Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Skippy II: The Return of Skippy

No. I am not kidding.
Yes. I would really really like to move back to the city. NOW.

Oh what a beautiful morrrrrrrning, oh what a beautiful daaaaaaaay!
Weeee! The horrible, oppressive Summertime heat has finally broken and the Fall weather is here! I love that crisp nip in the air, the hint of color hiding behind the green leaves on the trees, the big harvest moon. Autumn is my favorite season.
It is also the season when all little critters wandering in the wild begin looking for a nice, cozy place to nest for the winter. And what nicer, cozier place is there than our shop, right?
A couple of weeks ago our dogs began paying a lot of attention to the big wood shelves in the back of our shop. That is never a good sign. The bottom of the shelves have a panel of wood running along the edge, enclosing the space between the ground and the bottom shelf, making a wonderful little place to hide out. Add to that the fact we have our hay is stored just a few feet from there and it is the perfect nesting grounds.

At first we were afraid we had a raccoon. There had been (check it out! I talk like a Missourhan!) a raccoon up on our porch a few nights before this which caused a big rukus with the dogs.
Perhaps he had decided the shop was a better place to live than the dog-infested porch.
We found cute little raccoon hand impressions in the mud outside the shop and we know there are raccoons getting into our trash dumpster at night (they really really love chili cheese stuff from Sonic!).

I so did NOT want to have a raccoon living in our shop!
I don't care how cute they seem or how many stories people tell of feeding the "cute little raccoons" with their little hands that look and move "like little people hands."
No way!
These suckers vicious!!!

