By Regena Handy
Outdoor night trips have recently been made with caution. First we sniff the air, searching for any vestige of odor that might serve as a warning. We are especially careful if any of the motion sensor lights along the porch and outbuildings are on, flipping additional outside lights for better vision.
A new pet has taken up residence with us. Or perhaps I should call him the ‘ruler of the roost’ for we sure do step lightly and give him every leeway. And that’s not just my husband and I, but the reaction of our cat, as well.
We are accustomed to possums and raccoons showing up on those nights we forget to take the cat food dish inside. During warm months our cat sleeps on the porch. He pays little attention to the possum, though he cautiously eyes the raccoon, no doubt knowing they can be vicious little critters if provoked.
So recently I heard a noise and looked out, expecting our normal visitors. First I notice our cat slunk as low into the chair cushion as possible, ears flattened to his head, an obvious attempt to draw no attention to himself. At the cat bowl having a late night snack was a beautiful skunk.
We’ve seen him a few times now. He is a big animal, glossy black hair, with a white streak on his back in a pattern I’ve not seen before — a wider than usual white stripe with a smaller black strip running through the middle. I don’t try to scare him away. My view is ‘you don’t bother me, I won’t bother you.’
So here are a couple of skunk stories. One summer night our small Australian Shepherd was having a barking fit. My husband stepped out onto the porch just in time to see him dive under the pickup truck. Only seconds later he came rolling out, yipping like mad, just as a horrible odor filled the air. I was standing at the door by now and my husband yelled ‘get in the house, close the door, close the windows’.
Down through the yard ran that poor dog, disappearing into the darkness. We didn’t see him again until the next day when he showed up, absolutely sopping wet. But he had no odor. Apparently he had wisely spent the night lying in the nearby creek and taken care of that situation. Needless to say, he never went after another skunk.
Neither has our son’s dog. She is a house pet, frequently allowed outside into their fenced back yard. My son went to the door one night to call her inside only to find her running around, shaking her head, behaving erratically. And just like at our house there was an odor.
There was no stopping her. Making a dash for the back door she was in the house in a flash. After scrubbing her numerous times in the bathtub with all kinds of solutions, she was a wiser dog but no worse for the wear.
So when I step outside at night it is not the bears that roam our area that worry me. It’s the skunks.