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December 10, 2010

Carla Buckley Guest Blogs

carla buckley  Carla Buckley is the author of THE THINGS THAT KEEP US HERE, which was recently selected by Suspense Magazine as one of 2010’s best debut novels. She was born in Washington, DC, but grew up in exotic places like Bangkok and Nigeria.  (Now she lives in Ohio!)  Visit her website at www.CarlaBuckley.com.


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Way back before I had kids and decided to stay home to micro-manage their lives, I held a bunch of different jobs: technical writer, graphic designer, assistant press secretary, marketing manager, hotel concierge. They each had their interesting and their not-so-interesting aspects, but not one of them prepared me in any way to write novels, especially the science-based topics I’m interested in. So it’s no surprise that I do a lot of research.

It’s not that bad. Actually, it’s a lot of fun interviewing experts. They don’t mind novice questions and their enthusiasm for their subject matter is compelling. I've learned some pretty cool things. Like, if there’s ever a catastrophe, Columbus, Ohio will store its dead in the skating rink. Viruses don’t jump from victim to victim: they lie around and wait to be picked up (like my kids’ dirty clothes.) Sneezes can travel three feet, and rats can squeeze between openings half an inch deep. The world narrowly missed a deadly pandemic in 1978 and a really scary meteor strike lurks in our near future.

But sometimes what I plan to research is not what I end up learning about, and some of my best lessons have come from some unlikely teachers. For example, the other morning I planned to spend the day studying DNA transfer, but here's what I learned instead:

1) When your dogs do not immediately return and demand breakfast: worry.

2) When they do return, it will be like a tidal wave stood up and rolled over you.

3) Skunk smell at a distance is terrible; skunk smell up close is an out-of-body experience. Literally. You wish you WERE out of your body.

4) A smell can be so terrible that it actually numbs your tongue. 

5) Running around, yelling and waving your hands, is not a solution. Neither is dumping the dogs into the shower with your husband who’s in mid-shampoo.

6) Calling the emergency vet clinic is a solution. They know what to do. They’ve seen your kind before.

7) Tomato juice does not work. What works is lathering your dog in a mixture of 1 quart of hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda, and 1 teaspoon dish soap.

8) What works better is having those ingredients on hand.

9) The clerk at WalMart will not blink as she rings up a dozen bottles of hydrogen peroxide. She’s seen your kind before, too.

10) As you drive home, a skunk will trot across the road and you will fantasize about steering your car toward him. Yes, you will.  Go to fullsize image

11) Your son will text you urgently all day to beg you to bring a clean T-shirt to school because his teachers won’t let him into class.

12) You won’t have any clean T-shirts. Duh. You won’t have any clean anything because the entire house reeks.

13) Boiling vinegar on the stove all day will help dissipate the odor.

14) There is not enough vinegar in the world.

15) A good sister will obligingly race over and sniff your hair to tell you whether you smell. A really good sister won’t laugh as she does so.

16) There is an online community of skunk sufferers who will tell you to suck cough drops and set out opened coffee canisters to absorb the odor. They will be sympathetic as they do so. These are my people now.

None of this research will fit into the book I’m currently writing. But trust me. A skunk will make an appearance someday in my writing. And I can’t promise the protagonist won’t gun the engine and steer her car toward it.

What about you? What was the strangest thing you’ve ever learned?

PS: Thanks to the amazing women at The Lipstick Chronicles for sharing your blog with me today. It was an honor!

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I used to live in a condo and one of the other owners had two of the dumbest dogs on the planet. Regardless of how often it happened, they would go out and try to play with the skunks again. And the dumb owner would bring them back in to the building in the one and only elevator . . .

My neighbourhood has lots of skunks for a city neighbourhood until this summer. As everyone knows from watching the Olympics last year we had a very very warm winter here in Vancouver. Apparently that meant a really good year for live births of coyotes . . . they hunt skunks. The smell of skunk only wafted into the apartment a couple of times this summer instead of the usual every few nights. Also there were lots and lots of missing cat posters around the area all summer as well.

Carla, I'm so happy to see you here! We met at your table at Books by the Banks in October, and your new book is just a couple books from the top of my TBR pile!

