Last night I went running in Mill Creek with Arnie, Red and Zambonie (a wonderful, skinny German Shepard who’s visiting us while her parents are living it up in Maui).

We’d covered about half a mile before coming upon one of the many empty pieces of pipe along the Pipeline Trail (hence...). Suddenly Red charged the pipe opening with a fervor I’ve never seen from the relatively mild-mannered Heeler. Something was in there, and Red didn’t like it.

It occurred to me as I considered the light rain and cold, muddy ground, that the pipe’s occupant could be a rattlesnake. (I was thinking, you see, of the episode of Meerkat Manor in which brave little Shakespeare gets attacked by a puff adder.)

“Red, COME!” No response. That’s odd for Red. With Arnie, I’m used to calling two, three, nine times. But Red almost always listens on the first call. This was worrisome, especially because Arnie was close behind, peering into the pipe behind his big brother.

(Zambonie, for the record, was 25 feet ahead of us on the trail, looking back at the boys, plainly annoyed.)

At once Red and Arnie tore into the pipe, chasing the creature that was now darting from the other end. A black creature, smallish. A black and white creature. With a long tail and a stripe on its ba....oh my god, my boys were just sprayed by a skunk.

Red flung himself on the ground in the aftermath of the spray, scooting his head in the dirt and rubbing his eyes. He seemed ashamed and disgusted, the continued self-flinging a form of beratement. “No need to punish him,” I thought. “He’s doing it for me.” Forlorn and wide-eyed, Red’s ears were back in submission.

I looked around for Arnie, assuming that he’d be reacting similarly. Typical, though, of my sweet, dopey little retriever, Arnie was sprawled in the middle of the trail eating a stick. “Arnie!” I said, surprised. He paused momentarily, looking up at me with his “I am a canine gargoyle” face, cocked his head, and went back to gnawing bark.

He didn’t seem to notice that he had just been sprayed by a skunk.

As Red continued a display that would have put the monks of Opus Dei to shame, Arnie rolled over onto his back with a “please scratch my belly” look.

Five baths, one scrub with a dubious sounding combo we found on the internet (hydrogen peroxide, liquid soap, baking powder), and a whole lot of hosing down later, the boys were allowed back into the house.

Arnie, completely unaffected by the spray, the baths, the hose and the banishment from the house, hopped onto the couch between us like nothing had happened. Red curled up on his bed and proceeded to whine for the next 24 hours.

We get it. He’s sorry.

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