I was not sitting on the porch the night he suddenly sat down and growled. I was about three feet away from him. But there was no leash.
Tralfaz is not a growler or a gratuitous barker. When he does things like this, he means business. I followed his gaze and saw, diagonally across the lawn, fifty feet away---the white stripe.
A half-dozen sitcoms flashed before my eyes.
He barked a couple of times and rose slowly to his feet. I started to calm him while I inched over to grab his collar.
I took off after him, and thank God I'm slow off the blocks. Had I been faster, we both would have gotten it. Before I could go five steps the dog was barreling back in my direction, the skunk waddling off in another.
So the skunk was gone, but the memory (and other things) lingered on.
We immediately went into emergency procedures; I attached the dog to the leash and yelled for Mrs. Key. While she got rubber gloves and dog shampoo I started to hose the dog down.
This was much harder than it sounds. The dog is terrified of water. When he got a blessing from the priest on St. Francis's feast day, the sprinkling with holy water alarmed him terribly. Now he was getting a full, cold blast in the chest. This is a big, strong dog. I was holding the hose in one hand and the leash in the other. How well do you think it went?
When my wife returned we wrestled him down and soaped him up, then it was hosin' time again. Fun! And of course he still stank to high heaven.
The dog had to spend the night in the cellar, in his old crate, which he barely uses anymore. It is really too small for him now. The problem is the cellar is not dog-proofed or finished (there's sharp and dangerous crap everywhere) and the dog is---you guessed it!---terrified of it. To keep him down there and out of harm's way we had to stick him in the crate. Having used up all his courage chasing a nasty predator, Tralfaz was scared stoopid of being isolated and alone in the cellar. Well, tough; shoulda listened to me, sport.
Showers were taken; clothes were thrown away. The next day, while I was looking for odor-killing shampoos in the pet section of Walmart, Mrs. Key spoke to the dog groomer, who was willing to destink the boy. O frabjous day! We put an old sheet on the backseat of the car and hauled him off; he got three baths and still had a little skunk stink. But he was definitely better and able to rejoin the family upstairs.
Tralfaz is an excellent dog and I love him to death. I felt like I let him down by not training him better to heed my call. But, as the vet told my wife the next day, it's very very hard for a dog to fight those attack instincts, and despite his hugeness this fellow is not even a year old yet. Also, many friends with dogs, people who live up here in the Hudson Valley and have a lot more experience at dog rearing, report the same thing happening to their pups. So I suppose no one is really to blame. I wish I had been more alert to the presence of the skunk, yes, but while I've smelled them around I've never seen one on the property before. Also, Tralfaz has barked at deer, but he's never chased them, and he's totally ignored squirrels and rabbits, so I had no reason to think he'd go tearing after anything like that.
As a buddy of mine says, you have to forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn't know before you learned it.
Which I guess we can all do. I hope Tralfaz learned his lesson. I sure learned mine. There are a lot of skunks out there. Maybe I should hire Yosemite Sam.