I was walking my dog late last night when I heard something rustle in the bushes. At first, I wasn’t scared at all, until I saw the white stripe on top of the black body..
Oh shit! A skunk!
I flashed back to the last time I had to deal with the stench of skunk spray. It was 13 years ago and I was at my Dad’s house for a dinner party. His cocker-spaniel Burt had gotten out of the yard, only to return with a sheepish grin and terrible stench.
“Get some tomato juice!” Someone suggested.
We didn’t have tomato juice – just spicy bloody Mary mix. So we dragged Burt into the bathtub, dumped a couple of bottles of Mrs. T’s spiciest, and Burt’s scent was back to normal eventually. (Although we were picking out pepper flakes in his fur for weeks.)
So here I was back in present time with my dog Max hoping to god he didn’t suffer the same fate. (Not only was my kitchen void of any tomato juice, but I’d killed the Bloody Mary mix a couple of weeks ago.)
I once heard that skunks really don’t like to spray you. This is just what happens when THEY get scared. Whether or not it’s true, my dog didn’t seem alarmed at all. The skunk stopped as my dog continued to sniff the bushes. They were now about 5 feet from each other, and I slowly pulled Max’s leash closer to my side without making any sudden movements. We started walking again as the skunk followed. He stayed closer to the houses while we remained on the sidewalk, but he was practically matching Max’s stride.
Oh my God. Oh my God… Don’t panic. Everything’s fine.
As I got a good look at him, he was actually sort of cute. He waddled a little bit as he walked, which made him more endearing. I could just picture the skunk talking to me if he were a character in a Pixar movie.
“I’m so misunderstood, Jen. I just don’t have any REAL friends…”
After walking a block (but it felt more like five miles) I thought about the symbolism of this “skunk” stroll. What if we chose this kind of tolerance and calm for everything that scared the shit out of us? Whether it’s a boss or a Newt Gingrich fan, shouldn’t we just be able to walk side-by-side without spraying each other? Can’t we share the street and maybe even find something we like about that scary thing that’s making our heart race with anxiety?
I made it home, and the skunk watched as I walked up the stairs to my front door. My dog lifted his leg for the 500th time on a different bush before following behind me and retiring for the night.
Tonight I’ll take my dog out again. I’m not saying I’m looking forward to seeing that skunk, but I do know that if we happened to be taking an evening walk at the same time, there’s a great possibility we will both come out of it OK.
Because it’s possible that even those things we assume will do the most damage could turn out to be totally harmless when approached with a calm, neutral attitude.
Calm and neutral.
I did it once. Not sure I can make a habit out of this, though…