The strangest thing I've ever learned? Maybe all the different categories of fingerprints, in 1969, long before cop shows had that kind of detail. I still remember them: Arch, whorl, and loop. Now, though, there are four more categories. Figures.

Thanks for the laugh, although I'm terribly sorry for the experience that gave you the expertise to elicit it!

I grew up way out in the country in a farmhouse built around 1915. We had an 18 inch high crawlspace that ran under the entire house. Our floors were tongue & groove 1 inch boards with a couple of layers of linoleum over them.

One night, our dog chased a skunk under the house and the skunk let go his spray on the dog DIRECTLY under my parents bedroom. Instantly, the whole house in general and my folks room in particular was filled with skunk essence. It woke us all from a sound sleep, my parents cursing loudly as the flew out of bed.

Despite it being a cold November night, all of the windows were opened and my mom had us kids sprinkling vanilla extract and perfume and baby powder all over. Fortunately, the majority of the skunk juice was on poor old Tippy, who got bathed about 9 times that night and had to endure quite a bit of criticism from my folks. I think we all got back to bed around 3:00 AM.

Thankfully, the house stopped smelling like skunk after about a day or two. However, Tippy, for whom this had to be his 7th or 8th encounter with a skunk, never really stopped smelling ever so faintly of skunk, despite living another 9 years.

Carla, something I learned while visiting a hog farm in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa-- skunks have nothing on hogs in the stinks-so-bad-I-wanna-throw-up department.

Carla, you are so right about that tomato juice not working. It's a hideous combination: t.j. and skunk. Who was the chucklehead who started THAT remedy rumor?

Strangest thing I ever learned is that I can watch a dead person's skull being sawed off and not throw up or faint. Who knew?

Carla, it's a pleasure to have you here. I cracked up reading your skunk experience. It reminded me of the time I went downstairs early one morning to wash the dishes in the sink (yes, this is a morality tale) and picked up the "Brillo pad" only to discover it was a bat. (Insert screaming here.) My solution to the problem was to run upstairs, rip open the shower curtain and shriek at my shampooing husband.)

Moral to the story: Don't leave dirty dishes in the sink. Ask husband to wash them immediately after use.

Gaylin, our neighborhood was infested with skunks this year, too. If next year's anything like this year, we're moving. Argh.

Hi Karen from Ohio! Hope you enjoy my book, but I want to know what the other four fingerprint categories are! Right now, I'm studying my own fingers, trying to figure it out :)

Doc, the vet warned us that our dogs would reek of skunk for months whenever they got damp. But for years? Poor Tippy! I've now noticed that old, barely-there skunk odor smells very much like fresh coffee grinds (one of my favorite smells on the planet.) I might be losing my mind...

Reine--my husband did some research at a hog farm a few years ago. We ended up throwing away his clothes (including a leather jacket) because we could not get the smell out of them.

Harley, "chucklehead" is one of my very favorite expressions! As for watching a dead person's head being sawed off and not fainting, well, I'm impressed. Remind me to come to you if I ever need emergency surgery.

Hi Nancy--thanks so much for hosting me today! Apparently, we are both members of the scream-at-showering-husbands club. My poor husband, there he was, peacefully shampooing away, when the shower door suddenly opened and two hysterical dogs were ladled in. It's a miracle my marriage has survived.

Carla, welcome to TLC. I look forward to reading your book!

My dog Marcie was skunked three times, once right in the face. I learned then that, yes, dogs can cry.

There was no way--EVER--I was going to pour tomato sauce on her. The first time it happened, I'd just investigated home remedies for poison ivy and had tried out homemade baking soda paste. The website mentioned it also worked to remove skunk spray from animal fur. It didn't say anything about hydrogen peroxide, so we made a paste of baking soda and water and smeared it all over her. Boy, was that a pathetic sight! But it helped.

If you do this, it's not great for your pipes. To kill the clog, we decided to pour a bottle of vinegar in the tub. Remember the science fair experiment? Well, it worked-volcano in the bathroom! It cleared the clog, all right.

Don't try this in your home.

