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Zack gets smelly welcome to new home

Jeff Ackerman, Publisher
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Zack got skunked Saturday.

He’d been in his rattlesnake defense mode at the time and never saw it coming. That’s to be expected from an 11-year-old dog that is approaching 80 in “dog years.”

Zack is new to the neighborhood and still has lots to learn about its dangers. It’s a new development area and the critters who live there are perhaps making a gallant Last Stand. They seem to be tired of being shoved further and further toward the river and have made it known to Zack that they aren’t leaving without a fight.



And try as he might to live harmoniously with the deer, rattlesnakes and skunks who inhabit his new “hood,” Zack is too old to change his Fundamental Principle: Anyone unknown to me, or my family, who enters my yard unannounced must be prepared to die.

Zack hasn’t yet realized that his teeth are worn out by years of chewing rocks, or that his movements can no longer be described as “stealth-like.” So, unannounced visitors must at least be prepared to be gummed and licked until they’re good and wet.




Perhaps the skunk sensed that early Saturday morning when it decided to introduce Zack to a little stinky juice. If I know Zack, he was out cold on his bedding near the rear door. His foam mattress is more comfortable than my bed and Zack can sleep through almost anything except, obviously, skunk juice.

I don’t know the details of the 3 a.m. encounter. By the time I entered the spray … I mean fray … the damage had pretty much been done. I saw the skunk exiting the yard under the back fence and saw Zack trying to stick his nose under his mattress. Seconds later, when the smell entered my new home through double-pane windows, I was trying to stick my nose under my own mattress.

Skunk spray is a sulfur compound called N-bulymercaptan. It is reportedly ejected in a fanlike pattern from two small openings at the rear of the skunk, where you’d expect something that foul to be ejected from. Skunks hold enough of the stuff for five or six full-powered sprays, according to a skunk manual that I found. From the odor that lasted the rest of the week, I’d guess it was this particular skunk’s first full round and that he’ll only get better with practice.

A skunk’s range is typically 15 feet, which is far better than the average professional basketball player’s. Skunks don’t like to spray unless they absolutely have to, which might mean there were events leading up to the 3 a.m. shooting that I’m not aware of. Perhaps Zack started the fight, mistaking the skunk for a cat, or for something that he could easily out-muscle, even at his age.

It’s safe to say that Zack had never heard of N-bulymercaptan until it landed on his face.

When something like that happens at 3 a.m. on Saturday morning, your first inclination is go back to sleep. As bad as I felt for Zack, nothing I was going to do for him would make him smell better before 8 or 9 a.m. So that’s what I tried to do.

But my eyes were watering and I woke up my wife, who can sleep through train whistles, explosions and, apparently, skunk juice.

“A skunk got Zack,” I told her, covering my nose with my pillow. “I saw it crawl under the fence.”

“Go get some tomato juice and rub it on Zack,” she said, before snoozing off again.

I thought that was odd, but I’ve learned to never question my wife’s advice, so I trotted down the hall for some tomato juice.

“How about chocolate milk?” I asked her a couple of minutes later, discovering that we were out of tomato juice.

“No, dummy,” she responded, getting a little testy with me. “Go to the gas station.”

She didn’t realize it was 3 a.m. and that there are things at gas stations at 3 a.m. far worse than a skunk.

Turns out she was right about the tomato juice. She’s always right. The skunk manual I read says you should, “wash your pet with tomato juice.” Unbelievable how she knew that. She also knew about the vinegar, in the event your dumb husband can’t find the tomato juice.

So Zack got washed in vinegar, and he smells better, which is a relative term for him. Let’s just say he smells like Zack again.

Unfortunately, there is reason to believe we have more serious skunk problems. There’s a chance the skunk came from under my new house and that he (or she) may have a skunk litter, or whatever they call a collection of skunks. The manual says they like to “den” under homes and that it could be August before the babies are old enough to come out and start spraying the countryside with N-bulymercaptan.

My only hope is that they eat rattlesnakes.

Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union. His column appears on Tuesdays. Contact him at 477-4299,


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