A warm day in February.

On Friday, I sent a screen-cap of the weather forecast to Captain, planning for the weekend ahead. We’re always so busy, and I’m just getting over a nasty head cold, so we were excited to have an open weekend with such wonderful weather. February weather in Ohio is rarely this lovely, let alone this lovely so many days in a row. Typically, if the weather gets into the 60’s during the winter in Ohio, it is rainy and gray.

I have bulbs and perennials peeping up in my garden beds, and buds are appearing on trees. Birds are already courting and defending territory in our yard. I hope their audacity is rewarded, and not punished by a very late winter arrival. The year we moved to Ohio from South Carolina, we had snow on the ground from the end of October to mid-April, so that set the tone for us. I’m still surprised and delighted when the weather is so nice, though in a small corner of my mind, I know that it probably means that Mother Nature is going to make us pay for it in March.

With everything looking perfect, we should have known that stuff would get crazy.

The Captain’s alarm went off at 4:45 on Saturday morning, because he had unintentionally set a reminder for am instead of pm. So, he was up before dawn. His first thing every morning is letting our dogs out, and on that morning, the dogs met an unexpected visitor.

At 5:00 am, he woke me up by sitting on the edge of my side of the bed, and put his hand in my face. “I think Claire got skunked.”

I smelled it immediately, but it was nothing like the skunk odor I’m used to smelling on a breeze, from far away. Ohio has a robust skunk population, and I’m very familiar with the odor. At ground-zero of skunk spray, it is an entirely different smell. It absolutely defies description, and it is viscerally, heinously powerful.

It turns out, the frequent, unseasonably warm weather is making more than just birds and bulbs start their springtime activities. The skunks are becoming active earlier than usual as well, looking for mates. And one chose our back yard.

The door to our back yard opens into our kitchen and living room, and our home is almost entirely open on the main floor. The second floor overlooks the great room, so any odors diffuse through the house at a rapid rate. The skunk must have been on or near our deck, because Claire was only inside for a matter of seconds before Captain ushered her out again, and it already smelled like the skunk had deployed its arsenal in the middle of our living room, rather than outside.

To say I have a sensitive nose is an understatement, and this almost crippled me. I wasn’t able to think straight, it was still dark outside, the kids were (thankfully) still asleep, and I had no idea what really worked to get rid of skunk spray. I was also worried about the dogs, unable to even imagine how awful it must be for them. The skunk’s defense worked, even on me. I was incapacitated.

When I was finally able to pull myself together, Google search turned up a Myth Busters article about what works on skunk stink: a concoction of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and dish soap. We had the dish soap, and a small amount of baking soda, but no hydrogen peroxide. Where could I go at 5:45 on a Saturday morning to get what we needed? I stumbled out of the house and got in the van (which had also filled with skunk smell, as it had already diffused into our garage), and drove to the grocery store while the Captain took one for the team and stayed home to be with the kids. Luckily, Kroger opened at 6:00 am.

I cleared out Kroger pharmacy’s supply of hydrogen peroxide, and stocked up on a bunch of everything else for the anti-skunk potion, throwing in a few large cans of tomato juice for good measure. The vinegar would be to use as an additive for the inevitable loads and loads of laundry.

The sun was starting to rise by the time I got home, and I got to work getting the hose out while Captain started mixing the anti-skunk potion. We had a momentary detour when, in the half-light of dawn, I made him divert from potion-mixing to come out with trash bags and rubber gloves, to retrieve what I thought was the skunk, dead in our yard. It turned out to be a deflated soccer ball, viewed through the slats of our fence, in early morning light. The skunk, it turned out, was still very much alive and hunkered down behind our deck box.

The Captain handled the initial dog-dousing outside, while I only barely survived inside the house by stuffing my nostrils with cotton balls smeared with Vick’s Vapo-Rub. My eyes burned, I was regularly gagging and nauseous, and my nose, unable to run because of the cotton balls, was draining down the back of my throat.

Y’all, I think of myself as an extremely capable person, and I’m not really afraid to take on any challenge. But this skunk annihilated me. I don’t know what I would have done without The Captain.



After the initial soaking outside, the pooches were brought in and washed. Claire was red-eyed and drooling, Cody was not quite as afflicted, and both seemed to be a bit traumatized by the experience. Today, both of them still have a bit of skunk-stank around their eyes and mouths, where we can’t use anything to try to neutralize it. So it’s just a waiting game. I need to Google what the half-life of skunk thiols are.

Once the dogs were taken care of, I quickly showered with cotton balls still stuffed up my nose, and Captain got the kiddos ready to leave. The upside of skunkpocalypse is that it was a powerful catalyst to get us out of the house and outside to enjoy the beautiful day.

We headed to the Columbus Zoo for the day. The sun was out, the kids were in high spirits (somehow, miraculously only minimally affected by the smell inside the house), and we ended up having the nicest day we’ve ever had there. We’ve been going to the zoo regularly since we moved to Columbus, but until that afternoon, the trips had been eventually complicated by cranky kiddos. I’m so happy we went.

By the time we arrived back home in the early evening, the house was still potently bad, but no longer so bad that I needed to stuff cotton in my nose. I was so worried that it would be unbearable all weekend.

By this morning, it has faded to what smells like run-of-the-mill skunk stink. I’m in the process of washing everything in the house that is made of cloth, since the odor permeated everything.

For now, the dogs are going out on leashes, in the front yard.

One thought on “A warm day in February.

  1. Fantastic story about the fall-out from a skunk attack– very interesting unfolding of events which were sadly so challenging. I feel for you! We lived in the country a couple of times with our five kids–and, of course, had a couple of nasty encounters over the years, as well. The zoo: a lovely boon for families. Nice to see the kids having such fun, too.


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