I used to take our dog on slow, meandering strolls at night. Emmy Lou really comes alive when the sun goes down - the nose is working, the eyes aren't and she transforms into this stalking beast, intent on hunting down her prey. Fortunately, her prey is fleeter of foot and brain than Emmy Lou - often I will see her prey darting away several minutes before Emmy even catches the scent of the prey. Then she spends 20 minutes frantically sniffing every millimeter of grass the prey once stood on. Our evening walks were full of whimsy and fun. Until...the skunk.
My neighbourhood is a curious mix of low rises, single family homes, big infill developments like ours and abandoned properties (including a huge, crumbling old house next door). We also live about a block from a ravine. Wildlife looking to make the leap to urban living would not find it difficult to move from the ravine to any of the available badger-squats on our street. And it would seem that the skunk has zeroed in on some prime real estate.
The first time I saw the skunk was in the alley at dusk. We locked eyes while Emmy was taking a whiz. The skunk started galloping towards me. I yanked Emmy away from the alley and we continued on our way. I was a little shaken but not too concerned.
"Huh," I thought, "I guess we shouldn't go in the alley at night."
About 10 minutes later, Emmy smelled the skunk and totally lost her mind, but by then the skunk was long gone.
The second time I saw the skunk was in different part of the alley, at dawn. We locked eyes while Emmy was nuzzling an empty tuna can. The skunk started galloping towards me. I dragged Emmy away from the tuna can and across the street. The skunk started making love to the tuna can. I hustled Emmy back to our house. I was a little disturbed because while it was early in the day, the sun was shining brightly.
"Huh," I thought, "That skunk is bold. I guess we shouldn't go near the alley at dawn."
We went a few days without seeing the skunk and I began to feel safe again. Clearly, the skunk was sticking to the rich, dumpster-filled environs of the alley and so long as we didn't invade its territory, we'd be fine.
The third time we saw the skunk was about 8 feet away from our front gate. Not in the alley. Not hiding in the bushes. Not skulking around the cedars. It was coming around the corner, walking like it owned the sidewalk, fully lit by the street lights. Emmy Lou lost her shit. The skunk started galloping towards us. It was like a horror movie.
I manhandled Emmy through the front gate and slammed it behind us, fully aware that the skunk could easily come in under the gate. I wrestled the dog to the front door, then dropped my keys trying to open it. I finally managed to get us inside to safety, dragging a whiny, cheated dog behind me. She didn't speak to me for day.
I started to talk to everyone about the skunk. My parents. My neighbours. The City of Vancouver. Anyone I saw with a dog. Everyone on Facebook.
I know that there are a lot of skunks in a lot of places and that my particular skunk is no different than any other urban skunk out there, except that he IS different because this skunk is living in the abandoned house next door and is SPECIFICALLY OUT TO GET ME.
Everyone told me that I needed to relax, that the skunk was probably more scared of me than I was of it, that I should just start carrying around a giant SuperSoaker water gun (ha ha, very funny, Mom) and everything would be fine.
Let me just clarify something here. I am not afraid of skunks. I saw many a skunk in Toronto when I used to take my 5:00 a.m. walks to the gym. But having a dog who would like to get her mouth on a skunk rachets up the peril for me. I KNOW THAT WE WILL NOT DIE IF WE GET SPRAYED. But it would be an enormous, stenchy hassle that I'm not interested in dealing with.
The skunk's presence - and continued menace, including last week when it blocked our return to our own house, hissing and raising its tail at us while I pulled a windmilling Emmy Lou into the middle of the road to avoid attack - has severely curtailed our evening walk activities.
Now, when it starts to get dark, I turn the porch lights on. And when it's time for Emmy's last whiz of the day, we do not dawdle. I poke my head out of the gate to check for the black and white, then take the dog onto the boulevard, tersely ordering her to make while jumping at every scratching, rustling noise I hear. It's really great.
Obviously, in the grand scheme of things, the skunk issue is in no way important - I know this. And I'm TRYING to be cool about it, I really am, except that I'm totally not cool about it. But I can't really do anything about it, unless I'm willing to illegally place a skunk trap full of Kentucky Fried Chicken on the private property next door and then pay someone to illegally go on to said private property to retrieve the skunk.
I'm thinking about it, though. I'll keep you posted. Please leave your skunk stories in the comments.