Hi, Carla! I'm looking forward to reading your book! Bat colonies smell a lot like skunk. As a grad student, I spent a lot of time caring for the various bats my advisor and the smell has always been associated with good memories for me. Full-on skunk, though, well, that's another story! I congratulate you on surviving the adventure :)

For me, I've learned that I can skin a road-killed raccoon with one hand and drink beer with the other. Which is no more than is expected of a field biologist, but still . . .

Skunk is the kind of smell that one never forgets. If you are interested in discovering it, drive the PA Turnpike. At some point between Breezewood and Harrisburg, you will smell one.

Oh, this made me laugh.

Years ago, I had a dog who managed to get sprayed by a skunk and attack a porcupine in the same night. Most of the quills were in his mouth and on his face. I had to put him in my car to drive him to the vet's office. He spent the whole ride with his head in my lap. I had my head hanging out the window despite the freezing temperature, gagging. It was the longest ride of my life.

At the vet's, he wanted to protect me from the vet tech and would bark, jamming the quills in further, then cry, bark and cry. Finally, the tech had to leave the waiting room, while I dropped the leash and left. That dog smelled like skunk every time it rained for months. Poor baby.

We don't have skunks in Australia. Smelling one my first Spring here was an education. Fortunately it wasn't up close and personal... whew. Sorry Carla, I laughed. Poor puppies. Poor husband. Poor you... But it reads just like something out of a novel...and you will probably use it someday.

Welcome to the ranks of the Book Tarts!

Hi, Ramona, and thanks for the welcome! As for exploding plumbing, well, that's just plain hideous. HIDEOUS.

Kerry, that's an amazing talent. Truly. Don't be surprised to find I've named my next protagonist after you (note to self: don't ever visit a bat colony...)

Kathy, I will never forget up-close skunk smell. It's been burned into my sinuses.

Oh Karin, your poor, sweet dog. I'm going to tell my dogs all about your dog as a warning. Do you think they'll listen? Sigh. I don't think so, either.

Thanks, Marianne, for the welcome! Australia is sounding more and more like I place I want to move to. I think it's inevitable that a skunk will wander into a future novel of mine. Along with the story about the smoke detectors that chose two AM to let me know their batteries needed to be replaced--one painful shrill beep after another. My husband was out of town for that one. Lucky guy.

Carla, the other four are: tentarch, double loop, pocked loop, and mixed. It's a good thing I don't need to know those for a test any more! Fingerprints are really fascinating, by the way. This is a pretty good site (meant for kids) that shows some cool facts:


My husband wasn't home when this happened, so I called him, screaming, to come home and get the snake out of the washer. Which fell out of the lid when I opened it. Scared the pee out of me.

Uh, Carla? Australia may not have skunks, but they have the largest quantity of other animals that can kill you of any other continent. At least according to Bill Bryson in his book, In A Sunburned Country.


I laughed out loud reading this! I could just see you. I think most readers will forgive your future protag if he/she runs over a skunk, especially if the skunk causes the havoc yours did.

The whole story reminds me of the chaos that ensues when a child comes home from school with lice . . .

Thanks for my morning laugh!

What a great post!

I have never had to deal with a skunked anything, except a truck. Trucks do not mind skunk spray one bit, or baths.

But the ice rink as morgue did remind me of a meeting at a Middle School I worked for. The meeting was on Emergency procedures. This was a post-Columbine meeting. The first thing about the meeting was it was my job, as the computer techie, to explain to the assistant principal that had prepared the handout, that the black and white copier would not make color copies of her color maps. The next thing was I brought up that perhaps the holding area for the press and the morgue should not be next to each other. Someone with a Masters in education asked why.

The next thing was your trip to WalMart. One of the tag lines for the Porsche Caynne Turbo was "Why would anyone need a 450 hp SUV? Have you ever been out of diapers at 4:30 AM?"

Wierd things I have learned:

You can change a diaper while wearing a shirt and tie and keep everything clean.

The most important thing when one engine fails in an airplane is to know for sure which one it is.

Before born on dating, the notches on the side of a Budweiser label told the drive the date the beer was made on.

The person buying steak with food stamps does not get food stamps from the government. He buys them from someone else for fifty cents on the dollar.

Never hire the cheapest hitman. He is a cop.

Welcome Carla, but first. . .
OHMYGODNANCY! You picked up a bat thinking it was a wash cloth? omgomgomg.

