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Sent Home From School Because of the Horrible Skunk Odor

Some songs can zap one back in time. Memories of the fun we had because of Chubby Checker's song, The Twist, in the 1960s are nostalgic.



Scents and Memories

Some memories are longer lasting than others, as are certain scents. The day that my younger brothers and I got sent home from school because of a skunk is one of those memories! Anyone who has ever smelled the spray from a skunk will know what I mean by a scent that lingers as has this particular memory. What started as an ordinary day turned out to be extraordinary!


Our Day Began

My dad was always an early riser. From our home in the country, he would drive the 30 miles or so into Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he worked as a carpenter, eventually working his way up to becoming the superintendent of a large commercial construction company. He was a hard worker and was very talented.

The roads were not the superhighways of today, so that 30-mile one-way trip took some time, especially during the winter when the streets were snow-covered.

The first home that I remember living in as a child, my parents built from scratch. I remember the additions to that home like the garage, breezeway, and sunroom as time passed. Turning our basement into a recreation room and his workshop and my mother's laundry room and cabinets for her home-canned goods were also gradual additions as time and money allowed.

In the parochial school that we were attending, my dad was also instrumental in building. But I digress.

My mother would have packed my dad's lunch pail and sent him off to work for the day with a hug and a kiss before getting us kids awakened, fed, and dressed for our day. She would have also packed our lunches with sandwiches (always homemade bread in those days made by her loving and capable hands), fruit, and homemade cookies.

We could purchase little cartons of milk for a few pennies at school in those days, and we took advantage of that.

It was the Fall of the year, and there was a certain crispness to the air, but we still had our house windows open, enjoying what we could of the fresh air coming in through the screens. All too soon, the long cold winter months would arrive and keep those now open windows closed and frosted.

Barking Dogs!

Suddenly we heard Sheba, our German Shepherd, and Rusty, our Cocker Spaniel begin a furious round of barking and yelping. It took no more than a moment to realize what was happening because of the smell. A skunk had wandered out of the fields or nearby woods, and our guard dogs (at least they thought of themselves as such!) began to defend their property.

Of course, hardly anyone comes out a winner when tangling with a skunk! That skunk makes its way all around our house (remember the open windows?), spraying not only the dogs but wafting a noxious smell so very terrible into the house that it was pure misery!

My mother had her hands full, knowing that much of her home-canned tomatoes would have to be sacrificed and used in bathing the dogs to eliminate as much of that rotten egg sulfur smell. Tomato juice was the prescribed home remedy for ridding animals of skunk smell back in those days.

But what to do with us? We were inside and not directly hit with the spray from the skunk. We begged her to get us out of that environment as soon as possible, thinking that school was the answer.

To keep from smelling that horrific scent, my mother let us use a little of her perfume. We all put a dab under our noses. That helped a little but not nearly enough. We now had the aroma of Eau-de-skunk mingled with my mother's perfume, not the most fabulous scent combination by anyone's standards

I always loved school, but my brothers did not quite as much. That particular day they could not wait to get to school! So with a bite of breakfast packed and added to our lunch pails (who wanted to eat breakfast amidst skunk smell?), my mother cranked up her Studebaker car named Tillie and dropped us off at school.

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"Pee-U!" the school kids said as they ran as far away from us as they could in each room. They held their noses, and needless to say, the classrooms were royally disrupted.

I doubt that my mother made it home before the party telephone line had begun ringing! She was summoned to come back to school post haste and pick up her darlings. As memory serves, these many years later, it was a few days before we were welcomed back to school, and it took quite some time for our new pink-colored dogs to get past that aroma of skunk completely.


What To Know About Skunks

Most skunks do their foraging for food at night. They are omnivorous, meaning that they eat different things depending upon what is available, including plants, insects, fish, fruit, and even small mammals. Most live in the Americas.

If you see a house cat-sized black and white animal (there are also a few brown or grey or even cream-colored ones) and you are within about ten feet (3 meters), it suddenly turns around and lifts its tail, do turn and run! That is a defensive position, and if you are lucky, you might miss the spray of that foul-smelling liquid mist that is projected from glands under the skunk's tail about that distance.

