A SMELLY VISITOR
I've had a lot of odd things happen in my life.
When I was twenty-three years old, I lived in an older house on the edge of a small town in Southern Alberta. At the time, I had five roommates, all of the feline variety. Two were my own, but a friend had talked me into looking after three of hers for a few months. My house was one big fur ball!
In Southern Alberta, it gets hot in the summer, and sometimes summer nights aren't much cooler than the days. The house had old-fashioned windows with wooden frames that lifted to let in fresh air. Keeping the window up involved inserting a stick of the required length into the window opening. A long stick gave you more air flow. All the windows had screens with the exception of the one in my bedroom. I didn't worry about the cats getting outside. I would’ve been happy, in fact, if one or two had found a new place to live.
In an effort to cool the house enough for me to sleep, I had all the windows open, and was hoping for those famous Southern Alberta winds to get moving. Normally, the cats would congregate on top of my bed, and on top of me. Forty pounds of cats made for congested sleeping arrangements.
One night, I awoke to the sound of cats snarling and hissing. None of them were on the bed. As I sucked in a breath, I was revolted at the unmistakable smell of eau de skunk in my room. I lay in the dark, listened carefully, and sniffed the air some more.
I remembered that one of the local old-timers had told me a story about skunks. He’d said skunks will take risks to get cat food. They love it. A skunk might even come into my house if it smelled cat food, and that I should keep screens on all the windows. Of course, I didn't think that was likely. And I was going to melt if I didn’t open the bedroom window which, for some reason, was without a screen.
As I listened to the snarling cats, in disbelief, I sniffed again. Damn! A skunk had climbed in the window, walked right past the side of my bed, and was wandering around the house with five pissed-off cats. I knew animals with rabies often got brave, and that skunks and bats were the primary carriers in that area – a wonderful little situational option.
It wasn’t common for wild skunks to climb into an inhabited house, but perhaps this skunk assumed the house was occupied only by cats. Certainly, the cats who lived there with their servant thought so.
As I lay there in the dark contemplating what to do, I tried to identify where the skunk was but, since there were so many cats wandering around growling, it could’ve been anywhere. I thought for about five seconds of getting up and turning on the light. Bad idea! Not only would it startle the skunk, I would also blind it. I could pretty well guarantee its automatic reaction would be to spray.
I lay there a while longer and considered getting up. Since I was the only one of the seven of us who couldn't see in the dark, this also seemed like a poor plan. Most likely, I’d frighten the critter into attacking me and/or spraying. There was no doubt I’d be looking for a new place to live if the skunk sprayed in the house. Getting up and sneaking to a door was a poor idea too, since I didn’t know where the animal was. The house was pitch black, and I’d most likely step on it in the dark. Visions of sharp teeth sinking into my leg had me re-thinking that plan.
I figured if it was going to spray the cats, it would have probably already done so. Most likely, they wouldn't cause it a problem – but I certainly would. It occurred to me that it already knew how to get out. It could leave the same way it got in – through my bedroom window. To do that, it would have to walk along the side of my bed. I tried to come up with a better solution but eventually, only one made any sense.
If I didn’t pose a threat to the animal, it would most likely eat its fill, wander back through my bedroom, and eventually out the window – if it wasn't rabid.
I needed to roll over and go back to sleep.
Going back to sleep while a skunk explored my house wasn't my favorite choice. But it was certainly the only one.
Cursing wildlife in general, I slid over to the far side of the bed and . . . went back to sleep. Looking back on it, it’s hard to believe I could do that. I’m not sure I could today.
I awoke in the morning to the lingering odor of skunk, but it obviously hadn't sprayed. I gingerly peeked over the side of the bed. No skunk. Three of the cats were snoozing on the bed, so I could safely assume my visitor had left in the night, probably a few ounces heavier than when it had arrived. I peeked around the house to make sure, but finally heaved a sigh of relief.
Thereafter, I made sure that, hot or not, my bedroom window wasn't open more than a couple of inches.
And I sent a mental apology to the old-timer who’d warned me about skunks and cat food.