Okay, now that I've got that out of my system. .
OMYGODKARINNH! Skunk and porcupine in the same night?! That there was some bad karma!

Okay, now that hyperventilating is done. . .Carla, you cracked me up, too, even while I was sooo sympathizing with you. I actually agree with you about the coffee smell--only when the skunk smell is very faint, of course. I've learned to kind of like the smell of it on the highway.

Forgot a few.

H. A. Rey fled France and the Nazis in 1940. An editor thought the monkey in his cartoon about a duck would make a great lead character.

John Banner and Werner Klemperer had first hand experience with Nazi troops. Both fled Germany. Robert Clary was in the French Resistance and was interned in a Concentration camp.

Not that I'm the sharpest tool in the shed Alan P...but could you explain the Budweiser label thing again?
Hello Carla and welcome to our little corner of the world.
Worst smell ever? The one you could actually taste?
When the power was out for two weeks after Hurricane Katrina AND Wilma and the fish market across the street hadn't installed generators yet. That's when I learned how to say putrid in Spanish.
The only costume I felt could be shipped out was The Little Mermaid. Fabric does tend to soak up odors.
I won't even mention the fact that you couldn't see the sky for the flies.
Makes you wish you owned an ice rink.

aw carla you are so funny! a skunk once got trapped in our window well...we were living in the basement at the time as our kitchen was remodeled, and the little guy appeared to be waving at us as i fed my toddlers from a utility sink and a microwave. we hired a guy to "humanely" cart him away - he either released the thing in wisconsin across teh state line, or....i don't know, maybe ate him for dinner.

My husband is a wildlife photographer, and people often used to bring baby animals "abandoned" by the mothers to them. For several years they had a female skunk, out in a cage behind the studio, and she never once sprayed anyone. She may have lifted her tail at critters who came in the night, but never to the humans.

Carla, I have been laughing for the last couple of hours! Thank you for your post! I hope we hear from you again very soon!

I've had to come to terms with the fact that near-strangers feel the need to confide the most unusual details of their lives to me:
--the son of a business acquaintance told me that his parents suspected that he might not be the father of his second oldest child. He was beginning to wonder if they might possibly be correct about that...
--a client had to give me his new address. That's all he had to do - tell me that "I moved; this is my new address." He spent about ten minutes telling me that he was sorry he didn't get around to giving us his new address sooner but he'd been busy - he had recently been divorced, was in the process of moving his girlfriend and her children into the home that he and his housemate (who was his EX-father-in-law) had just purchased in another city, he had to try to make time to see his children who lived with their mom...
--when I arrived at a doctor's office for an appointment a few years ago, his then-secretary told me "oh, good; I'm glad you're here. I need to ask you a question." I assumed it had to do with my insurance. Nope. All I knew about her was her first name and the fact that she had a long commute to work. She wanted to know if I thought she should quit her job and look for something closer to home. The long commute, combined with the long hours (her employer was one of the few doctors around here with evening office hours) was starting to affect her marriage, she told me...

About skunks: when I was in high school, there was a lot of yelping and barking in our tiny front yard one morning. We lived in a downtown duplex apartment. My parents looked outside and discovered that some neighborhood dogs were attacking and being attacked by a skunk. The skunk did not survive. The smell was horrible. Someone had to remove the skunk from the front yard. My parents nominated the family member who had the worst sense of smell, my second-youngest sister. (My brother used to vomit from ANY strong scent, so he was immediately eliminated.) I don't think my poor sister has recovered from this yet. I don't recall what my parents did after my sister removed the skunk from the yard. Did they call animal control, or the police, or the landlord, or what? I guess I should ask my sister next time I see her but she might not want to revisit the incident!

I had a pet skunk (de-whatever-ed) from the time she was a few weeks old. I left the pet store with her after the clerk told he had to get the prairie dog handler and my daughters had seen her. I came to adore her; she was sweet, playful, albino, and got along beautifully with the menagerie here of cats and dogs. Snowy Chloe. I loved her to pieces. I do realize that she was domesticated--and others are not! We have them in South Florida, but rarely see them in my area. Right now, we're in the midst of a snake invasion--over 60,000 PETS dumped and spread in the Everglades. Oh, and some kind of a new giant rat (not as big as nutria.) Between them, I believe they might have handled the skunk population.

