In part one, we learned that I am not feeling well and have embarked on an ambitiously restrictive elimination diet to find the cause. In part two, we learned that caffeine withdrawal is brutal.

Monday morning dawned bright and early. I think it was a little before 5AM, the sky barely turning light, when Sophie Sunshine said, “I really need to go outside. No, really, it is urgent. Urgent!” I might have told her to wait an hour, but Riley D, our guest in the tiny house while Suzanne was off in Las Vegas, said, “You know, I think I kinda want to go out, too.” So okay, I opened the door and let the dogs out. It was a lovely morning, not too cold, so I left the door open and stumbled back to my bed, wishing I could tell my Alexa to start making me some coffee, hoping for another hour of sleep.

I was really not awake, but I think Riley D came in and curled back down on his dog bed. And then Sophie came in and instead of hopping up onto the bed with me, she went under the bed and straight to the very back, her favorite hiding place, where she proceeded to begin hacking and coughing, a dog version of desperately trying to clear her throat.

With her came an incredible odor.

It was not a smell that I recognized at all. It was not a familiar smell. It didn’t remind me of anything I’d ever smelled before, I did not immediately say or think, “Oh, no, Sophie met a skunk.” In fact, my sleepy thoughts were more like, “Did some industrial waste truck just spill something outside? Are we under a chemical attack by aliens? What the hell is happening?”

It was — I honestly can’t even describe it. Real skunk, literal skunk spray — the yellow gooey oil the skunk emits — is so far beyond that whiff you get when you’re passing through an area where a skunk recently sprayed that it’s like comparing the way you feel when you see someone take a bite of delicious cake to the way you feel when you take a bite of delicious cake yourself. Although instead of cake, it should probably be more like the way you feel when you watch someone vomit vs the way you feel when you’re vomiting yourself. It was so bad that I truly didn’t recognize it as skunk.

But I got up, got Sophie outside, realized what had happened, took a cute video for the internet (posted on Instagram), took a photo to the extent that I could (she was not inclined to make it easy on me and I really didn’t want to touch her), and started figuring out what I needed to do. Hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and dish soap, according to the internet. I stole all three from Suzanne’s kitchen, made a nice little mix in a bowl, applied it to Sophie, rubbed it in really well, took her inside to my nice big sink, rinsed her down, dried her off to the extent that she would let me, and sighed with relief. Job done. And it worked pretty well. I could put my nose right up to her neck and barely get a whiff of skunk.

The yellow is the skunk spray. A direct hit, straight into the face.

So… why was the smell still so strong? Why did I still feel like I was living in an industrial spill?

Duh. Because when she came inside and ran under the bed, everything she touched also got skunked.

So I pulled out her blanket and her dog bed and dumped them in the sink. Added the towel I’d used on her and a few other things and hand-scrubbed them all with my hydrogen-peroxide, dish soap, baking soda mix. Wrung them out, as best I could, then loaded them up, carried them into Suzanne’s house and put them in the washer on the Sanitize setting, two hours, hot water, and plenty of soap.

I came back to the tiny house, satisfied with my work, but my house still reeked. Guess what I store under the bed? All my spare linens. I dragged them all out, left them on the patio to wait for their turn in the washer.

My house still reeked. My bed smelled of skunk. I stripped it, took everything outside to the patio. My house still reeked. The curtains smelled of skunk, I took them down, out to the patio. House still reeked.

I moved the bed, scrubbed the floor, moved it again, scrubbed it again. Took the shoe rack and all the shoes outside. Smelled every shoe — they all smelled, but fortunately not of skunk.

The house still stunk. I decided I was the one who stunk, so stripped down and took a shower, got dressed in clean clothing, added my clothes to the pile of things to be washed. The only thing I accomplished by that was spreading the smell to the bathroom. I’d opened the windows that could open, the door was open, the bathroom fan was on, but the house still smelled of skunk.

Still smelled, in fact, so strongly of skunk, that I couldn’t stop myself from recoiling every time I entered.

My brother texted me around 10AM, just a typical Monday morning, “how’s it going?” kinda text and I answered, “I need a word that’s worse than horrible, miserable, awful and terrible put together, but I can’t think of it.”

We wound up chatting for about an hour — an actual voice call, not texting — and at the end of it, I texted him. “I was outside for our whole conversation, optimistically thinking the skunk smell was fading. Nope. It has permeated everything I own. My curtains smell like skunk. My pillows smell like skunk. My LIFE smells like skunk. My paper towels smell like skunk.”

I don’t know how many loads of laundry I did, but the washer and dryer were in continual use through midday of the next day. I spent the entire day on Monday trying to get the skunk smell out of my life. Did I succeed? Why, no, I did not.

As I write this, it is days later, and if you walked into my house, you would automatically start holding your breath. If I stood too close to you at the grocery store or the beach, you would glance my way and your nose would wrinkle. I would shrug apologetically and not comment, because really, what can you say when someone wants to point out that you smell, but is too polite to actually say the words?

Some of my belongings are still outside — my yoga mat, the grocery box I store sparkling water in — and every time I walk in the house, I spray Nature’s Miracle followed by Febreeze. Someday — someday! — everything will stop smelling like skunk, but we have not yet reached that day.

And I will admit the truth: I did not think of Christina’s presents once between my 5AM wake-up call and my final moments of falling asleep sometime that night.

But hey, sending someone presents ON their birthday at least shows you were thinking of them that day, right?

Spoiler alert: I did not get her presents in the mail on her birthday, either. But that story will have to wait for part 4.