Doggy Addendum

B.T.’s Mama (aka Dear Wife), in a comment on “Dogs Are Not Like Us” points out that there is more to the story of Shasta’s odorific discovery.  So I thought I’d now share the conclusion to that sordid tale, in which we solve the mystery of the unpleasant odor.  But be warned, dear reader: this is not a journey for the faint-of-heart.

Dear Wife ended up having to bathe Shasta – our hose down was insufficient to really clean her, and Dear Wife was working from home that day (in part to wait on the Electrician and in part because she’s significantly pregnant and has a special dispensation to do so), and could not abide with the lingering stench.  I feel for her.  My encounter with the smell was bad enough; I can only imagine what it must have been like for a pregnant woman, whose sense of smell is magically enhanced by baby-having hormones.

Now, on days when Dear Wife gets to stay at home to work, one of Shasta’s fondest activities is prancing and laying around in the backyard, enjoying the outdoorsiness of it all.  And Dear Wife, needing to do some actual work, couldn’t be a day-long doggy-playmate.  So, eventually, out and into the yard dear Shasta had to go.

Which was apparently fine, for most of the day.  Until she found it again: that wonderfully repugnant stinky spot she’d so joyfully smeared herself in before.  My poor Dear Wife had to dump buckets of water onto our poor dear puppy, to try to clean her off a bit.  Then she had to rush off to another “getting ready for baby” type class at the hospital that evening.  (I eventually made it to class, after a painfully long day at the day job.)  When we got home, it was my turn to give Shasta a bath (the stench still lingered faintly in her coat).

By then it was too late to do a decent search of the backyard – the sun had long since nestled down for the night in its cradle.  So, just before bed,  I took Shasta out for her traditional “last-chance” to do her outdoor business.  Normally we let her just go and do whatever she needs to do in the backyard.  But last night I followed her out and watched her from the deck.  After she’d had enough time prowling in the shadows where I couldn’t see her very well, I called her back for bed.

She brought a present.

I couldn’t tell what it was.  It was a black, lump of a thing, grotesquely shaped, with some unidentified bits hanging off of it.  Something told me it was related to the smell Shasta was so in love with.  Probably it was the smell of the thing.  I made Shasta drop it.  Then I got a closer look at it.

Was that a jaw bone sticking out of one side of it?

It was dark, and I didn’t have time to investigate further.  It was time for bed.  So I brought Shasta in with me, leaving the thing out on the deck for the time being.

This morning, after taking Shasta for a morning walk (we missed our customary morning jog because I overslept a little due to the late night previous, so it was a shorter walk for her today), I returned to the deck, and had a closer look in the light of day.

It was indeed a jaw bone coming out the side, for the thing was the not-fully decomposed head of a very dead squirrel.  Using plastic bags, I cleaned up the skull, tracked Shasta’s movements from the prior night, and found the headless body of the squirrel.  The thought of it still gives me shudders.  Was the filth that streaked through Shasta’s fur yesterday morning in fact bits of dead squirrel

The body of the squirrel met the same fate as the skull.  But Dear Wife, watching from the deck, noticed a concerning problem: Shasta was still delighted with the scent of the ground that had recently been the final resting place of said squirrel.  The solution, we hoped, was a little bit of Lysol spray on the spot to mask the odor.  Imagine the absurdity of that: spraying Lysol on the grass!

So, that mystery was solved, and dealt with.  But we were left with another mystery, one which may never be solved: where did the squirrel come from?  Did Shasta catch and kill it, as she always threatens to do?  Or was it only random circumstance that had it meet the end of its days in our backyard?

Dogs Are Not Like Us

Don’t get me wrong: I love dogs.  As a general rule I sing their praises, even when they chew on the furniture or pee on the carpet.  Their positive qualities are numerous and well-documented: the absolute love and devotion they feel for their two-legged companions, their sublime snugglability, their silly, guffaw-inducing antics.  Dogs want desperately to be a part of our lives, and there’s just something about them that makes us (for values of “us” meaning “dog-lovers”) want to care for them.  For instance, whenever I remember that I need to spend a few minutes of my day working out (which for now consists mostly of a few sets of push-ups from time to time), Shasta thinks it’s a game, and wants to play along – which makes actually doing any push-ups more difficult than they otherwise would be.

But every once in a while, your dog just has to go and do something that indelibly reminds you that they are not like us.

Take their sense of smell, for instance.  Dogs have a phenomenal sense of smell, far superior to that of a human being.  This is a pretty well-known fact.  But have  you ever considered that a dog reacts to smell very differently from a human?  Humans are attracted to certain smells, like the smell of fresh-baked bread or the perfume of newly-bloomed flowers in spring or the smokey scent of a barbecue or the cleansing freshness of an afternoon rain.  But we’re also repulsed by certain smells, like the decay of trash and refuse and, well, dung.  (Sorry to burst those happy thoughts you had reading about the good smells.  Today’s entry is, after all, a study in contrast.)

Dogs don’t seem to think that way about smells.  They don’t seem to judge smells.  Smells are just different from one another, not always better or worse.  And some smells they seem to think are attractive are… well… not.  Case in point: my dog Shasta.

Shasta loves to find spots of ground, in the grass or dirt, that seem to have that particular eau de terre that she finds irresistable.  Then she loves to roll in it.  This is usually fine by me, because to my undiscerning human nose, she still smells like dog when she’s done and I’ve grown mostly used to that smell.

Yesterday morning, as I was letting her in from her morning backyard romp before I left for work, I immediately noticed that she must have rolled in something unusual: Clumps of brownish dirt streaked through her fur like a bad hair color job.  I took her towel to rub her down, and as I bent to over her to clean her off, I detected something else.  An odor.  An odor that was several orders of magnitude in the wrong direction.  It didn’t smell so much like her own excrement (I’ve picked up enough of her doggie doodoos to have a pretty good idea what that smells like), but it definitely had that spikey, pungent eau de toilette stench (by which I mean she smelled like crap, not perfume).

In the immortal words of Han Solo:

What an incredible smell you’ve discovered!

So Dear Wife and I put her on her leash, marched her out into the backyard, and proceeded to hose her down.  With a hose.

The poor girl was utterly humiliated.  I felt awful doing it, but what choice did we have?  I didn’t have time to give her a proper bath (I was already dressed and ready for work, remember) and she’s humiliated when she has to get those, too.  But I couldn’t simply let her have run of the house while she smelled like a septic leak.

Speaking of which, as I write this, of course, it is still the day of the incident.  Which means that when I get home yesterday from work (yesterday being the day I am writing this) my first mission will be to see if I can rediscover whatever smell it was Shasta discovered, and deal with it promptly so she cannot roll in it again.

And that, my friends, is your weekly dose of TMI.