasha chased the badger for a while and I chased Sasha. Then the badger turned and chased me as Sasha tagged along nipping and dancing. This angered the badger, which changed tactics and chased Sasha with great snarling and teeth-snapping. I grabbed a stick, ran down the badger (badgers are not especially fast runners, I learned, but they have great stamina and are aggressively persistent), and gave it a solid whack to discourage it from biting my dog. That worked well, as the badger immediately ceased trying to bite Sasha and put all its energy and focus into its attempts to bite me.

Eventually, this cops-and-robbers comedy routine reached the badger’s residence at the edge of the woods, and after throwing himself around on the ground like a three-year-old child having a temper tantrum, he retreated into his den and begged me and/or Sasha to reach in and try to grab him. We declined the invitation. I mistakenly believed this harrowing experience would break Sasha of hunting fur, but in retrospect I realized she had had a wonderfully exciting time and was thus encouraged to engage in future flying-fur escapades.

That ill-directed enthusiasm led to her tussle last fall with a porcupine in the Nemadji State Forest near Duluth, Minnesota. It was a grim afternoon for her as I used a pliers to pull a couple dozen quills from her face, mouth, tongue and forelegs. Broken-off quill tips, some as long as two inches, worked their way out through her hide over the next two months.

I hope she has learned a lesson. Perhaps the scent of “fur” will now set off alarm whistles and red lights in her head, and she will back away from all encounters with porcupines, badgers, raccoons, and – most importantly – skunks. But I am not optimistic.

Consequently, I keep a three-gallon plastic bucket of skunk-bath ingredients in the box of my pickup. This recipe, taken from a web site of the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA), really works, and I offer it here for those unfortunate bird hunters whose dogs have an affinity for skunks.

Two pints of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide
One-fourth cup of baking soda
One tablespoon of liquid dish washing detergent
One pair of sturdy rubber gloves
One gallon of water

Directions: put on the rubber gloves and mix together in the plastic bucket the hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and dish detergent. Using this foamy solution, lather the dog from nose to tail with a liberal and energetic washing. Let stand for five or six minutes, then rinse the dog with the gallon of water.

Note: Go to the store immediately after the end of the day’s hunt and buy two batches-worth of these ingredients. One batch will be used to wash the dog a second time a day or two after the skunking. The other batch goes into the plastic bucket in your truck, because if you do not have the kit handy your dog will know it and will catch another skunk at the first opportunity.

_____________________________________________

If you enjoy stories about bird dogs and bird hunting, you may enjoy reading my book: Hunting Birds – The Lives and Legends of the Pine County Rod, Gun, Dog and Social Club.

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About Jerry Johnson

Curmudgeon. Bird hunter and dog trainer; indifferent wing shot. Retired journalist and college public relations director. Novelist and short story writer. Freeholder: 50-acre farm with 130-year-old log house. Husband, father, grandfather. Retired teacher, coach, mentor. Vicious editor. Blogger.
This entry was posted in Bird Dogs, Bird hunting, Hunting, Hunting Humor, Wildlife and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Skunks, Part 2: North Country Skunks

  1. Jessie says:

    Yup, I’m not sure how the dogs know when the “sunk kit” isn’t in the truck but they seem to. I can report that when lacking a “skunk kit” like you described, some medicated dog shampoo out of the vet kit, and a handful of crushed up tums will work in a pinch. Not quite as effective, and the dog smelled a bit of berries, but it got us back to town for more hydrogen peroxide! 🙂

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