We got our live animal trap out, put a nice can of tuna inside for bait, and set it up just outside the shelves.
First night: nothing. Come on, who doesn't like tuna?!
Second night: nothing. Apparently what we throw away in the trash is so much better than a nice can of tuna.
Third night: we got a hit! Only the bugger is smarter than us, I mean, than the cage. We found an empty tuna can, licked clean, wedged under the little trip lever so that the door on the cage couldn't close.
I think I also hear a little giggle ring out from somewhere under the shelves.
Well, I'm not spending money to feed this thing tuna every night. Time for some cheap cat food! We wired a little can of cat food to the back of the cage. With it stuck to the back of the cage the critter can't pull the can towards himself, it will have to go closer to the trip panel and will get so busy eating he'll forget all about watching his feet and step on the trigger, right?
This little sucker must have a longer neck than we thought.
Next plan!
We decide to peel the lid of the can only part way back so it just exposes a little bit of the food. The critter will have to get in there good and really work to get under the lid for his feed now! How can he possible avoid stepping on the trigger when he has so much to do?!
First night: nothing. Oh, we have a lazy critter on our hands!
Second night: nothing. Here we go again! So frustrating! (If only I had known then what was to come I would have thanked my lucky stars, packed up the house and moved straight back to the city: what's so bad about a little dirty air, horrible traffic, gang bangers, and drug lords after all?!)
Third night: a little nibble gone out of the small exposed spot. Whoa! Wait a minute! Mice? Could that possibly be all we are dealing with here? The dogs like to kill mice. We do have mice in our shop. Maybe there are just mice back there causing the dogs to bark. Mice could get in and out of that big trap without setting it off. Maybe it isn't a raccoon after all!
We now return you back to a normal life.
Or not.
Every time I went into the shop for something the dogs still ran back to the shelves and put on their hunting postures. Jason assured me that whatever had been living under there had surely moved on by now. (I keep telling him my name's not Shirley!)
Titus seemed to lose interest a little but Rufus became more and more frantic about the shelves in the back of the shop. Rufus spent a lot of time running back and forth on the bottom shelf barking and snarling around the edges. Rufus would bark and dig at the end of the shelves that sat over gravel and dirt. Finally Rufus worked his way under this edge and got under the shelves. He could only go in that one spot, the part of the shelves sitting on the concrete was too low for him to squeeze past. I was afraid that if there was indeed a raccoon under the shelves it would eat Rufus but Rufus returned from his adventures under the shelves unscathed.
Perhaps my dog is insane.
Yeah, not my dog!
Each morning after haying the horses, I would return to the house to listen to Rufus barking in the shop for hours. Maybe it was time to buy that dog a new squeaky ball.
We all grew used to the Rufus alarm and became immune to noticing it.
Until yesterday.
What a beautiful day.
The pastures still moist and refreshed from the recent wonderful rains. The bright sun shining warm and comforting in the sparkling blue skies. A day to just be alive and soak in every moment.
Seth came home from school and gave Titus a bath. Joe in turn, bathed Rufus for me. The kids were out running around the yard enjoying the nice weather. The dogs were fluffy and soft. Who could ask for a more delightful afternoon?
Then Joe went to the shop for something and came back to report that Rufus was doing his usual patrol of the shelves but this time Joe heard something making a growling noise back at Rufus.
Uh oh.
Please Mr. Raccoon, don't eat my corgi!
Joe grabbed a flash light and began trying to see through the little slit between the ground and the shelves. He could see black fur moving around.
Black. O.k., a opossum maybe? Yeah, looks like a opossum.
Good! No Mr. Raccoon!
Not good! Opossums carry diseases that pass onto horses and make them very sick!
We need to get rid of Mr. Opossum.
As Joe continued to inspect the black-furred critter under the shelves he made a grizzly discovery....a white stripe!!!!!!!!!!!!!Somehow Joe and I ended up back at the entrance to the shop in a flash. (And they say humans cannot move at the speed of light!) We caught our breath, realized that Seth was there with us, and tried to regroup and form a plan on how to deal with this most foul of adversaries.
Of course Joe was off to the house for his little .22--that goes without saying. I began searching for something I could use to stick under the shelf to push the body out where we could reach it for disposal after Joe had dispatched it. Seth lounged around on the four-wheeler and played with his dog.
Armed with the .22, a big long stick and a flashlight, Joe and I made our way back towards the shelves. That was one of the longest walks I've ever taken in my life! I assumed my battle-ready stance (just in case) with big stick held over my head, hoping my speed-of-light powers would still be in effect! Time to do some thumpin'!
Joe moved his flashlight into position so he could see the little monster, readied his gun checking his position carefully to make sure he had a good, level angle so he wouldn't hit concrete or anything dangerous, and took his shot.
The report from the gun echoed through the shop.
Seth and the two dogs, back at the entrance to the shop, looked up.
Joe adjusted his flashlight, took a moment to inspect the situation, and reported that the black (and white) fur was still running around under the shelves.
Next plan!
I take my big stick and push an end of it under the shelves and start moving it towards the opening by the gravel and dirt. Joe gets up into position on the hay bales to watch the opening. After a short time Joe reports that he sees Mr. Skippy sticking his head out, looking at Joe. I give Joe the go-ahead to take a shot. Joe looks down his sights and sees the whites of his eyes (do skunks have white in their eyes?!) and squeezes the trigger.
Again the report rings through the air, bouncing its way all through the shop.
Mr. Skippy ducks back into his nice hidey-hole.
Joe stays on his perch up on the hay bales and I again shove the stick under the shelves and start knocking it about to encourage Skippy to show himself. Who in their right mind asks a skunk to show himself?! Joe reports that he hears Skippy scuttling around under the shelf and he seems to be on his way out. Next Joe reports that Skippy is sticking his nose out. With a little more excited tone in his voice, Joe reports that Skippy is all the way out from under the shelf now and Joe's hand begins to move toward his gun. At that same moment, Joe gives a yell and throws himself backwards.
