The Smaller the Dog, the More Trouble They Can Get Into

I have always been a dog person. However, I am of the persuasion that “little dogs” are not entirely dogs at all, but a species apart. Related, yes, but hardly the same thing. (Corgis are excluded from this.)

There’s something about the dog attitude packed into that tiny, shivering body that should have screamed “bad idea” to the dog breeder who thought of it first, and then to every person after who said, “I’m making a pet out of this.”

One of the dogs I’m watching while I house-sit is a dachshund, and “I cayn’t stan’ ‘im” some days. I’m sure dachshunds were a good idea when they were bred for their intended purpose of cornering small animals in narrow spaces, and they turned out to be instrumental to the eradication of zombies in World War Z (the book, not the movie), but that instinct doesn’t translate well to a house pet.

On Sunday, this particular dachshund – we’ll call him “Rollo” – got himself stuck under some pallets on top of which were stacked 10-foot-high piles of wood for the boiler. Twice. Calli had been over for the afternoon and kindly used the knowledge she had gained from a childhood of watching Extreme Animal Rescues to get him out. We then proceeded to shore up every visible nook and cranny with pointy sticks, and so far he’s taken the hint.

That hasn’t deterred him from getting into trouble, though, and the doberman Mya is right behind him every step of the way. (Somehow Rollo is the alpha in this equation, even though Mya is bigger and female.) Every day I get to contend with some new challenge, from people coming in and making pancakes while I’m out to mussing up the guest bed to today’s adventure with the dogs.

I was already cross because Mya had heard me turn in bed in the middle of the night and woke me squeaking to go out. Without opening my eyes I checked my internal clock for the time, thinking maybe it was close to 6:00 anyway. As I cracked open one eye and moved my arm, my FitBit lit up: 2:00 AM.

Mya wouldn’t be quiet, though, so I reluctantly got up and let her and Rollo out. When I got up for the day at 6:00, I let them out again and started about my day. I had just put in a new loaf of bread (makes me feel productive) and was out feeding the chickens when I heard Rollo’s sharp, relentless barking.

“Great,” I thought, “he found a hole under the woodpile.”

Worse, actually.

Abandoning the complaining chickens, I followed the barking down the drive. The scent reached me before I caught sight of the dogs.

This house was built a little more than a year ago, along with several outbuildings, and there are random construction pieces still scattered about. These include several wide metal pipes which are roughly 1.5 feet in diameter. Rollo, being a true dachshund, likes to patrol these pipes for small furry animals.

Rollo was inside the pipe, his yippy voice amplified, while Mya paced around outside and occasionally tried to squeeze her wide body inside with Rollo. And the scent of skunk hung over the scene.

All I could think of were all of those old movies where a boy and his faithful dog run afoul of a skunk and then the movie cuts to a scene of them in a tub of tomatoes.

I didn’t actually see the thing, so I don’t know if the dogs had cornered it or if they had startled it and remained at the scene of the attack for some unknown reason. What I did know was that neither dog was listening to me, so I would have to drag them away. Rollo was writhing on the ground, rubbing his snout in the carpet of leaves and dirt alongside the drive.

I grabbed Mya first. She fought me the whole way back to the house, eager to rejoin Rollo. I didn’t smell anything on her, which was a relief, but I was not relishing the thought of having to touch her cohort, who has a habit of forgetting how to walk when he’s upset. I decided to leave him long enough to finish with the chickens so I didn’t run out of time.

I was optimistic as I gathered his stocky body under one arm and marched back to the house. He didn’t smell too bad, really, which is why I wondered if he had actually been near the skunk. But the moment I set him down and closed the door to preserve the temperature from the air conditioning, I changed my mind. I only made sure to pull out my bread before I lured him into the bathroom, armed with treats and a small can of tomato sauce.

Don’t ask me how this tomato bath thing works, because I don’t understand the chemistry behind it. I can say that it does have at least a slight affect on skunk-stench. I doused Rollo in sauce until he smelled something like a pizza and rubbed the gritty stuff into his short fur. Luckily, he was too distracted by licking up the drops scattered around him to really care about the noisy faucet. Rinse and repeat, until all of the sauce was gone and Rollo was shivering and looking pitiful.

The nice thing is that, unlike our dogs, Rollo is easy to dry off. Once that was finished, he was happy to take his treat and run away to enjoy it, and I was able to resume my now-accelerated morning routine.

All of the windows and sliding doors were open, but the scent of skunk remained and was starting to give me a headache. I kept checking Rollo like one checks for a smelly diaper. He only smelled vaguely of tomatoes and wet dog. Finally it hit me: the doberman had her nose in that pipe as well.

Sure enough, I didn’t have to lean very close or sniff very hard to realize she was the source of the stench. Excellent. And I was out of time – and tomato sauce – especially if it meant hosing down a doberman.

“They’ll just have to deal with it,” I decided as I grabbed my keys.

By the time I pulled into work, my headache had developed into a vague stomach ache. (Yes, this is a natural – or at least common – progression for me.) One hand smells like skunk and the other like tomatoes and the onions I tossed in my salad for lunch.

Now I get to look forward to bathing Mya when I get home. At least tomorrow is Friday, which marks the last day of Week One of this adventure. Had I known it was going to be this interesting, I might have tried negotiating for a slightly higher pay rate.

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