Dances with skunks.

Yesterday evening was a July jewel.  After dinner, we stepped outside to set sprinklers – our Buddha bellies stretched tight with tasty vittles.   We sauntered about, strategically placing sprinklers and hoses.  Overnight watering of our thirsty property is a constant summer regimen.  The Montana sun is high and dry during July, and moisture is fleeting.  Green grass can be difficult to maintain, but the thought of being surrounded by a dry, brittle and sun-baked lawn makes me shudder.  The day’s heat was finally dissipating, and early evening carried the crisp promise of excellent sleeping temperatures.  

The dogs twisted around our knees, a tumultuous blur of fur — the two younger ones prancing about and carrying green tennis balls, each taunting the other.  Old Bessie, who will turn 15 in a few days, found a shady spot and plopped down in the grass, content to enjoy the slight breeze.  Unable to hear anything shy of a sonic boom, she is nonetheless a happy old gal who waddles about on arthritic joints, soundly spoiled and wonderfully content. 

The irrigation in place and pumps operational, the rhythmic thwik thwik thwik of the circling sprinklers floated on the shoulders of the evening, a comforting sound that always brings to mind soft summer evenings now passed.  Arcs of water looped up from the hoses and down to the grass, and simply watching the water and mist fall through the air seemed to cool the evening.   The end of the day was near, the heat had broken, the pace had slowed.

We gathered the dogs and herded them across the dirt road and down to the creek for some lazy exploration.  The water flows sweetly in late July, falling over boulders and stumps and dancing in the shallows.  A small feeder rivulet empties into the main creek here and is Bessie’s favored spot for dallying.  The creek runs over a tight gravel bed which is easy on her ancient joints.  She eases into a deeper pool, the water cooling her tummy, and slowly pursues water skimmers scooting on the surface.

Bessie's happy place.

Meanwhile, the goofy teenage lab charges into the main current, clomping over river rocks with uncontrolled exuberance and bites at the splashing current.  Up to her shoulders in the flow, she turns expectantly and waits for us to toss rocks into the creek just beyond her reach.  Chasing the kerplunks, she eventually settles into the current, using it as a treadmill.  She will swim, going nowhere, until her lips chatter from river chill.

The little black lab is the one I have to watch.  A snooper with a chase-and-play mentality, she will quietly follow a scent until she’s out of sight.  Because we live in a complete ecosystem with wolves, mountain lions and other dog-eating carnivores, I prefer to know where the labs are at all times.  

The water skimmers skimmed, the treadmill continued to roll, and the snooper simply snooped.  We chatted about trivial things, explored the rocky shoreline and kept tabs on the dogs.  We searched for flat and smooth pebbles to zing side armed across the creek, seeing how many skips we could get from each toss.  We commented on the feathers and goose poop collected among the river rocks. 

I glanced up for the snooping dog, and spied her up on the elevated grassy bank, hopping excitedly near a bush.  My view of her was slightly obscured.

“She’s playing with something, “I commented.

Standing on my toes for a better look I spotted a bushy black and white tail sashaying from side to side, clearly brushing the snooper’s face.  She hopped toward the tail and then backed away, repeating this several times.

Oh, no. 

The snooper was dancing with Pepe Le Pew. 

We called and hollered, figuring the skunk had probably already lifted its tail and that we’d have to deal with one pongy dog.  We’d learned, from years of skunk-dog encounters that a beer and tomato juice bath simply produces a beer and tomato smelling dog.  We’d purchased commercial de-skunking products.  No good.  The best solution is the secret potion we found via Googling…a mixture of dish soap, hydrogen peroxide and baking soda.  A scrubbing with this concoction is nothing short of miraculous.

Surprisingly, the snooper came when called…bounding through the grass with a smile on her face and landing at our feet, tail waging and looking at us expectantly.  Skunk tang floated on the breeze. 

 Knowing we had to high-tail it out of there before the other two dogs discovered the skunk, we cajoled the mutts back up to the road and to the house.  Once home, I bent to give the snooper a sniff test.  Surprisingly, she was clean.  The skunk scent was on the breeze and not on the dog. 

Somehow, the snooper had evaded the spray. 

Dumb luck.  And I’ll take it anytime.

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