Most animals in the wild give skunks a wide berth if seeing them because they know from experience that their lives will be miserable for several days if sprayed. It is such a noxious odor that while it is not deadly, it defies most removal methods. Let's put it this way; they might wish that they were dead to escape that lingering horrible smell. Even wolves and bears will avoid tangling with a skunk!

Large birds like hawks and eagles are the main predators of skunks. The reason for that is that most birds do not have a highly developed sense of smell.

Skunks will threaten with hissing noises, stomping their feet, showing off their teeth, and posture with that raised tail. They use that oily horrific scented chemical spray only when feeling threatened because it takes as long as ten days for another supply to once again build up in their bodies for defense.

Most skunks in the wild do not live very long. Their average lifespan is only 1 to 3 years, and one reason for this is their terrible eyesight. In captivity, they can live much longer, more like domesticated house cats.

They give live births of from 2 to 10 kits each year from April to June.

For Further Reading:


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 09, 2018:

Hi Patricia,

I am laughing now also this many years later. Sorry that you had the same experience and were literally banned from attending school because of skunk smell. That is quite a memory we both share. Ha ha!

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on July 09, 2018:

O Peggy I am laughing out loud. Almost the same thing happened to me in tenth grade. We had our coal stove replaced by central heat the summer before this happened. The skunks loved snuggling under the house where the ducts ran and one morning they got into a tussle with each other and of course the horrid odor permeated the house. Well I went to school and you could not smell the odor on my clothes but wherever I went the odor remained as I departed. My locker was a haven for the odor. So I was allowed to stay home for about a week until all of the clothes could be cleaned and our house skunk-odor free!!!! The whole underside of the house was completely closed in and we had no further problems thankfully. Angels headed your way ps

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on June 05, 2018:

Hi C E Clark,

It is a memory and odor that I will never forget as long as I live. Ha Ha!

Our weather is about the same as yours right now. Our car was showing 100 degrees when we were out and about today. We certainly have a long hot summer to go before we will have cooler temperatures again. Ugh!

C E Clark from North Texas on June 05, 2018:

A very entertaining story. I've smelled skunks a lot lately when I go out. That time of year when all the animals are mating. Some have already had their first batch of babies. Too bad skunks stink so badly because when they're healthy they're quite pretty and their babies are so cute.

About 100º every day and high humidity. Almost like your weather except when we're this hot up north y'all are usually even hotter down there. Stay cool if you can!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 08, 2016:

Hello Kiss andTales,

I am so glad you enjoyed this hub of mine regarding skunks...traveling down memory lane. That story about your neighbors dog brought a smile to my face. Not so much fun for your neighbor however. Ha!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 08, 2016:

Hi Au fait, is steamy down here also. Thank heavens for air-conditioning! Appreciate your sharing of my skunk episode hub. It was quite the ordeal at the time! :)

Kiss andTales on August 03, 2016:

Very good hub Peggy ! Thank you for sharing you are very much a talented writer.

I really appreciated this artitcle because we seem to have a population of them growing in our area.

We have this little vistor traveling late at night through the neighborhood. And yes very true have seen many ran over on the roads leaving horrific smells.

Well they look so cute and cuddly

But I guess that smell makes sure it stays that way .No human would want to battle with that defense.

Last year my neighbors pet dog got sprayed.

And ran hysterically in the house and jump on couches and chairs trying rid the smell.

The neighbor blamed another and said that they were harboring conditions for them to live and hide.

I dont think so because they always are found on the near by roads ran over.

Very good hub !

You are very much appreciated Peggy !

C E Clark from North Texas on August 02, 2016:

Revisiting this interesting article of yours today and sharing it also. Anyone who hasn't read it definitely should. Very entertaining!

Hope all is well down there and that you are staying in where it's cool. 100 degrees everyday is forecast here for the last couple of days and the next 3-5 days. Was over only 98 F. yesterday. Yes, only. Take care . . .

