Tonight is the one-year anniversary of the incident I refer to as “when the tree went through my face.” If you don’t remember or I haven’t related this to you in person, know that it amounted to a freak accident involving my nasal cavity, some sharp tree branches and an overstuffed green waste container. I had actually planned to write something funny about what I’d learned in the year since the accident, but that post probably would have sucked. If I’m being honest, all I learned was not to cram sharp objects into anything with wheels and that freak accidents happen suddenly and in ways you don’t expect.
Here’s the funny thing, though: Tonight, almost to the minute that the tree branch cut through my nose one year ago, something else happened.
I was heading into the garage to write, and Thurman came bounding out the back door after me. This is not unusual, as he normally takes a late-night piddle walk in the yard, but in a split second he’d disappeared into a dark corner. Almost immediately, I heard the noise he makes when he’s shaking one of his toys in his mouth. And almost just as quickly he came trotting back out into the light, whereupon he started diving into the dirt face-first—a cherished activity I call “land swimming.” Then I noticed the sulphuric, spoiled garlic smell of skunk.
I checked to make sure the little stinker had gotten away—more because I didn’t want him to spray again than because I was worried for its safety—and then I saw that no, it could not have gotten away, for he was now bisected. If you can imagine where a skunk’s pant line would be (were a skunk to wear pants) this one was now nude from that line down. His leg fur—and his tail—were lying a foot away from the rest of him; everything else, including what would normally be inside the “pants,” was still connected to the top part.
Much in the same way that the branch thing left me feeling like I should probably do something but unable to decide what I should do, I looked at the skunk halves and then back at my dog, who seemed upset but also was keeping himself busy. Here, then, is what I did.
- Asked my roommate what to do.
- Checked Thurman for injuries. I found none.
- Took Thurman into the shower and scrubbed his fur as best I could.
- Called the late-night vet and explained the situation. They told me that so long as Thurman’s vaccinations were up to date, I didn’t have much to worry about.
- Drove to the liquor store, got there as it was closing, and begged them to open back up for me so I could buy trash bags. “My dog killed a skunk and I need to get rid of the carcass,” I explained. “Yeah, I could tell it was something with a skunk,” said the cashier. The fact that I had to dispose of a body—animal or otherwise—didn’t seem to phase him.
- Got my roommate out of bed to hold the flashlight while I shoveled the skunk pieces into a grocery bag—and yes, this did make me think about the new season of Orange Is the New Black.
- Fought back the urge to vomit, because years of slasher movies still haven’t prepared me for real-life gore.
- Tied the grocery bag inside a trash bag and then tossed it into a dumpster down the street.
- Showered, then washed everything that had been in contact with skunk juice, whether first-degree or second-degree.
- Finally, I continue to smell skunk everywhere, even as I type this. I have no way of knowing how much of it is just ambient skunk particles outside, how much of it is inside my house, how much is on Thurman even post-shower and how much is actually me. The hilarious capper to all this is that my roommate can’t smell—I explain it as “He’s like Daredevil, only with his nose”—so I will have no way of objectively knowing if I’m carrying the skunk curse until I interact with someone else outside my home. Maybe it will be you!
I guess I could write about how dogs are dogs, even if you love them. (Just earlier today, we unsuccessfully tried to coax Thurman into enjoying a wading pool, and it’s weird to think about the dopey dog who was scared of a water-filled plastic tub tearing into another animal and decisively ending that other creature in just a few seconds.) But the thing that sticks out to me right now is how quickly and suddenly something awful—or at least very, aggressively noteworthy. I’m a person who worries a lot, and I spend way too much mental energy calculating all the Final Destination-esque ways a given situation could lead to my undoing. But in the same way I didn’t think twice about that overstuffed green waste container, I also didn’t think twice about letting Thurman into the yard tonight. That happens every night, and every pervious one has resulted in successful piddles and nothing more. This one didn’t turn out to be a crisis—and not a medical crisis, best of all—but it’s worth pointing out that this wasn’t something I worried about, wasn’t something I foresaw as turning bad for me. Maybe that’s the lesson I should have taken away from one year ago: All that worrying can’t prepare you for the freak occurrence that actually does happen.
I still love Thurman, even if I know he can end a life in a split second, ninja-style. I chose to remember his greatest hit of the day as looking adorably rumpled as we finally conceded that he would not be a wading pool dog.
That might be the greatest takeaway of all, from this or from anything: Don’t focus on what went bad or what might go bad in the future, because maybe something else didn’t suck or won’t suck.