Welcome, Carla!

I had a rat make himself at home recently.
He was mostly nocturnal since we discovered he had chomped on our three thousand dollar leather sofa and watched a marathon TCM James Cagney movie marathon.
He also sustained himself on bread I found evidence of his moving from room to room.
Skunks are such beautiful animals. It's a shame they have to protect themselves with their spray.
We used to feed squirrels on our porch rail when I was a kid. My father was faithful to all creatures big and small.

Hi Karen in Ohio--snake in the washing machine? You win. Boy, do you ever.

Julie--I've had a child come home from school with lice. That'll be my next post :)

Alan, cops are the cheapest hitmen? Who knew?

OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD!!! a comment from NANCY PICKARD? If getting skunked is the price I had to pay for this, then there very well may have been a silver lining to the whole thing, after all.

Wow, Xena--the flies were so thick you couldn't see the sky. Amazing. When my dogs first raced into the kitchen, and with them, the smell of fresh skunk, I didn't smell it at first. It literally crawled down my throat and clung. At least there were no flies.

Oh Sophie, only you would find a friendly skunk. Mine was most definitely vengeful and mean.

Deb, you might have a second career as a therapist. As for your poor sister and that skunk... I momentarily felt sympathy for the skunk. But only momentarily.

Heather, only you could make me believe a skunk might actually have a nice personality. It's terrible to hear about the snake invasion; I've heard Las Vegas is being overrun by pets who've been abandoned because their owners couldn't make their mortgage payments. So sad...

Wow - I'm sure this wasn't funny as it was happening to you, but your description made me laugh out loud. I keep getting an image of your husband's shower being interrupted by a screaming wife and two reeking dogs, and I start laughing all over again.

And thanks for the tip about screaming and waving hands about not being a solution - that would have been the first thing I tried

My daughter hit a skunk on her way home from work one night (by accident... I think). She parks on the street, and as soon as she got home, I could smell skunk in my closed up second floor bedroom.

And Nancy M., if I had picked up a bat instead of a Brillo pad, I would have died right there on the spot. That totally squicked me out.

Thanks for the great blog, Carla!

Carla - how could a skunk NOT make it into your books? You are truly an expert! I have no funny skunk tales to tell, although once we drove by a family of them while on vacation in PEI and my husband slowed down the car to show the girls. I saw the mother's tail go up and I shouted for my husband to hit the gas - before the skunk did. It's a long drive back from PEI to NS...


Our neighbor, a widow in her late eighties, had a humane trap that she used to catch skunks. Whenever she would trap one she would begin calling around the neighborhood looking for someone to come over and shoot it. Right in her yard. Right in the middle of this very small town. And because she was insistent and very strident she would always find some nice man to help her. As a person who lived all my life in major metropolitan areas prior to moving here, the learning experience I derived from this and other incidents is that most people are way more eccentric than they appear. And that when a neighbor asks for help some people will help even when it is not wise to do so.


I enjoyed this story so much I'm calling you "Skunk" for the rest of your life so you can relive it whenever we meet.

Something I learned recently is that THE THINGS THAT KEEP US HERE just made Suspense Magazine's Best of 2010 list. That just goes to show that Supense Magazine knows what it's talking about, because THINGS is, in fact, a terrific read.


Oh, yes, Carol. You are so right. A neighbor, a "good Christian woman", used to trap raccoons that threatened her ducks. One time I watched her, from the safety of an upstairs window, walk calmly to the trap, set her gun to an opening in the trap, and blow the poor creature to Kingdom Come.

After that I made good and sure to keep on her good side.

Welcome, and what an awful, funny story. All the stories are are great. A bat in the sink? I had a really embarrassing experience-I lived in an apartment and we all started smelling gas. Dutifully, and admittedly, we were nervous, we called the fire department who were very happy to inform us it was a skunk. I was mortified. But they said it happens a lot. Different kind of gas though.

Carol R and Karen, you have had some mighty eccentric neighbors!

Carla, I don't want to be a therapist! I'm afraid that people might start 'confessing' to me one of these days!

