Close Encounter

It was a lovely morning for a walk as we set out last Sunday morning. Part of my routine is to circuit the barn on our way west, just to make sure all is as it should be. Well, on Sunday morning, it definitely wasn’t. A small, black and white, looked-like-a-cat was on the south side of the barn next to a freshly dug pile of dirt. You can’t just move into our yard without so much as a hello so I ran over to check out the newcomer. That was when I discovered it wasn’t a cat, but a very unsociable, straight-from-hell, toxic-gas-spraying beast!


The face of a happy dog looking forward to a morning walk.


It turned as I ran toward it—I assumed to run away—and I was looking forward to a good chase when the animal’s tail went straight in the air and a nasty, yellow stream hit the left side of my face. The smell was bad but the burning in my left eye was excruciating. I ran back toward T who’d just come around the corner of the barn to see what was happening. I thought she might go after the creature that had attacked me but she just clipped the leash on my collar and we were running toward the house, away from the dispersing cloud of gas.

I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that it was a skunk that I encountered. It was my first experience with one so I had no idea. Logan thought it was hilarious, having had his run-ins with them more than once as a young dog. One time it happened when they were out camping with the horses and he had to ride home in the front part of the horse trailer where the tack usually goes. The tack got to ride in the truck. I guess I was lucky it happened at home where they had stuff on hand to help me.


Logan’s still laughing.


So, anyway, once we reached the yard, T called for Nollind to come and help and then took me to a grassy area away from the house. I rubbed my face on the grass again and again, so many times that my lip was bleeding, but it just kept burning. I was sure relieved to see Nollind coming with a bucket full of remedies. I knew I could count on my people to know what to do.

The first thing they did was rinse my eye a few times with saline and that helped a bunch. The burning subsided. The direct hit to the face meant the spray was fairly localized, but it also meant it was hard to clean off without hurting me. They first tried a store-bought deskunking solution with written instructions to avoid the eyes, nose, and mouth. They applied it as carefully and as thoroughly as they could and let it dry. I was hopeful.

It helped some, but the smell was still pretty bad and I wasn’t allowed in the house. T did some research on products that could be used on my face and tomato juice was at the top of the list. It was nicer than the skunk product but I’m not a big fan of tomato. Too bad bacon grease didn’t take out skunk odor! When they rinsed it off I smelled kind of like a skunk in a tomato patch.


It’s a little redder than the rest of me but I think it makes me look younger. What do you think?


The third and final solution was what they’d used on Logan all those years ago, once they got him home from the campground. It’s also not recommended for use on the face but we were desperate by this point. They were very careful, I did my best to keep my eyes and mouth closed, and we got the job done. A quick eye rinse after and I was just fine. It burned less than the skunk spray. The magic concoction? A mix of peroxide, baking soda, and a little bit of dish soap. If ever you need to get rid of skunk smell, here’s the recipe.


I think all the peroxide bleached my face. I’m sure it wasn’t this white on Saturday.


I don’t notice it much anymore but, apparently, I still smell at close range or when I get wet and I’m told this could last for a month or more. As long as I’m allowed in the house and people still pet me, I’m okay with being a little stinky.


I thought a swim in the canal would help but the water just brings out the smell.


As for the skunk, that pile of dirt was what he’d dug out from under the barn to make a den for himself … or herself. And, yes, he/she is still there. T and Nollind have tried a number of things in and around the den that are supposed to repel skunks but, so far, it keeps returning. They’re wondering if there might be babies in the den. I hope not, because as long as the skunk is there, Logan and I don’t get to go anywhere near the barn. They’re being silly, really, because it’s not like I’d do that again. No way. Next time I’d grab him before he had a chance to turn around and lift that tail!




Rock, Cactus, Sunset

Unlike camping in an RV park or campground, out in the desert, there are no numbered spaces with set boundaries. It’s nice to have the freedom to put our house where we want, but it also means a lot of variables and choices. And, with our double-trailer rig, an old dog, and a woman who loves a view, you’ll see it can be quite a process to select a space.

Nollind gets first say on whether or not a spot works. Can we get in? And, the more important, can we get out? Even out here in the open desert, there are obstacles to manoeuvre around like trees, cactus, other campers, sudden elevation changes (aka washes and hills), and rocks. It’s not like one big parking lot out here. Well … in some places it’s actually quite a lot like a big parking lot.


Our current camp spot at Dome Rock.

Once that’s settled, is the area level enough? The trailer can be easily adjusted front to back but side to side requires blocks on one side or digging on the other. Up at Wickenburg where the ground is softer, we dug down on the high side. Here at Quartzsite where everything is rock, we added our fancy red levellers. But, if a spot is too far off level, it just doesn’t work.


I sleep so much better when the couch is level.

Next … Is there cell service? Because Teresa and Nollind still run a business, do contract work, and spend time volunteering for things back home, they do need to be available by phone and internet. And, of course, we dogs need to be able to post our blog every week. Wickenburg was borderline, but we made do for the two and half weeks.

Then we start getting into aesthetics. Noise. Is the space far enough from a road and further yet from a highway? Is the space far enough from other campers and do the neighbours have solar power or generators? Hondas and Yamahas are tolerable. Champion generators are to be avoided at all cost.


Enjoying a quiet spot with lots of elbow room.

Dust. Is the camping spot upwind of where other campers will be travelling? Being on the south side of a dusty road around here is pretty much guaranteed to have you breathing dirt.