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 11, 2015:

Hi Rochelle,

Glad you realized that it was a skunk and not the kitty you at first thought so that you and your dog avoided any trouble while walking. Yes...this is a long lasting memory of mine. Ha!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 10, 2015:

Hi Shyron,

Oh your poor brother's dog! That skunk smell certainly does linger!!! Thanks for your comment and the share.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 09, 2015:

Hi Au fait,

Your story of a skunk is a good one also. Ha! Sorry you had to live with it a while also when you were at home. Nothing quite like that horrible odor! Thanks for your comment and the share. :)

Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on April 09, 2015:

We have migrating skunks here coming or going to wherever they come from and go to twice a year. I saw one a few weeks ago when walking my dog after sundown and first thought it was a kitty.

We took an alternate route, so no harm - no Foul (smell).

Your tale is a special and, I'm sure, an unforgettable memory to keep..

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on April 09, 2015:

I have seen a skunk running up the road passed our house and my brother's dog got sprayed by a skunk.

This was funny voted that way plus useful, awesome and interesting and shared.

Blessings and Hugs

C E Clark from North Texas on April 09, 2015:

Thought I would share this again as it definitely is that time of year when skunks like to mate. In fact there should be little ones in the nest by now. A skunk burrowed under the apartment building I moved out of last year. It was set on peer and beam. At first it wasn't real strong, and I thought it was tires or something rubber burning. It got stronger and stronger -- the air intake for the air ventilation system was under the building.

Finally it got so strong and I couldn't quite identify it. I called the fire dept. and told them I had seen no fire or smoke, but this strange smell made me think of rubber burning and maybe they could send someone to check it out. I argued with myself between looking ridiculous for calling the fire dept, over nothing and not calling and then having something terrible happen and someone die as a result, so I decided to call.

They brought a truck but no sirens. They walked through my apartment and one of them said, "You have a skunk." I had considered skunk, but it didn't seem quite right and it was so strong. That horrible stench lasted all through the building for days. So strong I thought I would never be able to smell anything else again even though I was away from the apartment at work for many hours everyday.

Very interesting hub and always enjoy it. Sharing again.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 03, 2015:

Hi Sunshine65,

Believe never want to experience the skunk smell if you have the choice. You are lucky never to have been exposed to it! :)

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on February 03, 2015:

Hilarious now, but I'm sure it wasn't back then!! I have never encountered a skunk and have no idea what the smell they emit is like and I never want to find out. I did hear about the tomato sauce trick. Great story!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 03, 2015:

Hi lisavanvorst,

The odor from dogs being sprayed by skunks is horrible as I well remember! Ha!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 03, 2015:


Oh my! The janitor certainly was not aware of the dangers of using pesticide when he sprayed your husband as a boy. Yikes! Glad your husband lived to tell the take! It was certainly memorable and unforgettable! Ha!

Lisa VanVorst from New Jersey on February 03, 2015:

This story brings back memories of when my dog was skunked. Oh what a horrible smell. Thank you for sharing your memory.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 03, 2015:

Hello Levertis,

The odor from passing dead skunks on the road is bad and it lingers. Best to avoid any encounters if at all possible.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 03, 2015:

Hi Au fait,

Skunks are pretty creatures and surely have a note worthy defense system built in. Ha! 21 degrees is cold! It is in the 40's and rainy in Houston today. Also very cold! I know that the folks living up north would probably scoff at our definition of cold. Ha! Thanks for the share!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 03, 2015:

Hi colorfulone,

If they made a pet of it perhaps they had it de-skunked so that it could not spray. Either that or they never startled it to where it felt defensive. Interesting story.

