Learning Stripes

Learning Stripes

It’s April vacation week for our local schools, and the learning in our house seems to have gone to the dogs.

It all started around 2 AM two mornings ago.  One of our dogs, the Rottie, sat in the hallway, barking about every three minutes.  In her mind, I believe she thought she was being polite, since she was not barking incessantly. 

We didn’t agree: it was just enough time that we would almost get back to sleep… only to be awakened yet again.  

I got up and she flew down the stairs ahead of me.  I let her out, and she raced across the yard, from one side of the house to the other, then around back, and circling around again, nose to the air, then nose to the ground, then back to the air. After about five minutes of this incessant sniffing and terrority marking, I insisted she return inside.  

The next night, she did the same thing.  My husband yelled at her, which only delayed the barking for an extra minute.  Eventually, I got out of bed and clearly told her to get back on her bed.  I was not sending her out again for another run around the property while I think about sleeping. She kept barking, and this time my husband got up with her.  I heard a door open, to our son’s bedroom, I thought, and the barking stopped.  

When the alarms went off at 5 AM, my husband muttered something about “checking on her”.  Turns out that his idea of how to stop her request to go outside was simple: leave her outside.  I opened the door… to be greeted by that unpleasant aroma of skunk lingering in the air.   

I dressed quickly, and smelled the Rottie.  She would need a bath, but at least she had not been saturated.  

The dogs and I took off for our morning walk through the woods.  The dark of night had already passed, and the pre-dawn sky beckoned us to the top of the hill and the full sunrise.  But first, the two of them stopped at the culvert nearest the house, ganging up with one on each end.   

Once again, the smell of skunk greeted us all.  I called them off, and hoped that it was only emanating from the inside of the culvert.  Surely the little black and white fellow (or fellows?) would move on while we were walking.  I didn’t think much more of it.

We came back, I bathed the Rottie, and started in on the day’s activities.  The Yellow Lab and the Rottie went out together to help with morning chores with their boys, just like normal.  

But again, they were surrounding that culvert.  And the smell of the air again was perfumed by our little black and white striped friends. I began to wonder if the Rottie had injured one, and if it couldn’t move?

I called for an opinion from my husband.  When he finished laughing (he doesn’t bathe the dogs, nor is he home during the day), he advocated a “flushing out” method.  “Get buckets of water and throw them all down the culvert.  Stay on the uphill side, and you’ll flush him out.”  

It sounded almost reasonable.  We locked the dogs in the garage, as the Yellow Lab was now destined for a bath before she was allowed back in the house.  The two boys and I traipsed out, armed with our buckets.  “One, two, three,” the middle child called out.  We tipped the water together, and watched the other end.  Water gushed forward.  Leaves spilled out.  Dirt ran through.  

“Seems impossible that if something is in there, it could hold on with all that water,” commented the older son.  Just then, we could hear a hissing, kind of guttaral sound.  

“There’s something in there alright,” they said in unison.  

“And, there’s the mist!” cried the younger son.  “It sprayed!”

“More water!” I declared, and we hiked back to the house to refill.  Fortified once again, we returned to drench the poor creature yet again.  “On three!” the second son commanded as he counted it out.  This time, out popped a soaking wet skunk.  But it only dazed him momentarily, because he shook himself off, blinked in the bright sun… and returned to the culvert.

We resolved to try once more, but the skunk had learned to hold on by this point. He knows much more about these games then we do. Our current game plan is only to wait for dark, and hope he moves on to his normal home.  The skunks are around us all the time, and we usually live together amicably.  

Lesson learned by the dogs, we hope: no more playing with the striped kitties.  I can’t help but to hope that my husband also learned something: leave the dogs in at night, no matter how much they bark!


Jill Stahl Tyler is a parent to three children involved in the local schools, at the high school and elementary school levels.  She firmly believes in all education, and currently sits on the board for the Brattleboro School Endowment and the Brattleboro Town School Board.  She is also a member of the Study Committee for Act 46. Contact her at jill@globalcow.com.


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