Friday, June 17, 2011

The Menagerie

There's no shortage of animals around, these days. In the past week, there was a wild turkey outside my office window, a crow (or raven) that nearly flew into my window there, a multitude of spiders everywhere, a skunk at the house...

Ah, yes. A skunk at the house. That was exciting.

It was a recent Sunday evening, at dusk - not quite night. One cat - Annie - was outside, wanting to come in. The other cat - Alex - was inside, wanting to go out. In sum, it was a typical Sunday evening, where I am servant to cats' needs.

I opened the door to do the Cat Exchange. And there he was. Or she. A skunk. A baby skunk, in fact. A very sweet looking, gentle - but potentially dangerous to the olfactory sense - skunk, in the walkway, just below the flower box on the living room window (where Annie was sitting). I gasped. Alex crouched. The baby skunk perked up. Annie gazed at us all, in Zen-like mode: "Ah yes," she seemed to be saying, as she nodded in the direction of the baby. "Did I fail to mention there's a skunk in our midst?"

Then Alex started his hunter's stalk. I went into action too. "Alex. Alex. No. No. No. No," I said, in an increasingly shrill voice. Alex looked over his shoulder at me, confused by my sudden insistence, annoyed that I was interrupting his plan to pounce. I grabbed my lap top's extension cord - the only thing close enough to a 10-foot-pole that I could see - and got ready to swing it in someone's direction. The baby skunk scurried into the bushes, but not far. Alex trotted down the walkway towards the sidewalk, away from the baby, I'm sure as a way of calming me down (and biding time until I went inside and freed him up to continue his prowl). Annie just watched.

I knew I had precious little time before Alex circled around the back side of the bushes where the baby was. "Hey Annie, Annie," I said to my calmer cat... approached the window box where she sat, and.... swooped her into my arms. Surprisingly, she acquiesced. I tossed her into the house, grabbed a can of wet cat food, and went back out. Yes, yes - do I know my cats or what? - Alex had circled around, and was aiming for that baby skunk from a different angle. "Hey, Alex," I said in what I hoped was my sweetest voice. "Hey Sweetie Pie. Look what I have... oooh.... cat food... mm..."

I clicked open the can. Alex was torn. Oh gosh, he so badly wanted to chase that baby skunk. But, hmm... that cat food did look good... he leaned toward the bushes, but the can won out, and he headed in my direction instead. I think he was trying to concoct a plan where he ate the cat food and chased the skunk. But my plan was to get him into the house. So I sneaked him inside by backing into the front door with the cat food low by his nose, and just out of his reach. He couldn't help himself. He had to follow the can. Suddenly he was inside. And he did get wet food as his reward. But he was "in" for the night too. This did not make him happy. I heard his protests all night long. I didn't care.

When I told a friend about it the next day, she wondered if perhaps the baby skunk had rabies, as they are nocturnal animals and it wasn't quite yet dark. I told her no, I didn't think so - the skunk never got aggressive, never even turned its back to spray... (by that time, I'd read up about skunks - had found out that babies can spray just as lethally as adults). I told her how sweet the skunk was, how round (!) (I didn't know that baby skunks are round, and not long), how it was more likely to start playing with Alex if Alex had been nice. As she listened, she said, "It was Flower." I gasped. "Flower! It was Flower!" We both laughed, having turned eight years old in an instant, each remembering the skunk that Bambi named "Flower" because he had just learned his first word and figured everything went by the same name.

I haven't seen Flower since, though neighbors have had sightings. Alex has been going out at night - how can I keep him inside, without all that meowing? - and has yet to come home stinky. Maybe he and Flower have become friends. I can only hope.

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