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Beware of critters that scrabble in the night

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I was wondering what this column would be about. I got my answer at 1 a.m. Saturday.

The number glowed on the digital read out of the bedside clock. There was no missing the noise downstairs. Ollie was howling and there was a lot of scrabbling going on, his nails making sharp scrapping noises against the kitchen tile floor. I had an image of him glaring out the porch door, ready to pounce of whatever critter had dared walk there.

At least that’s what I found earlier in the week when awoken by similar howls. I turned on the porch light to find a possum staring at us. He looked dazed, frozen in position and uncertain of the howling coon hound on the other side of the glass door. I waited for the possum to get his bearings. He sauntered off using the stairs like any good domesticated marsupial should.

Then after putting on the leash, I opened the door and walked into the cool night air with Ollie. He was on it instantly, nose to the porch floorboards. He followed the scent downstairs and out to the fence. There was no sign of the possum. He’d vanished into the night. The air was invigorating and I walked Ollie around the house, a ritual that is followed by a stop at the pen for a pee and his voluntary return to his crate.

I thought it would be no different early Saturday, but by the time I flicked on the porch light our visitor had departed. That didn’t deter Ollie. He was revved up. I slipped on the leash and opened the door. There was no sniffing this time. He jumped off the porch straining at the leash. I gave him some space and he headed for the fence. I was sure there was a cat there somewhere in the shadows.

Ollie pays no heed to squirrels, rabbits or, as I now know opossums. But if he spots a cat, raccoon or deer you’d better dig in your heels because he can pull you off your feet.

I doubt a deer had cut through the yard, so I suspected a cat and hoped it wasn’t a raccoon. After all, he’s a coonhound and if that was the critter, I doubt he would have calmed down for the rest of the night.

There was no rustling from the bushes bordering the fence. The air was still; a sliver of a moon shone brightly. I scanned the yard. Nothing moved.

Ollie was miffed. He put his nose to the ground leading me to the back of the house. Nothing was there.

We stopped. Standing still. I was ready to go back to bed. But then Ollie wanted to check the bushes on the side of the house. I gave him some leash. It was a mistake. He didn’t get far before there was a lot of scrabbling and an unmistakable hiss. This wasn’t a cat. Ollie made a hasty retreat, frantically shaking his head. The odor was overpowering it engulfed us. Ollie fell to the ground, running his muzzle against the grass, followed by rolling on the lawn again and again.

Fortunately, the skunk missed me, but Ollie was a direct hit.

This is not what you want to deal with at one in the morning. I couldn’t bring him back inside and if I left him in his pen in five minutes he’d be howling to get in. Somehow I had to deal with it.

Of course, that’s what Google is for.

I put Ollie in his pen and started my search. I soon found a how to video along with some explicit directions on what and what not to do. My first directive was to get out of my clothes and get into something I didn’t care about. Next, I was to mix a concoction of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and detergent followed by the repeated warning not to enclose this mixture as it could explode. As an alternative to hydrogen peroxide, vinegar was suggested. There was a brief description of the chemical process and a longer narrative with some convincing video like red stained furniture dispelling tomato juice as a remedy. Latex gloves were on the list. I found an old towel.

Ollie didn’t know what to make of the situation. He was apprehensive with a “can’t you help me” look. He was ready to come in and taken back when I tied him to the porch railing and went back in to mix up the de-stinking brew.

It was now 1:30 and Carol appeared in her nighty, blinking to open her eyes. She had a good idea what had happened from the odor that was already starting to permeate the house. She got the gate to close off the kitchen – the gate we still have from when the grandchildren were toddlers and we wanted to keep them out of the kitchen. Now we have another child.

It was time to act.

Ollie eyed the fizzing mixture and started quivering. I soaked the towel and applied it starting at his head, being careful to avoid his eyes. Soon his forelegs, chest and back were coated with the bubbling solution. I would have used the hose if I hadn’t shut off the outside water. I followed up with a bucket of warm water.

Ollie shook. We were both soaked.

I brought him to the lawn, figuring he’d want to roll again. But no, his hunting instincts kicked in. His nose went to the ground.

One skunk encounter was enough. I gave a yank on the leash and led him inside the kitchen. He went straight for his food bowl. Carol dropped in a handful of kibble. He was wide-awake. We turned off the light. He stopped at the gate as we headed back to bed.

The smell wasn’t all that bad, but the online video had an answer for that, too.

Apparently, like white noise, you tune that out after a time. It’s my hope that Ollie has learned his lesson, but then this dog is full of surprises.

The scent of this one will be with us for quite a while. The kitchen stinks.

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richard corrente

Dear John,

On the one hand kudo's to Ollie. He has you WELL trained. On the other hand, I won't be standing in front of your house singing Christmas Carols this year. I'm sure you will forgive me. A skunk targeting a politician is not something you want to be reporting in The Warwick Beacon, especially if Ollie tries to save me.

Merry Christmas to you, Carol, Ollie and the rest of your family.

Rick Corrente

Tuesday, December 4