Sondra Rochelle from USA on February 03, 2015:

This is funny because when my husband was a boy, he, too, got sprayed by a skunk. In his case, the teacher sent him down to the janitor who sprayed him with pesticide to get rid of the smell, which of course, only made it worse! When he got home, his mother refused to let him back into the house. She buried his clothes and made him wash down with lye soap, and only then was he able to come inside. Too funny!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 02, 2015:

Hi vespawoolf,

Your friend would have learned in a hurry why not to approach skunks had you not warned her. Glad it ended well for her and also for you! Ha!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 02, 2015:

Hi Patricia,

Sorry to hear you had a similar experience with skunks and the skunk odor keeping you away from attending school. Those memories linger, don't they! Ha! Hope your day has been a good one!

Levertis Steele from Southern Clime on February 02, 2015:

Most of the skunks I have encountered were road kill. I did come close to a live one once or twice but learned early to give them distance.

Very informative hub!

C E Clark from North Texas on February 02, 2015:

I have been eyeball to eyeball with skunks just as pretty as the ones you have pictured here. I didn't hang around long enough for them to start opinion-ating. ;) Growing up in the country and living in the country during my first marriage, I saw several skunks, some very close up and personal.

Well, it's that time of year when a skunk's imagination turns to love and affection, in a manner of speaking. Here in North Texas they never seem to hibernate as they do up north in snow country,

Was trying to choose one of your articles and that pretty skunk sort of reached out and got my memories stirred up. A shame they smell so bad because when they're healthy they are pretty and their babies are the cutest possible.

Sharing this again with followers and pinning to my 'Wild Animals' board.

So cold las' night I thought for sure I would freeze. 21 F. and a vicious wind. I've been here in Texas so long I'm starting to believe that's cold . . .

Susie Lehto from Minnesota on February 02, 2015:

This brought back some memories for me. One is of a skunk that was tamed by a couple that lived across the lake in the summer months. They had a skunk that adopted them, and they feed it. I was a young girl the first time a saw that critter when my family went to visit them by boat. I guess that skunk never sprayed anywhere on their property.

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on February 02, 2015:

This story is hilarious! Your mother was such a capable and efficient person that it must have been horrible to have her house sprayed with skunk odor! Poor thing. A friend from France was visiting us one time. We took a walk in the woods and a mother skunk with her babies walked right past us. My friend exclaimed, "How beautiful!" and walked toward them! We cried out a warning and she quickly withdrew. I hadn´t realized that not everyone is familiar with the hazards of skunks.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on February 02, 2015:

O Peggy How could we both have such an experience? We had skunks move in under our house one winter. And skunks being skunks, they sprayed each other.

When I went to school no one could smell the odor on me or my clothing but they could smell it where I went!! I got permission from the principal to stay home for two weeks while all of my clothes were cleaned and house free of the odor O my

Many Angels and blessings are on the way to you today, my Friend.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 19, 2014:

Hi Rebecca,

Your poor dog and also poor you having to suffer that stench for days. Ha!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 18, 2014:

Hi Au fait,

Oh...I definitely know that smell! Nothing quite like it! How long did it take for the smell to dissipate from that apartment complex? People who have never smelled that odor just cannot imagine how noxious it can get or how long it lingers. Thanks for the shares.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on July 17, 2014:

My dog got sprayed with a skunk last year. It was terrible. We gave him a bath in tomato juice, baking soda, peroxide...we tried everything. It helped but the smell lingered for a while. Enjoyed your memories!

C E Clark from North Texas on July 17, 2014:

Skunks are so plentiful around here in the springtime. One can't drive anywhere but there's a dead skunk on the road or beside the road. One year a skunk burrowed under this building I live in. There are 8 apartments in it and it's old so we all share the ventilation system. Air is drawn up from around and under the building. You get the picture?

Well, one evening a noxious odor started moving into my apartment. I have smelled skunks many time having grown up on a farm in the country, so I certainly know skunk when I smell it. This smell reminded me of skunk, but as it got stronger and stronger in my apartment it smelled more and more like something was burning. It smelled a lot like tires burning to tell you the truth.

Well, I was no longer convinced it was a skunk and couldn't decide what to do. If there was a fire and I didn't call and someone was hurt or worse I would feel terrible, but if there was no fire then I would be wasting the fire depts time when they might be needed elsewhere.

