In response to the WordPress daily one-word prompt: Scent
My husband always tells me I have a strong sense of smell. I guess maybe I do. Once many years ago, our family started hearing the pitter-patter of little squirrel feet up in our chimney. Our fireplace is in our den and we could hear banging noises in the chimney flue. I swear it sounded like a squirrel with a hammer. Then we started hearing it running up in the attic as it scurried from one end of the house to the other. It’s amazing how loud a little squirrel can be! We decided we better start researching the best way of evicting squirrels from attics and as we did, we came across horror stories about how damaging squirrels can be to your house, how they chew wires, start house fires, etc. We hurriedly went to the local rental feed store and rented one of the humane squirrel cage traps.
To make a long story short, within an hour of placing the cage trap up in our attic, we caught two adolescent appearing squirrels. There was no mother squirrel in sight. The young squirrels appeared to be in very good shape health wise. We offered them water and some food. We took the young squirrels to a local park and released them.
These pictures aren’t pictures of “our” squirrels, but I thought they were cute anyway.
Upon returning, we placed the cage back up in the attic hopefully to catch the mother who we thought was coming and going with food and just happened to be out at the moment. But by this point, I had started detecting a bad smell in our den. For two weeks, I smelled this detesting smell that kept getting worse. No one else in my family could smell it. I repeatedly asked my husband and two sons if they smelled anything and every time their answer was no. I couldn’t believe it. Day by day the odor got worse and there was no mistaking that it was the smell of decomposing animal flesh. Our attic is not easy to access and at first inspection, we found no mother squirrel up there when we searched. But after two weeks, when the men of this family finally started smelling the horrendous odor I had been smelling (I was threatening to move out at this point—yes, it was THAT bad), my husband crawled up in the sweltering attic again and this time he found her little deceased body. She was almost in an inaccessible low place in the corner by the eave, buried under insulation. It was very difficult for a grown man to get to where she was (not to mention, the outdoor temperatures were hovering in the upper 90s, making the attic a nice and toasty 160 degrees)! My husband after scooting around the attic floor on his belly, came down from the attic dripping from head to toe with sweat and carrying one smelly dead mother squirrel. Ironically, as bad as she had made our house smell, she didn’t appear decomposed. I sure felt bad for her. We placed a metal screen over the chimney opening so as not to ever have to go through that fiasco again.
While I was typing this story and on the subject of bad odors, I was reminded of a time back when I was a practicing veterinarian. I worked as the sole night shift veterinarian and our clinic stayed open until 10 pm at night. One evening at around 9:30, a client called and informed me that she thought her dog may have had a run-in with a skunk. She was inquiring as to what to bathe the dog in. We kept a formula for deskunking animals at the reception desk and she was given the formula, told how to protect the dog’s eyes, etc. I was in the back exam room at around 9:45 pm when I suddenly smelled the most horrible odor wafting down the hallway. The client who had called about the dog and the skunk, had thrown her large breed and heavily skunked dog into the back of her nice new burgundy Lincoln Continental (with cloth-covered seats). She feared the dog had been sprayed in the face as it was frantically pawing at its face and eyes.
I’ve always been able to tolerate bad smells without them bothering me too much. And I’ve driven by a lot of dead skunks on the side of the road where the skunk smell permeates the interior of your vehicle and lingers for a while making being in the car very unpleasant. But this didn’t smell anything like that. This smell was 100 times worse. This was so strong, it made our eyes burn and it was literally hard to breathe. I was trying to examine the dog’s eyes, but the smell was so strong, that it was causing severe nausea and a strong involuntary gag reflex in both me and the technician (who was trying to hold the dog steady on the table). I was trying hard not to vomit right there in the exam room. I got so sick, I had to walk outside to take some deep breaths because I couldn’t quit gagging. Thankfully, the owner understood as she was feeling the same effects too. After all, she had been in the car with this smell for the 15 minute drive to the vet clinic. I don’t know how she did it. The dog was fine and other than appearing very scared and having a what-the-hell look on his face (and understandably so), he still managed to wag his tail. Bless his heart. We managed to wash out his eyes and prescribed ophthalmic ointment for the irritation. We had some deskunking spray and we sprayed the dog down good and the owner took him home to begin the deskunking baths. I didn’t vomit that night, but I’m telling you, I came pretty darn close. The veterinary technician and I both experienced a very severe nausea for a while after the owner and dog had left the building. I’ve never experienced anything like that in my life and let’s face it, veterinarians sometimes get exposed to some pretty disgusting smells in their line of work. I never want to get that up close and personal with a skunk again (and I’m sure the poor dog didn’t either). The odor was just vile. I’m almost nauseated just writing this and remembering that smell.
I told the owner to expect the smell to linger on her dog for many, many months, even after multiple deskunking baths, especially when the dog got wet (I know this because my own dog was skunked once). Water tends to react with the chemicals in skunk spray making the skunk smell even stronger. I learned from experience, that bathing a skunked dog in tomato juice is not really effective in getting rid of skunk odor (but it will sure turn a black and white dog orange and black)! The smell just has to wear off. And it does eventually. I’m convinced that poor woman had to burn her brand new Lincoln Continental car as I just don’t believe anything would have removed that odor from that car. EVER. When the dog and owner left, we opened up all doors and turned on fans, disinfected the table and mopped with a Roccal D (veterinary disinfectant)/ Clorox solution and sprayed the skunk deodorizer spray throughout the entire clinic to try to get the smell out, but the next morning at 7 am opening time, I got a phone call at home from the clinic owner (who wasn’t real happy) wanting to know if I had allowed someone to bring a skunk into the building! I explained it was a skunked dog and assured him we had tried to air out the place and deodorized to no avail. It took a few days before we could no longer smell the skunk odor.
That was hands down the worst odor I have ever smelled in my life and the worst experience with a disgusting scent that I’ve ever had. There is a lady at my church who told me once that she’s a little weird in that she actually kinda likes the smell of skunks. I’ve heard that more than once and I read an article once, written by a man who said he also used to think it was a somewhat pleasant smell, until he went into a laboratory and a scientist let him smell a vial of pure skunk spray. He changed his mind after that experience and said it made him sick and nauseated, burned his eyes, and he never again referred to it as “pleasant” again. I’ll just say that God really knew what he was doing when he invented the thiol chemicals in a skunk’s anal scent glands for a defense mechanism!