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Small Skunk, Big Victory

Sunday, March 22, 2020

It had been ten days since I first saw the skunk, since Curtis first charged it and was stopped in his tracks by the horror in my voice. Each afternoon at 5 sharp, the little animal had trundled into the yard (usually from a different direction each time, telling me she had us on a route) and happily eaten a small bowl of Fromm's kibble. I'd kept Curtis inside at that hour, because who needs to tempt fate? I had no idea if the lesson of that memorable day had taken in his brain. I'm still getting to know him, and I have enormous respect for the power of his prey drive, the instinct bred into him to go for the kill.

The skunk and I had fallen into a routine. She responded to my voice by advancing toward me, not retreating. I could walk right past her and set her bowl down and she'd bumble like a stumbly kitten to the goods.  Charmingly myopic, she followed the scent of the food and seemed unperturbed by my watching and photographing her as she ate.

She was moving better, but she still had to hop with that broken hind leg. She would never win a race. A skunk doesn't have to be fast. All it really has to be is black and white, and armed.

It's funny how fast I can get attached to something like a crippled skunk. All I have to feel is that I'm somehow helping it, and I'm gone, all in. 

To be fair to me, she is absolutely adorable. Not the fanciest, by any means, but the cutest for sure.

After ten days of this, I felt I knew how she'd react, and finally felt comfortable doing another experiment with Curtis. I put his leash on and walked quietly out into the yard while the skunk was about. Watch what happened next!


I think you can hear how pleased I am that our dog has finally had a change of heart and mind about skunks. Because his hunting instinct is so powerful, I honestly never thought I'd see the day. That makes the gift of his cooperation all the more wonderful. I have the feeling this lesson will hold, on or off the lead. I think he's put it all together that Ma wants him to stay away from skunks. What a good boy!

As I write, it's March 20, and she's been here a solid two weeks. I hurried to set her kibble out this evening at 5 pm, as always. For the first time, she didn't show up. Aww, heck. Doggone it. Now what? Was she in a burrow somewhere, giving birth to tiny kits, broken leg and all? Had a great horned owl grabbed her? I hadn't smelled a struggle... Had she just changed her route, or found a carcass somewhere to feast on?

With wild friends, this time may be the last you'll ever see them, but each one I come to know, no matter how inconvenient or smelly they may be, is a gift. This little skunk stayed long enough to teach Curtis how to live with his neighbors. She was kind and patient and grateful, and those are good things to have in a friend. Here's hoping we see her again, farther on down the line.

Wait. There's more. 

Update: The compost area was heavily anointed with skunk aroma around 11 Friday night.  And the skunk was back at 3:45 pm on Saturday, March 21, hinting broadly that it was time for her kibble.  Being well-trained, I obliged. 

Sunday, March 22: She spent a couple hours in the compost pit from 3 pm on, sorting through some meat scraps that found their way in. Ignored her kibble. 

 This is her I-don't-want-to-talk-to-you-right-now glare. My kids, who are both in residence with me, eating like kings and sucking down every drop of bandwidth until such time as the world stops ending, are making fun of me as per usual.  Now, because of how obsessed I am with "that crippled skunk." 

Her name is SugarBean.

 That is all from Indigo Hill. 


What a delightful story -- it made my day. I've heard that what skunks enjoy in compost are the slugs attracted to rotting vegetable matter. Do you know if that's true?

Who wouldn't get attached?! SugarBean is adorable.

@redefteditions I like the theory! Unless there are pork bones I suppose. She's definitely been eating fresher offerings AND digging. It's a hotbed of nightcrawlers, too. Much to sort through for an omnivorous SugarBean.
@LNMP298 right??

"Inconvenient and smelly" how I wish it were as easy to see so described humans in such a kind light. You have made me want to work on it.

Oh, yay; glad Sugarbean is still showing up! Good for Curtis as well.

I loved your story/adventure. You are a treasure!

Wonderful story. I am rooting for Sugarbean, Curtis, and you. Could her injured leg prevent her from effective spraying?

Thanks again for some feel good news when we need it most.

@Jan--THAT is an excellent question and I had not thought of that! However I believe she has sprayed twice lately. If it wasn't her, it was another skunk at our compost. I suspect it was her, though.

I have to agree that Sugar Bean is the cutest. You remind me even more now of Louise Dickinson Rich and We Took to the Woods :) While the world has been ending I read another one of hers - My Neck of the Woods. Great stories of everyday heroes and wonders - like someone else I know.

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