This afternoon I remembered how one of my friends handled skunks at her house a few years ago. Mama Skunk chose to have her babies in the crawlspace under my friend's house. At first she thought it was cute, and even took pictures of the skunk family coming and going. She made her husband and kids tiptoe to and from the house the entire time the skunks were in residence but at some point there was an encounter with the family dog. My friend realized that the skunks would have to be relocated. I'm not sure where she got her information for how to solve this but she took an old broom, covered the broomhead with a rag and dipped it into ammonia. Then she stuck the broom under the crawlspace. In a very short time, Mama and babies marched out from under the house and down the driveway. They never returned.

My friend took pictures of them moving out. She'll be happy to show her entire Skunk Family photo album to anyone who asks!

Hi Carla, the farmers we were visiting had cans of "hog stink neutralizer" that they passed around and sprayed each other with before going out to dinner. We welcomed the invitation to join in the ritual. I was there to visit the family church that sat where 4 sections of land owned by four families (brothers and their immediate families). It was very tiny but lovely and was my introduction to the concept in the US. Anyway - I didn't want to go there smelling like hog methane!

The Bud label. Anheuser-Busch has always been sticklers for fresh beer. If the delivery driver finds "old" beer on the shelf he is supposed to remove it, the store still has to pay for it. Now labels for some beers have "born on dating". At Cardinal games, the born on date should be today or yesterday. It is a sweet piece of marketing. My beer says born on October 17 and is good for 90 days. When does it expire? My coke says use by January 24, 2011, when does it expire? On of the InBev changes was the non "core" brands now have longer shelf lives.

Before born on dating, there were square marks on the edges of the bud logo on bottles. The pattern of the marks told the driver when the beer was made. If you "were in the know" you could read the marks as well. You generally needed to know someone at the Brewery or a liquor store.

The Honorable Judge John J. Hoban, my law professor at Parks College imparted the sage advice on hitmen. The judge has gone to the great bench in the sky, but his classes were fun. His classes included stories of the Sauget Il. police department, his wife's cooking, hitmen, and a bunch of other things that are good life lessons but were not on the tests.

For the non St. Louisians, Google Sauget, Il. and scroll down the list of hits. That should tell you all you need to know about the first exit east of the Arch.

Actually, up close, bats have very cute, inquisitive faces. At least, that's what I remember, but since it was a tenth of a second before I hurled the little beast back into the sink, I could be wrong.

Hey, I hear Parks won the Nero award! We hang with some pretty cool types around here.

Marie--I used to think skunks were pretty, too. I used to think they were clever and sweet and just like cartoon pepe. Ha. Those days are OVER.

Hi Laura (in PA)--you should have seen my poor husband's face. There he was, all peacefully soaping away, and WHAMMO. He took it a like a champ, though. Then he left the house (ran might be more accurate), though he did call me several times to see how things were going and whether or not it would be safe to return that evening.

Pam Callow--you are the perfect example of, behind every great man... Oh, wait, you're great, too!

Oh, Carol R. I can't even imagine it. That woman belongs in some novel

Look everyone: it's Brad Parks (aka Mr. Romantic Times Runner-Up)! Thanks for the kind words. You can call me Skunk, Brad. Believe me, I've been called worse ;-)

Karen in OH--it's ALWAYS wise to stay on the good side of an armed woman.

Lil, I would have vacated the premises IMMEDIATELY.

Deb, I'm adding ammonia to my shopping list. You. Never. Know.

Reine, that's a quaint (cough cough) ritual. I'm making a note, though, to buy some of THAT, too.

Alan P--I'm adding you to my list of future book sources.

Strangest thing? Walnuts will take the scratches off your wooden trays and tables. I'm not kidding, it's AMAZING.
Take a walnut, the meat part not the shell, and rub it over the scratch. The buff.
GONE. The scratch will be GONE!
I have a gorgeous vintage art deco tray that someone scratched the heck out of--I was so mad! Then someone told me about the walnut. MAGIC.

HEy Carla! So hilarious...and so lovely to see you here.

(Nancy, if I touched a bat, I would still be having PTSD)

haha!! Carla, you're hilarious, and so is this whole blog today. I think I scared you, though. :) I hope you'll come back and make us laugh again.

