A while back, my friend Susan asked me to come by her office and help her with an urgent problem. “I woke up this morning,” she said, “and smelled what I thought was some kind of putrid exotic coffee. But when I went to investigate, I found out the smell was coming from the dog. Apparently, she's been sprayed by a skunk. Do you know how to get skunk smell off a dog?”“Well,” I said, “I’d have to study up on that. I could probably scrounge up some hillbilly remedies. But since you made a connection between coffee and skunk spray, let me share a little obscure trivia. There's a fine line between coffee and skunk funk. Some fashionable overly-moneyed folk have been known to pay fifty bucks a cup for coffee made from the droppings of the Javanese luwak, a creature not unlike a skunk. The beans, which don’t make good coffee until they’ve popped out of the luwak’s ass, cost three hundred bucks a pound.”“You're making that up,” Susan rejoindered.“Nope,” I said. “I’m just full of arcane information. I’m the only man on earth who knows all the words to ‘Louie, Louie.’ You can look up all the luwak stuff on the Internet. But tell me more about this skunk situation at your house.”“Well,” Susan said, “before we could catch the dog and figure out what had happened, she had gone into every room of the house and some of the closets. Now everything in our house smells like skunk—the couch, the drapes, the carpet, the clothes. My hair smells like skunk. My purse smells like skunk.” She reached down, grabbed the purse from under her desk, and offered me a sniff. I declined.“Worst of all,” she continued, “it's in the heat-and-air system. Every time the air conditioner comes on, it just stirs up the smell. Do you know how to get skunk smell out of a heat-and-air system?”“Nope,” I told her. “I'm still trying to figure out how to get the beer-and-cigarette smell out of my guitar case, which hasn't been inside a bar since right after Elvis died.” Bar funk, like the King himself, seems to be immortal.“I'm afraid we'll spend the whole weekend working on the problem,” Susan said. “So far, all I've got is this recipe for anti-skunk shampoo. Our vet gave it to me.”I took a look at the recipe.1 quart 3 percent hydrogen peroxide1/4 cup baking soda1 teaspoon Joy dish soapMix ingredients together and bathe the animal in it. Rinse with tap water.Below the recipe, there was this: Warning! Do not mix this in advance. It will explode (not a combustible explosion). Do not put in or mix in a closed container. It must all be used and not stored. Do not allow children to mix or use this.“Yikes,” I said. “Your vet’s telling you to wash your dog in bomb juice!”“Well,” Susan shrugged, “they said I could wash her in vanilla extract. But it would take a hundred dollars’ worth of vanilla extract to wash this dog.”The thought of skunk-and-vanilla odor made me fight back a retch reflex. I say it’s better to live with a bad smell than to try to cover it up. I know what would happen if I washed a skunky dog in vanilla extract. The next time wife Brenda served up a warm piece of pound cake, I'd taste a little skunk in every bite. I’d never enjoy pound cake again.Smells are powerful memory-joggers. When I catch even a little whiff of Lysol, I'm instantly transported back to elementary school, to a day when some kid had a bad accident in the hall. If the janitor had just cleaned up the mess with soap and water, I would've forgotten the smell in a day or two. But no, he had to mix in the Lysol and sear the wretched odor into my memory forever.When I was in the fourth grade, I had a classmate, Jerry, who was cursed with really bad teeth. Our teacher gave him oil of cloves to kill his toothaches. To this day, if I smell cloves, I see rotten teeth.This smell-association thing plagues me even today. When cat Sassy makes a stinky mess, Brenda sprays a little pine-scented deodorizer into the air. Now, when we go home to South Carolina and take a walk through the piney woods, my brain reproduces the searing smell of what a cat can do with a little leftover teriyaki chicken.So imagine my reaction when Susan told me that she'd gone to an industrial deodorant warehouse and bought a giant cherry-smelling deodorant cake. “We put in the return air duct,” she said.“Great goshamighty,” I said. "Your whole house is going to smell like the men’s room at the county fair.”“Why?,” she said. “What does the deodorizer have to do with a men’s room?”“You've bought the mother of all urinal cakes,” I said. “They come in pink, blue and white. Pink smells like cherries. Blue and white smell sort of like Kool-Aid. That’s why I don’t drink Kool-Aid.”Last I heard, Susan decided to let the smell wear off naturally.