Surface. Is the ground friendly enough to build a patio on or is it filled with large or sharp rocks?


Enjoying our Dome Rock patio.

View. Is there a view to the sunset and, preferably, the sunrise? Are there hills or mountains nearby? I don’t care much about this stuff but it’s important to Teresa.


Wickenburg sunrise.

Vegetation. Are there saguaro, ocotillo, or palo verde trees? These are the good ones. Are there cholla cactus? These are the not-so-good ones that are known to attack the feet and legs of unfortunate dogs (and people sometimes too … Sue).

And this year there’s a whole other level of site choosing. Me! They’ve always considered us dogs but, this year, with my ramp and my bum leg and my enjoyment of lying around outside, I’ve moved way up the priority list. This spot we’re in right now at Dome Rock? Chosen largely because of me.


I can’t walk very far anymore, but I sure enjoy my time outdoors.


It’s tough to find a spot around Quartzsite that isn’t rocky, and it’s tough for me to walk on rocks this year, so quite a lot of effort and driving of dusty roads went into finding a good spot. In the end, we came back to Dome Rock, but in a different location. This time we set up next to a big, wide, sandy wash with multiple roads and trails through it. Perfect.


Walking the wash near camp.

The times it’s easiest to select a spot is when someone else does it for you, but this is a rare occurrence. It happened once last year and once again this trip and both times were orchestrated by the same people — Sue and Leon. Last year it was this terrific spot at Ogilby Road down near Yuma, and this year they invited us to camp next to them at Scaddan Wash by Quartzsite. All we had to do was roll in, manoeuvre until we were mostly level, throw down the anchor, and join in the festivities. Easy peasy lemon squeezy! I can’t believe I just said that. I’ve been spending too much time with Chico.


Me, smack in the middle of the morning visit. That’s Sue, Keith, and Leon on the far side.

We’re here at Dome Rock for at least a few more days, maybe a week, maybe closer to two. Once we dig ourselves into a spot, it can be hard to get us out.

I’m As Good Once As I Ever Was

You’ve probably heard the song by Toby Keith, the one with the line “I’m not as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.” Well, I’m starting to relate.

Last month I turned thirteen. Thirteen! I’m a fit thirteen, and most people are surprised by my age, but still, I’m a teenager. I have the satisfaction of those we meet thinking that Chico is the old guy because of his white face, but when it comes down to stamina, I’m afraid the little dude has me beat. Damn it.

We’ve been out walking a lot since we got to Vulture Peak near Wickenburg. There are trails heading out in every direction, most of them with sandy footing and fairly gentle ups and downs. But, early last week, we set out on Majestic Trail, a ridge walk to the southeast of camp. We did this same hike when we camped here two years ago and I don’t recall it being quite as steep or long.


The first climb on Majestic Trail

Just over halfway through, I was starting to tire and look for shade. It was a warm, sunny morning, granted, but no more so than two years ago. And then I picked up a branch from a thorny shrub on the back of a leg. Just got that pulled out and I had a cluster of cactus thorn in a back paw. I’m known for my stoic nature so I just kept on walking for a bit, but Teresa was behind me and noticed that I was trying to walk on the backs of my legs rather than my feet. On top of all that, the trail was rocky and my feet were getting sore. But I carried on. As Toby says so well in his song, “My body says you can’t do this boy, but my pride says, oh yes I can!”


View from the top.

In my prime, I kept up with horses all day on the trail on a regular basis. And just a couple of years ago I completed the two-hour Majestic Trail hike without a thought beyond enjoying the exercise and the day. This year, all I could think about was getting back to camp, having a big drink of water, and lying under the trailer in the shade. The trail seemed to go on forever. Thankfully, Teresa & Nollind do bring water along for us, but when I’m walking I never quite drink my fill.


Water stop along the trail.

At last, we were down in Cemetery Wash (I had a sudden understanding of how it might have earned its name) and then onto the main road to camp. Almost home. I was going to make it. My legs were tired, my feet were sore, my tongue was almost on the road, but I was going to make it. I could tell Teresa was worried about me. I think if I didn’t weigh sixty pounds I would have been carried back to camp. Thank God! How embarrassing would that have been?


Almost home!

Half an hour later, I was lying on the bed with Nollind, resting from the morning’s exercise, and I felt a heaviness in my chest. I coughed. I coughed again. And a third time. It sounded a bit like Nat trying to cough up a hairball. And then I remembered what the vet said the last time I was in, that I had a heart murmur and the beginnings of heart disease. Sure, whatever, was my thinking at the time. I felt fine. But one of the symptoms of the progression of heart disease is a dry cough after exertion. Oh.


Just before the coughing started.

But don’t worry, I’m okay now. We’ve been on some one-hour walks since Majestic and I managed them without issue. The good news is, dogs don’t normally have heart attacks, so it’s not like I’m going to be running after a ball one day and just hit the dirt. Then again, maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing for a guy like me, going out at a dead run.

By the way, in case you were wondering about my security duties, it started raining overnight so the horse camp rolled out this morning. It was like a mass exodus of trucks, trailers, and motorhomes, one after another all morning long.


Rigs rolling out of the horse camp.

We’re enjoying a rain day. I don’t mind the break from our morning walk routine since, these days, I take every opportunity I can to rest up for the next outing, just in case it’s uphill and hours long. I’m not as good as I once was, but …


Rain day.