Skunk redux

No, the dog did not get sprayed again. The other evening I was putting supper together with the helpful distraction of two grandchildren when my son called out for me. There was a slight urgency to his voice.

“Dad, how do you get a skunk out of the garage?” The first response is to wonder if there is one, and then, if so, how it got there. That doesn’t address the immediate concern.

We lived for 17 years in a small town that had its share of skunks, but nothing like the numbers we see in our neighbourhood all the time. Most of my fellow dog owners have had to bathe their pets this year (the recipe is online if you need it). And they rival raccoons in size (the skunks). Apparently they (the skunks) have poor eyesight as well, so they can’t necessarily see the gapingly wide garage door that is available for them to exit once the car is moved.

In the small town skunk removal usually involved the patience of putting cat food in a live trap, waiting to catch Pepe LePew and then gassing him with vehicle exhaust. Some chose to kill the skunk, some thought it more humane to render them unconscious and release them far from home. If the need was more urgent a garden hose on full was generally effective in chasing them out but not something you wanted to do if there was new drywall in the garage. It doesn’t take much to detonate a threatened skunk.

We debated my suggestions. A neighbour offered a leaf blower to scare it out. While he went to get it I started to think about how effective that would be in dispersing skunk tear gas in an enclosed space.

So I went to that online encyclopedia called YouTube and searched “How to get a skunk out of your garage.” There were several video examples of people attempting this, all of which ended in ads for professional pest removal companies.

My son is humane. He has new drywall in his garage.

I came out to find him, from as safe a vantage point as possible, directing a gentle stream of water to a spot beside the skunk. It took the hint and started to find its way out of the garage. Toward my son. He redirected the spray to discourage this and shortly after it ambled out of the garage and down the alley. Success. Happy ending.

You recall I mentioned my dog at the beginning.I didn’t share that story here before, but on Labour Day weekend the poor guy just got freed from his e-collar after recovery from surgery, ran outside and boom. Black and white new friend. They have no experience of each other so of course he got sprayed. The dog, not the skunk.

This is not the first dog that we’ve owned and had to bathe. If you see it happen, or see the dog shortly thereafter (you’ll be looking, they will want your attention and all your senses will be at work), you will note the bewildered look on their face. “What just happened and why did that creature do that to me?” And, “What do mean I can’t come in the house to the comfort of my dog bed?”

Skunks are an urban fact of life. So are the poor in our midst, homeless people. We tend to respond to them in the same manner. At a distance. We prefer to keep them that way. We design park benches so that they can’t lie down on them. We lock TTC entrances and bank vestibules so they can’t use them for shelter. We shunt them between shelters without a plan to help the many of them with mental health challenges.

What we’ve learned from other urban experience is that if they have a home they can call their own they begin to heal and some hold down jobs. Not all. But most of what we do is like directing a gentle spray of water at them to keep them moving and to clean up where they’ve left.

We shrug our shoulders and cite Jesus’ words “The poor we have with us always” and assume that we can’t fix everything and can’t take care of everyone. I don’t think he meant we shouldn’t try. I think he was acknowledging the size of the task and our unwillingness to help.

Comments? Questions? Contact Cameron, minister@forestgroveunited.com.