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Stinkin’ Lincoln

By Amy LeClaire

It was bound to happen. Still, nothing could have prepared us for the scene or, more truthfully, the scent of the incident. We had been chilling around the campfire on a cool September night. Lincoln rested on the ground in typical stalk position, paws outstretched at a casual number eleven while he awaited the sight of a bunny. A Senior Pet, Lincoln has lost the will to chase and pounce. Instead, he gallops across the yard and barks hoarsely to the sight of one, as though to keep him in check. He’s the boss of the yard.

A new kind of rabbit, or perhaps the odd scent of one, captivated Lincoln’s attention on that otherwise peaceful Saturday night. “Lincoln, get back here!” My husband sensed mischief and followed a magnetized Lincoln to the shrub bordering our neighbor’s lawn.  

Too late. The bushy white tail (later described to resemble a small dog) told a classic tale. Swash, lift, and—

“Yowza!” Lincoln backed off while the two of us put two and two together.

Lincoln had been sprayed by a skunk.

“What about his eyes!” The thought of Lincoln blinded, for a split second, overshadowed that of his repulsive odor.

“I don’t think he got sprayed badly.” My husband possessed an optimism I hadn’t had. He grabbed a lucky bottle of shampoo and hosed down a stunned, rather compliant Lincoln.

I approached my betrayed, sudsy dog with a sour blend of empathy and disgust. His odor—the unbelievable potency of it—produced an immediate gag. “This is so bad.” I hacked. “I can’t take it.”

“I actually can’t smell it anymore,” my husband said. “But I’ll take him for a swim tomorrow just to be sure.”

Marriage is peculiar. At that moment, I didn’t know what was worse: Lincoln’s odor or the fact that my husband was somehow unaware of it.

“He needs to see the groomer immediately,” I countered, Google at my fingertips. “The skunk smell will not fade on its own.” Meanwhile, Lincoln shook off the cold shower and darted aimlessly across the lawn, pushing his head into the dirt to try and rid himself of the skunk’s mark. Try as he might, though, he could not rub off an unwelcome baptism. Wet and smelly, he sauntered back to the campfire and collapsed at our heels. Then, head over paws, he reflected.

“It’s okay, Lincoln. It happens to every dog. You actually don’t smell that bad,” I lied.

We headed inside. The skunk’s vapor followed us like a bad omen. Lincoln pushed himself against walls, a second attempt to lose the odor. “Come here, Lincoln.” We towel dried him, blew dry him, and sprayed him with a masculine scented cologne. We even found humor. “Imagine if a coyote actually tried to eat a skunk? He couldn’t even enjoy the kill!” Lincoln, unimpressed, and now smelling of spiced skunk, turned his head away from us.

The night unfolded as one might expect, with wide-open windows, a discussion of treatment plans and a conscious effort to stroke Lincoln’s bruised ego. Later that evening, he curled up on his bed, nestled his stinky head against his leopard blanket, and sulked. “I was just trying to watch the yard and protect us.”  He let out a grumble. “I can’t win.”

I held my breath and kissed the right side of his head. “I understand, Lincoln.”

It was the truth.