I scream like a girl and bolt to the entrance of the shop (every man for herself!). Seth and the dogs, still playing, look up to see what all the fuss is about.
I turned back to see Joe sitting, panting, rubbing his head a bit, but otherwise in seemingly good condition. As my senses returned, being the good mommy that I am, I roared "What was all that about?!!!!!!!"
Joe explained that as he watched Skippy come out of his little house he saw the perfect opportunity for a shot but as he moved his hand, Skippy spotted him and immediately turned his backside to Joe and lifted his tail. Joe's lightning-fast reflexes are the only thing that saved him from a condition that would have caused him to be shunned from family and society in general from hence forth and forever more.
That was a close one!
I think Joe is still having PTSD from that experience.
All right.
O.k., big breath, blow it out...
We can do this!
Once again, Joe and I begin to carefully move in the direction of the last known location of the assailant. I look back to encourage Seth to join us but he is quite happy with his perch up on the four-wheeler. As I think back now, I do believe he actually had in his hands a bucket of popcorn which he was cheerfully munching on while he enjoyed the show.
Joe returned to his post back up on the hay bales to report that Skippy was no longer in his line of sight. I glanced around the other side of the hay bales and saw a cute black fuzzy thing with a big fluffy tail sauntering right toward me.
Again I screamed like a girl and flew to safety at the entrance of the shop.
Mustering what is left of my courage... O.k., actually, there actually is no courage now, there's nothing, just numbness and stupidity, which propels me forward because it seems like I have nothing better to do with my life at this point.
I peek around the corner to see no sign of Mr. Skippy. Joe looks all around but cannot figure out where the critter has gone to.
*Cue creepy music.*
Everything was suddenly very quiet. I could hear the beating of my heart, the hiss of my breath as it escaped my throat. My eyes darted from one side to the other. Sweat dripped from my brow. This was worse than seeing the fuzzy puff ball trotting right toward me! Now he could be anywhere! No matter where I looked, he could be creeping up behind me, ready to blast me, at any moment. Panic set in. Now I couldn't even run to the entrance of the shop because I just knew that as I ran, Mr. Skippy would come flying out from beside me and bite my head clean off!
I took one more peek around the corner and realized that the two bench seats from Seth's scout were sitting there. I was immediately ready to bet that Mr. Skippy had found refuge under those seats. I was NOT immediately ready to approach said seats to make sure. This was a job for the dogs!
I gave the call and immediately Rufus was by my side, ready to work, the trusty and loyal hound that he is. Titus, on the other hand (notice how canine reflect their owners?) was nowhere to be found. Seth informed me that Titus had lost interest and wandered back up to the house. I gave Rufus the command and he went right to work, sniffing out the area. After a few moments he gave two barks, his call to Titus, and Titus returned to the scene. Together the two dogs began their inspection of the shop. They made their way to the bench seats sitting by the hay bales. Immediately the hair on the back of their necks stood up and low growls emanated from the depths of their souls. Each dog took either side of the seat and the barking and snarling and pawing began. Each dog worked his side, trying to get under the seat to catch their quarry. As this went on for several minutes, suddenly Rufus jumped back with a little yelp, shaking his head and sneezing. The scent blossomed in the air and we all began to gag.
O.k., who forgot to pack the gas masks?!
Rufus ran to us, looking for a friendly leg to rub his face on. We all jumped back and started commanding Rufus to go to the other person as we edged away.
Titus gave a yelp and we saw him shaking his head frantically.
Another casualty we thought.
But Titus stayed in the fray, quickly snatching up Mr. Skippy and with one hard shake, dispatched Mr. Skippy to a better world. Of course, being the thorough dog that he is, Titus was not content with just the death shake, he had to continue shaking his prize and in the process sending skunk spray every which way.
We all screamed like girls and ran for the entrance of the shop. We yelled for Titus to drop and he obediently put down Mr. Skippy and came happily trotting to us. Expecting lots of pats on his head in praise of his effots.
We took the dogs out and washed their faces off for them. Then we returned to the shop in search of the carcass of Mr. Skippy. We found it lying behind the hay bales and Joe started to move it onto a shovel to take it out for burial.
Titus, noticing we had returned to the shop, followed us in to see if there was any more fun to be had. And of course he found some! As we all stood around the body of the skunk, Titus slipped by, snatched up the body in his mouth and again went to shaking with all his might. Before we realized what was happening (and could get to safety), I experienced the sickening sensation of the spray hitting my sandaled feet. At the same time I heard the screams of anguish from my boys.
We survived through that entire ordeal only to get taken down by one of our own!
Weary, defeated, dejected, reeking to high heaven, we walked from the shop, shoulders bent, heads hanging low. Katie, who was just running out to meet us, caught wind of the scent we carried and turned and ran.
That was our future.
We found ourselves in a condition that would cause us to be shunned by family and society in general from hence forth and forever more.
Why did I leave the city? Why oh why oh why?!!!!!
So we began the clean up process.
Titus's trophy was taken away and buried.
Stripping of the offending clothing was completed and showering commenced.
The dogs had to be washed again.
By the way, if the vet gives you a recipe for de-skunk-your-dog wash involving Dawn soap, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide: they are just trying to keep you from bringing your skunked dog into their office and get you off their phone line. It does make for a wonderful mess all over the front yard, though!
(Actually, we give them a bale of straw to roll in all night in their kennel. It takes the scent off them relatively well.)
And as for the ol' wives tale of using tomato sauce to get the skunk scent off of you? Well, let me just say, people in these parts like to tell city-folk such stories 'cause they get a kick out of watching you dump tomato sauce all over yourself!
After all was said and done, though, we were finally declared clean and allowed back into the house. And as we entered we were met at the door by Katie who proceeded to give us a nice chewing-out for not saving Mr. Skippy's pelt so she could make a cool hat.
Sometimes ya just can't win!