Finally I called the fire dept. non emergency number and told them about the smell. I told them I hadn't seen any fire or smoke, but it was so strong and smelled like rubber burning to me, that I decided I should call and let them decide what to do. This was back in 2007.

Well, the fire dept. showed up in their shiny truck, but no sirens and came into my apartment and walked the length of it. Finally the firemen all concurred that there was a skunk, probably under the building. The air ventilation system was drawing that awful stench into everyone's apartment and believe me you could have sliced it with an ax -- a knife would have been to flimsy for such the job.

Going to pin this to Awesome Hubpages and share it with HP followers.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 10, 2013:

Hi Suzanne,

Obviously you know your dog best. Wouldn't want to hurt the little guy! :)

justmesuzanne from Texas on May 09, 2013:

Toby protests even a small amount. Apparently, he is very sensitive to it. :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 09, 2013:

Hi Suzanne,

I dilute the apple cider vinegar quite a bit with lots of water when using it as a rinse after a shampoo and bathing our dog. Example...I am estimating here...I probably only use an ounce or two to a quart of water.

justmesuzanne from Texas on May 09, 2013:

Thanks! If the apple cider vinegar works, keep using it. I tried that with my itchy little Toby and he yelped and cried. Apparently, even diluted apple cider vinegar burns and stings. He seems soothed by the Listerine. I don't use it more than a couple of times a week on him.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 09, 2013:

Hi Suzanne,

We were told by our vet to use an apple cider vinegar rinse for our dog when he gets an itchy skin condition which generally happens in the warmer months of the year. It seems to help. Do you think the ingredients in Listerine would be better? I hesitate because of the alcohol in it for dry skin conditions. Of course if we are talking about eliminating skunk smells...I would use just about anything! Ha! Good to know about the flea repellent aspects of using it and the repelling of flies for those who own horses. You are a great source of information!

justmesuzanne from Texas on May 09, 2013:

Listerine (or a cheap knock-off) is marvelous stuff. It acts as a short term equine fly repellent and canine flea eradicator. It deodorizes carpets and other areas that have been affected by pet accidents (to the point that the animal no longer smells its own urine and does not return to the scene of the crime). It stops itching on itchy dogs. It's a good deodorizing laundry additive (in final rinse). It's a good air freshener. I always keep some in a spray bottle to use for one thing and another.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 09, 2013:

Hi Suzanne,

Good to know how you handled your dog's skunk odor problem. I would never have thought to use Listerine! Hopefully I will never have to employ that treatment method since our little Skippy is a city dog and a bit of a couch potato at that. Thanks for your comment and votes.

justmesuzanne from Texas on May 09, 2013:

Great story! My old dog, Freckles, used to kill skunks. Several times when we were out for a walk in the countryside, he located a skunk and shook it to death before I even knew what was happening! I found that it really helped to get him to water as quickly as possible. If I could quickly locate a stock tank or deep part of a creek and throw a stick for him to retrieve a dozen times or so, it really helped reduce the odor for the ride home. As soon as we got home, I would give him a thorough hose bath with Dawn dish soap and a final rinse with Listerine before allowing him inside. This really works to cut the skunk smell!

Voted up and funny! :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 15, 2013:

Hi nybride710,

It is amazing the smells that can be picked up by getting near dead skunks alongside the road. If the car ahead of you hit it, perhaps it was releasing its spray as it was dying just as your car drove over it. Those smells do linger as you found out! Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 15, 2013:

Hello shin rocka04,

I hope that you never get sprayed by a skunk either. Heaven forbid if you will make for a lasting memory (as well as aroma that will linger for longer than you can imagine.) Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 15, 2013:

Hi moonlake,

Your story of having to change outside the house because of being sprayed by a skunk is funny but also understandable. For anyone who has never experienced it...all I can say is that they are LUCKY! Your poor son. Am sure that skunk smell did not help his condition whether or not it was the sole cause. Thanks for your comment and share.