Denise Day Spencer

August 29, 2008

Pepe, go home

Filed under: Home Front — denisedayspencer @ 8:20 pm

When I walk our dog, Maisie, at night, I walk in fear.

Am I afraid of being mugged on the street? No. Ours is a tiny, quiet little hamlet. Do I worry about being attacked by a wild animal, a coyote, perhaps? That’s actually more likely than a mugging given our rural setting, but no. I’ve never even seen one. Do I fear the supernatural or the bizarre? Maybe the aliens of Signs will creep out of the cornfield and force me onto their ship. Clay and I agree that the corn is pretty scary, but that’s not it, either.

What can make me so nervous that I start at every shadow? In a word, skunks.

This summer skunks have been everywhere — rummaging in the trash compound, sniffing around the campus and even strolling about our sidewalks as if they’re our new neighbors. Yesterday I saw one hanging out by the gas pump, obviously waiting for prices to come down. (It’s too bad he didn’t realize that if he would only drive for a school trip he could have the gas for free.)

Sometimes they seem to be everywhere at once. One night Michael stepped out on the front porch to walk Maisie. He looked to the left. A skunk approaching from the street. He looked to the right. Another skunk approaching down the walk. He quickly–and wisely!–decided that the dog walk could wait. These little beasties usually appear to lead a relatively solitary existence, but one evening I actually saw four skunks repeatedly tiptoeing together back and forth across the road past our house.

Skunks can make walking Maisie after dark quite a challenge. You see, she’s very interested in anything that moves–butterflies, kittens, bumblebees…and skunks. The other evening she nearly jumped right on top of one that had retreated to a drainage ditch before I even realized what was happening. Trying to rid my fuzzy Scottie/Cairn pup of skunk stench is definitely not something I want to do!

I will say skunks are interesting, though. Do you recall the old cartoons featuring the ever-romantic Pepe Le Pew? He was always mistaking other animals–often black and white cats–for lady skunks, and his amorous advances were frequently rejected. I don’t know if Pepe was supposed to have impaired vision, but that might have helped explain his bad luck with the ladies. One thing that has made even the smallest of skunks more frightening has been the fact that several times one has seen me and has boldly begun walking right toward me. Clay tells me that they don’t see well. What appears to be aggressive behavior may simply be the animal’s attempt to get a closer look at what it is dealing with.

Regardless of what their visual limitations may be, skunks are scary because they’re such sneaky little critters. I’ve never yet heard one rustling in the weeds. Instead, they slink about silently, so it’s all too easy to come face-to-face with one with absolutely no warning. I’ve taken to singing when I walk Maisie before daylight or after dark. (“Oh, you take the high road and I’ll take the low road, and I’ll get to Scotland afore ye…”) I want Pepe to know I’m coming even if I can’t know he’s there. Hopefully if the fuzzy image he’s squinting at bursts into loud song, that will be enough to make him retreat before I get close enough to be a real threat to him. Of course, my plan could also backfire. (Pun intended.)

I’m not afraid a skunk will launch a vicious attack against me. Rather, my fear is a completely conditioned response. But the result is nearly the same. Because I don’t want to get sprayed, I go into a fight-or-flight response whenever I spy one of those reeking rodents.

Oh, well. It could always be worse. It could be a bunny.



  1. […] My wife has a great post about the constant terror of living surrounded by skunks. […]

    Pingback by The Boar’s Head Tavern — August 29, 2008 @ 9:05 pm | Reply

  2. Just in case: If you or Maisie or Michael get “slimed” the one thing I know that will neutralize the stench is tea tree oil. You can get it very cheaply at Wal Mart, at least here in California. Just mix it into a liquid body wash and bathe in it. Works well.

    Comment by timberna — August 30, 2008 @ 1:30 pm | Reply

  3. Washing the stench is after the fact. I suggest the Holy Hand Granade. Three is the number to which thou shall count.

    Comment by Clark Bunch — September 1, 2008 @ 8:02 pm | Reply

  4. My doggie once made friends with a skunk, but we now have multiple dogs, [thanks grown kids], and feeling out numbered Pepe will attack. Keep a gallon of vinegar and a big box of baking soda on hand. proverbs 25:20 ESL
    Spray the vinegar on doggie with a pump spray, outside if possible, and then pour strong warm baking soda water on said creature of stank. It will foam like an alka-seltzer. As an old Pa. country boy I tell you it works. Looks kinda neat too.

    Comment by willoh — October 17, 2008 @ 10:40 am | Reply

  5. […] eating and never so much as raised his fearsome little head. It was my closest call to date, and I’ve had some close ones. Skunks hibernate, right? Thank goodness this one woke up hungry! […]

    Pingback by Random ramblings « Denise Day Spencer — March 10, 2009 @ 7:35 am | Reply

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