I know a guy who once openly proclaimed that if he sees a bunch of kittens, he will stomp on their heads with the heel of his boot or shoe until they are dead. Otherwise, he is a sensible human being who has raised three very good kids and has always been faithful to his wife and his country. He is the kind of guy who will do anything for you if you need some assistance. He's helped me move twice, and there have been several other favors he's done for me for which he never did anything but smile and shake his head when I tried to repay him. However, this one little bit of information which came out during a "boy's night out" changed the way I looked at him from that minute on. I wish he hadn't said it. I wish it wasn't true. I wish he hadn't had the one extra drink that evening that led him to tell it all.
My wife and daughter just got a new little black and white kitten recently. Neither my dog nor I really wanted a kitten in the house, but we've both resigned ourselves to the fact that it's here. This will be the third cat in my life since I've been married, and probably the seventh or eighth in my life so far. Only one of them was really worth remembering, and that's why I no longer like cats all that much. I don't care for them because when they grow up they have you all figured out and realize how worthless you are for anything except food. If I'm going to feed and house an animal, I expect some slobbering devotion that goes above and beyond mealtime. Still and all, I am probably not going to stomp on this kitten's head anytime soon.
This is day six for the new little black and white kittens that have appeared, strangely enough, in the wild near my house at the same time this soon-to-be full grown cat (who will learn to hate me) showed up. I go up and look at them each day now. At first, I thought it was our new little black and white kitten that had gotten out when one of them caught the corner of my eye as I turned the loop at the top on the hill to my house. I stopped the car and got out to gather the lost kitten and take it back home when I found myself confronting a little army of baby skunks. I've got to tell you; they are cute as they can be. There were four of them and they must be around six weeks old. The irony is the fact that baby skunks are called (guess what?) kittens. They fumble around in a wobbly little marching band and three are still alive today. This is day six. I still have not seen a parent. I had to shoot the fourth one in the back of the head this morning.
I took my wife up to look at them on day one and the little boy skunk with ADSD had gotten lost across the street from his siblings. My wife's immediate instinct was to pick him up and put him with his brothers and sisters on the other side of the road, in the woods where it's safe. He did what they all do now when I get too close: He stuck his little bushy black tail up in the air and pointed his butt right at her. It was funny because I assumed they were without ammo at this point in their lives. They point and point but did not shoot. The literature I read seemed to indicate that they are capable of spraying at this very young age, but I didn't believe it. I thought my wife would have gotten the blast if it had been possible. Anyway, it scared her off and she left the straggler alone. He was the one who is now no longer living.
My dog couldn't get over them. She would go up to their little den area whenever I let her out. They are nocturnal, so it is only in the evening hours that we see them. Normally, my dog would kill another mammal when she sees it like this. I've seen her kill without mercy squirrels, rats, and attempt to kill possums. But she just goes up and looks at these little baby skunks as if she was monitoring them. Is it because they look so much like the cat-kitten and she somehow knows that it would be a bad idea to kill the kitten? If this is true, she is more intelligent than my friend who helps me move.
But then the straggler baby skunk made the fatal mistake last night, for both himself and the dog and (by proxy) us, when he wandered into our yard. The dog was fine as long as they were "up there" in the woods, but no other animal is allowed to set foot in this, her yard. So she made a bee-line for it last night and grabbed it in her mouth before I could stop her. I think the straggler was already weak and near death because the dog really didn't do much damage, as far as I could tell. The baby skunk did quite a bit of damage, however.
You can "deskunk" a dog in one of two ways. You can create a mixture of one quart of peroxide (the 3% kind you get at the grocery store or drug store), one quarter box of baking soda, and a teaspoon of dishwashing detergent. You sponge this mixture on the dog and let it sit for a few minutes before you rinse it off. I was a bit wary of doing this because I always thought peroxide was the stuff you used to bleach your hair. And I did not want a bleached blonde dog. Who knows what could have happened next? My dog is not a Hollywood Mutt and I didn't want her to get such ideas. So I went for remedy number two. That involves lots of tomato sauce. If you're in a pinch and have a nice garden, you could just grab some ripe tomatoes off the vine and squeeze them all over the dog. However, when the dog shakes, you would have to be prepared for pulp and seeds all over the place. Skunk spray is alkaline, and acidic tomato juice will hopefully neutralize the alkaline odor. I took two cans of tomato sauce and just poured them over the dog out in the front yard. It was a fairly amusing sight. I rubbed it in good and then used the hose to rinse it off. She was then suitable for going in the house for a regular bath. It worked fairly well.
When I got up this morning, the baby skunk was still lying there in the same spot. I assumed it was dead but I put a bullet in the back of his little head just to make sure he wasn't suffering when I picked him up with a plastic bag and tied him off for the garbage collectors.
A baby skunk weighs around 28 grams when born and is about four inches long. Skunk babies are born deaf and blind. But research also tells me that these little cuties near my house have 34 very sharp teeth. I do believe that's a few more than the kitten rolling around in my living room. I suspect it wouldn't be pleasant to be bitten. When the baby skunks are eight weeks old they stop nursing and their mother supposedly trains them to find food. And here is the confusing part about these little wieners. This is day six and I haven't seen their mother yet. Everything I read tells me that they stay close to their mothers and that I should have seen her by now. Where in the hell is she? I see the little den they crawl into under a layer of rock out there. My dog darts right to them whenever she is out. I check on them a couple of times a day. Where is mom? Wouldn't they all be dead by now if there was no mother helping them out? And should I just go stomp on their heads with a large boot and put them out of their misery?
I can't do that. I can't even call Animal Control because my worst fears about that phone call have been confirmed by the only lady in the area who used to do skunk rehabilitation. She tells me that she quit attempting it because she got sprayed so many times and she wasn't getting any help from other animal services. I asked her if my suspicion was correct: If I call Animal Services to come get them, they'll just kill them, won't they? She said, "Yes." But she did offer some good news (or fairy tale scenarios, depending on how much you can trust a skunk rehabber). She said that if they should grow up to adulthood that they were solitary creatures and would all go their own way. They would not form a Skunk Gang which would terrorize my neighborhood with threats of mass gassings if we didn't hand over the evening's leftover chicken.
Did you know that skunks have opposable thumbs like a raccoon? In some ways, folks who keep skunks as pets say that it's like having a cat with a PhD. They say that they can carry a grudge and seek vengeance if you fuck them over. They say that the skunk will remember what you did. God forbid a cat with opposable thumbs who would remember what you did to them. I hope my cat-stomping friend meets just such a creature in his dreams one night.
This is the end of day six, and I just went up to check. The other three are still up there marching along, seemingly healthy. I'm going to have a long talk with their mom whenever I find her. I'll explain the dead one and she can explain her obvious neglect. But these negotiations will have to be held at arm's length.