Skunk in a Box

6am — the sound of the alarm pulsed angrily through the room. Begrudgingly, I got up and quickly pulled on some sweats. As I opened the door, I felt the brisk air and turned back for a sweatshirt. I exited the house into the semi-darkness, noting the peace and quiet of an early dark and chilly morning in southern California. These morning walks were the most serene part of my day. I didn’t like getting up so early, but it was the only chance I had to get any exercise. After this, I would get sucked into all kinds of work drama — some kind of entertainment marketing crisis like two actors arguing about wearing the same color clothing, and soon I would forget all about this peaceful sojourn.

I always pay particular attention to the wildlife on my walks. Observing animals has always brought me a great sense serenity. I love to hear and see all the different kinds of birds. One exception being the peacocks that roam my neighborhood in droves. Their cry is ear piercing and sounds like a wailing infant. They also peck cars, black in particular, because they think they see their twin in the reflection of the shiny black surface. Lastly the peacocks, brought to Arcadia by Elias “Lucky” Baldwin from a trip to India 135 years ago, also like to eat our flowers; another particularly annoying trait. Suddenly, my morning’s peace is interrupted by a flock of wild green parrots flying overhead, squawking so loudly, and chiding me because I can’t fly away with them. Urban legend has it that a Pasadena pet store caught fire many years ago and the noisy escapees continued to breed and multiply. There are supposed to be upwards of 2000 of these wild Red-crowned Parrots in the San Gabriel Valley. I love these beautiful, cocky creatures. They always band together and there can be up to 20 or 30 birds per flock. Sometimes I see a possum or a coyote or two. One day a bear graced our neighborhood with his presence, but that was mid-day, and I sadly missed it.

When I was about a mile from home, I spied a small object up ahead against the curb. I always steel myself when I see something in the road, worried that it’s an animal that has been hit by a car. As I approach the “object” I see that it’s black but with a definite white stripe, and as I get closer, I realize it’s a small, shivering baby skunk who’s covered with crawling fleas. His body was about 7 inches long, not including his tail, and he was just about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. I knew immediately I could not leave him there to perish. What if one of those coyotes happened upon this adorable infant?

I turned back towards the house and swiftly took off running. When I raced into the house my husband was up and startled by my speedy return. “That was fast! Are you finished with your walk already?” he asked. “Quick, where are your ski gloves?” I demanded. “In the front closet — why? What the hell are you going to do with my ski gloves?” he questioned. “I know it’s a bit nippy out there, but I didn’t notice any snow. I must have missed that on the weather report. You want my long underwear too?” My husband loved to reference my propensity for being cold anytime the thermostat reads below 72. “No time to talk now — you’ll see,” I called as I ran out the door clutching an empty red Valentino shoe box. The caged rock stud pumps that once attended the Oscars, and passed within mere feet of Brad Pitt, lay hastily discarded on the floor. Only the best digs would do for my baby skunk rescue mission.

I jumped in the car and headed back to the skunk, worrying about his welfare. Sure enough, he was right where I left him, just waiting for me to return. I swiftly put the oversized gloves on, and carefully scooped him up and placed him in the felt lined shoe box. The felt was left over from a long since completed grammar school project, and now it had a much more important role to play. I put the box in the passenger seat next to me and hurried home.

Upon entering the house my husband and kids wanted to immediately know what was going on. When I told them about the skunk, my 7 year- old wanted to give him milk and carrots. So we did. I have no idea if skunks like milk and carrots, but it didn’t matter. We left the baby out on the porch in his red Valentino show box with his milk and carrots and I swiftly dialed the phone.

“Animal rescue,” the bored voice on the phone droned. “I found a skunk, or rather a baby skunk. He’s shivering and covered with fleas — can you help?” I implored. “Wait a minute…slow down please, where is the skunk now?” He inquired. “On my front porch in a red Valentino shoe box,” I said. “You picked him up? Did he spray you?” he asked. “He’s just a baby, he can’t spray yet can he?” I challenged. “Oh yes he can. You’re lucky he didn’t get you”, he laughed. I thought to myself, “he would never do that to me, he knew I was trying to help him”. The animal control man continued, “we know of a woman who rescues skunks. She nurses them back to health and usually lets them go in rural areas if they’re able. We will get in touch with her and pick him up and take him to her,” he kindly said. “Can I call you later today to check on him?” I asked. “Sure, just call me here later this afternoon,” he offered. I went to work thinking about my little friend, and hoping all would turn out well for him. I had visions of him healthy and frolicking in a beautiful forest with the likes of Bambi and Thumper. When 3pm rolled around I picked up the phone.

“Hi, I called this morning about the baby skunk, and I‘m calling to check on him, to see if he made it over to the skunk rescue woman yet.” I asked. “Yes, our co-worker picked him up and dropped him off over there a while ago,” he said. “That’s so great, thank you so much, I’m really glad to hear this,” I said.“Oh and guess what — when our co-worker picked up the skunk, the little guy sprayed him,” he chuckled.

I’m not going to lie, I chuckled just a little bit to myself, too.

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Rebecca Daugherty

Rebecca Daugherty

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Former corporate entertainment marketing exec. Lover of words, books, cats, coffee, nature, family, friends and laughter.