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The nightmare before the show.
By Dr. Bernd Fritzsch

          I assume that everyone who has been showing dogs had experienced at least once a situation where almost everything that possibly can go wrong went wrong.  Here is my story of such a situation. 
           It is about 1 p.m. at Friday afternoon in late March.  I have finished preparing my three dogs for the show, have packed everything in the truck and will be leaving for the airport in about 30 minutes.  It is great Spring weather and the dogs are out in the enclosure in the sun until I leave.  I am preparing one last coffee and start to write a note for the dogsitter who will be here in about two hours. Suddenly, some dogs start barking  -  two of our bitches.  I look out the window.  It appears to be one of those den struggles, one dog is in and the other one wants to get in.  I skip paying attention.  But the barking does not stop.  Finally, I count the dogs and realize that they are all out of the den.  So what are they barking at?  And they appear quite excited, several of them jumping around the hole of the den.  And then there is this strange smell.  I wonder why do farmers need to start fertilizing their fields so early?  Maybe I should take a closer look at the den?
          When I enter the enclosure and walk toward the den I realize that the smell intensifies.  After all, it is South wind and the nearest fields are South of us, the direction in which I walk.  The dogs are much more excited than I realized from the window and are running like mad around in the enclosure.  This is not just the fun of being out in the March sun.  Being sighthounds, they would normally be content to bask in the sun.  Our two oldest bitches are glued to the den opening, taking turns in sticking their heads in and barking into it.  The smell really intensifies when I reach the den.  I have to oush the bitch aside to be able to look into the den.  Something black and white is moving down there.  Looks like a stray cat is trapped.  But wait, the pattern is rather strange, there are two white stripes parallel over the back.  This is not a cat.  From what I have read thus far on American mammals, it must be a skunk.  Finally I understand what the smell is all about.  Our dogs have trapped a skunk in this den and he/she has been emptying its glands.  It really stinks like hell when you are so close.  And so do the two bitches which apparently kept the skunk trapped in the den. 
          There are only two major problems for me to solve very fast: How do I get the skunk out of the den and how do I manage to leave in time for my plane.  But first and foremost: are the three dogs which were so nicely bathed and groomed this morning stinking.  Well I can not really tell, I had to much odor of the two bitches and the den.  Obviously, in order to get the skunk out I have to get the dogs out of the enclosure first.  Maybe I should also separate the stinking bitches from the others.  But it is not easy to get the dogs out.  After all, our enclosure is about 8 acres and they are much faster then I am.  And so excited that they simply do not want to come.  One by one I get them out.  Except for the two bitches.  They do not want to give up their prey.  Okay, I leave them in, they are stinking anyhow.  Luckily I have a large butterfly net on a stick long enough to reach the skunk.  But I have to be careful, the skunk may spray his anal gland content at me.  I maneuver the net over the skunk.  After several attempts, where the skunk comes free and runs again down into the den, I am finally able to drag the skunk with the net out of the den.  What an excitement for the bitches.  I have to drag the poor little animal behind me through the enclosure to the door while I am scaring the two bitches off.  Finally I am outside the enclosure and can take a closer look at the skunk.  It appears to be a young animal that is completely exhausted.  He also has apparently emptied his smell glands.  At least he is not trying to spray something at me.  Nevertheless, I remain at a hopefully safe distance as the skunk waddles of into the deeper grass.  Time is flying and I am slightly behind schedule.  After washing my face and hands I take a closer sniff at the three "show dogs".  They do not smell at all as badly as the two bitches.  Well, maybe I was lucky. 
          Before all this started I had prepared a coffee.  That is now cold.  In haste I write a note for our dogsitter excusing the dogs and explaining the bad smell.  It is good that I can leave the bitches out in the enclosure for the afternoon, that may help to get rid of the most intense aspects of the smell.  All the others are in the house.  I put the three 'show dogs' in the truck and take of.  On my way to the airport I have to pick up a friend who will bring the truck back to our place.  As soon as he enters the cabin he starts sniffing.  He is born in the USA and knows the smell.  'Skunk'  he says.  Nothing more is needed.  I briefly tell him the story while continuing to drive.  I thought I had no smell but he reassures me that I have some, not bad but noticeable for someone like him.  When we arrive I let him 'odor-testí the dogs,  they seem okay to him.  So I will be sitting and smelly in the plane.  Nobody makes a remark at me and the trip finishes in time.  Finally I am at the hotel and can wash the last smell off.  The show will start in few hours and I can recuperate from this pre-show stress.


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