Thunderskunk

A few days ago, two vicious waves of thunderstorms came through. Warnings of fire danger were replaced by tornado watches. When this happens, I use whatever little internet bandwidth available to keep an eye on furious red storms popping up for more than a day.

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It was, of course, hard on Roo. When there are storms she creeps up to squeeze in next to me on whichever side of the tiny dinette in this camper I’m on. As frightened as she is by thunder, lightning seems to scare her even more. If a pilot makes the mistake of getting so close to a thunderstorm that there’s a risk of being blinded by lightning flashes, the cockpit lights are turned all the way up so that the eyes are acclimated to brightness. In the camper there isn’t enough light to use that trick on Roo. Even with all the windows covered, lightning flashes make it through. So, I cover her eyes, which seems to comfort her — up to a point. If the thunder is too severe, she becomes too agitated to risk not being able to see what’s going one. 

The storms passed around ten or eleven that night and were followed by a period of high wind and gusts the the cold front drove through. The wind doesn’t panic Roo, but it worries her, so she was never really able to calm down. By the time she finally agreed to go outside, she had been holding it all in for 20 hours.

Roo only sleeps up on the bed when there’s thunder. Otherwise, she prefers her own bed, which is in a nice little space I had built for her next to the bed where she can feel like she’s in a den. What little sleep I get is as light as a dog’s, and so when, in the middle of the night I heard Roo licking something, I knew it was a bad sign. When she came to me as a foster, she had lick granuloma, deep wounds down the muscle where she had licked herself, which is something some dogs do when they are driven mad by confinement and neglect.

I switched on the light. Roo is used to my telling her to stop licking something, and she takes my word for it that it’s a bad idea. But when she’s groggy she can forget and start licking unconsciously. The fur on the front of her hock was wet and the skin underneath was already pink. 

“Oh, Chig,” I said. 

She had just gotten over a series of skin infections. A week earlier I’d had to shave five inches of the fur on her tail to get at the worst of them. I had waited too long — only a day too long, but too long nonetheless and the infections lingered. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again. I got out the clippers. There was no point in trying to get her out of her den. In the first place, when Roo is groggy she has no idea what’s going on, and besides, she had just gone through a long period of terror. I leaned over the side of the bed and craned my way in to shave the spot on her foot. She didn’t argue at all. Roo understands completely that when I do stuff like this it’s going to help her. She didn’t budge. 

Already the skin was red and swelling. I cleaned it all off with chlorhexidine and then went to the car to get the blow dryer I use on her when it’s too humid for her to dry, which it was now. When the skin was dry, I sprinkled Neo-Predef on it. It’s a three-agent combo, antibacterial, topical steroid and one of the -caines to numb it and get the dog’s mind off the itch. 

It’s healing. But in the meantime, it began to broil around here, and that meant no cooling off in the water for Roo. She’s such a good girl about it. On her walks here there is water everywhere, and when I say, “No swimming, Chig. You have the foot. Who has the foot can not go in the water,” and she just turns around and gets away from anything wet. She gets it.

I spoke to Dr. Stokes about it today. He recommended trying Aloquel on her (tip of the hat to Sabine, who also did). What with the earlier skin infections getting better, and the Rimadyl seeming to give her some relief, I hadn’t been wanting to add yet another medication to her regime, but there we are. 

And by the way, that thing yesterday that Roo wanted to bring in the camper? It wasn’t a squirrel. It was, indeed a skunk, even if it looks more like a Shi-tzu in the photo, And for those of you who were wondering what she wanted to do with it, today I forgot it was out there and Roo was outside when I heard a crunch. She was crunching on one of its bones and looking at me with a look of great enjoyment. 

“Sorry, Bearface,” I said. “No way.”

She looked at me.

“Not a chance. You’re not eating that.”

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She looked at me.

“Nope. Let go.”

She looked at me.

I went back inside to get a piece of cardboard out of the garbage.

"Drop it, Fatso."

She did. I scooped it up and held it out at arm’s length all the way to the garbage can.

She was looking at me some more when I came back. But I could tell she wasn’t holding it against me. She might not be an easy dog, but she's a hell of a good one.