Nancy--it's true! Brad won the Nero and the Shamus. I'm still doing the Happy Dance!

Hank--I really want to try that. I'm ready for a little magic in my life, and if it has to come from rubbing walnuts across wooden surfaces, so be it.

Nancy Pickard--I'm done hyperventilating. I swear. (And I'd love to come back ANY time. With three kids, a husband, and two dogs, I've got a LOT of stories to share...)

There don't seem to be many skunks in our immediate area, thank goodness, considering how many dead possums, coons, squirrels and deer already litter our highways, but you all are giving Elaine even more vet stories, right, Elaine?

Sorry not to have tuned in earlier, Carla, but Mr. TypePad took a dislike to all my attempts. Got real snippy about it, too. I've written down your skunk remedy just in case. Otherwise, I would have tried the tomato juice.

I came home from a weekend trip to discover lamps on the floor, things were turned over and papers were on the floor. My first thought was - crazily enough- did we have a small earthquake? I knew it wasn't a burglar because all electronics were in place. I called a friend and asked if we'd had a small earthquake. During our conversation I looked across the room and discovered the fireplace doors were open. I realized then that some critter had been in the room.

Since I didn't see any large "evidence" I decided it was a squirrel instead of a raccoon and figured it had gone back up the chimney. Apparently it had only been in the house a few minutes before I got home. I closed the fireplace doors and blocked them with a stick. I didn't hear anything all night or the next morning. Later that day I went out with friends and came home to quite a mess. I called "critter control" and the tech said it was a squirrel and I could probably wait until the next day (weekend surcharges applied). He said since I was going to be home the squirrel would hide. He said they weren't dangerous and to just shut my bedroom door when I went to bed.

I started cleaning up the mess and noticed some things had been knocked on top of a power strip behind an end table. I reached behind the table to remove the things and the squirrel leaped up over my head and headed toward the back of the house. I knew it had to be in one of the bedrooms so I shut both doors called "critter control" and said I didn't care what it cost I wanted it caught. I wish I'd seen the expression on my face when it happened.

Turned out it had burrowed under the pillows on my bed. Even thought it hadn't left me any "presents" I stripped the bed, put on a new mattress cover, etc. By coincidence I had purchased new bedding that weekend. Even though it was still packaged I washed it all and made the bed with the new bedding.

I found out the hard way the squirrels can't climb back up a chimney. I was very lucky that it hadn't chewed the window sills or electric cords or knocked over my flat screen TV's. Apparently they look for light and try to get out by chewing through the window sills. It had pawed the mirror over the fireplace but thankfully hadn't tried to chew its way out of the window.

At Tan-Tar-A at Lake of the Ozarks, skunks come up to the outdoor dining area at dusk and clean up food spills . . . Waiters warn late diners not to panic or make noise, and all is well.

One of my late brother's favorite ditties; he'd sing it and his little daughter would giggle and sing along. Don't hit that skunk!

Karen's fingerprint info link on TLC reminded me of Twain's _Pudd'nhead Wilson_ which I used to love reading with my high school juniors.

Diana, I had a squirrel in my second-floor Minneapolis apartment one spring. I had opened a window for a cool breeze, but there were no screens up yet. I didn't see it; it must have come and gone while I was out, but the nut dish was empty and the shells were on the window sill. A plant or two was knocked over, but no damage.

Hi Margaret! It's a great recipe. And you know what? My dogs smelled really great afterward. I've been tempted to use it as a general shampoo. Trick is not to let it get into their eyes because of the hydrogen peroxide. Tomato juice does NOTHING. After my husband escaped to his office, everyone told him that tomato juice is The Cure, so he bought gallons of it on his way home. All it did was make the dogs lick each other's faces. We ended up drinking a lot of tomato juice that week...

Diana, we once had a large snake take up residence in the wall. The only way we knew it was there was by the sudden thumping at night as it...shudder...trapped its dinner. After a week of Animal Kingdom playing out behind the paneling, we called animal control.

Mary, the thing is, my dogs weren't trying to hurt that skunk. My dogs are little and friendly and curious. They just wanted to say hello. It was the skunk that took it to the next level. Grr.

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