How The Hen House Turns: Streak, Chapter One

How The Hen House Turns: Streak, Chapter One
By Carolyn A. (Cary) Neeper, Ph. D.

In the early days of the Hen House, we had an animal explosion–lots of baby animals arrived to live in or near the Hen House. Streak was not part of that explosion, but she was a large part of our lives.

In those days, when oldest daughter Indra (“OD: in a previous story with all three daughters) needed a pet of her own.

You could adopt a skunk, if it had been raised five generations from the wild. This was supposed to dilute out the rabies virus that skunks might carry.

When we adopted her, Streak was just a baby, a tiny black and white furball with a line of white fur down her triangular snout. She had been de-skunked, which left her innards subject to inversion, much to our horror. Thankfully, relief came with a gentle push.

She soon learned to use kitty litter, and Indra decided Streak could sleep on her bed, as some cats do. Problem! Skunks are nocturnal. On the first night Streak cuddled up between Indra’s neck and shoulder. All was well for a moment, until Indra awoke with a cold nose sniffing in her ear.

Streak proceeded to pull our twelve-year-old’s mouth open and checked out her teeth. Satisfied with that investigation, she wiggled under the covers and examined Indra’s feet, then settled down for a moment.

That was when our daughter’s motherly instincts kicked in. She worried that Streak wouldn’t get enough air way down under the covers, so she tried putting Streak in a box by her bed, tucking her in with an old towel or something. No good.

The baby skunk started to cry, then complained loudly at the abandonment. Indra, being a conscientious student, decided she had to get some sleep. The skunk box went into the kitchen with the door shut.

Indra awoke early to care for her pet, checked the box, looked all around the kitchen, down the hall, in the living room. No skunk. “Mom, Streak is missing!” We looked everywhere, under every piece of furniture, even in the closets. No skunk. “She couldn’t have gone outside. Look in the pantry.”

No skunk. finally, in desperation, someone opened the cabinet door under the sink.

In those days, that’s where we kept the Kleenex supply. When we peered into the cabinet, all we saw was a huge white pile of fluffy tissues. In the middle of the pile was a baby skunk, sleepy after a busy night. We moved her carefully, tissues and all, to her box, and she seemed happy enough to take her daytime rest there.

When Indra came home from school, she and Streak spent some quality time together, before the happy girl tucked the skunk into her Kleenex-filled box for the night.

In the morning Indra found the box overturned. A trail of Kleenex lead across the kitchen floor to the sink cabinet. From then on that’s where Streak kept her nest.

I don’t know what she did at night, roaming the house, but she had free access to her den. She used her delicate claws on clever hands to pry open the cabinet door.

She immediately took to Poncho, our black and white shepherd dog, snuggled up to him for naps, and tried her best to get him to play with her.

He didn’t get it. He didn’t realize that skunk play was practice for adulthood. She would stamp her front feet to get Poncho’s attention, then swiftly turn around and lift her tail as if to spray.

That made a lot of sense to us, with our somewhat greater knowledge, but it left Poncho perplexed. He didn’t know how to play that game, so he proceeded to do what dogs do.

He obligingly cleaned the hind end that was aimed at him. The game was on. Throughout Streak’s youth, we had a nice clean house skunk.

All was well until she matured. (To be continued.)

Editor’s note: Dr. Neeper is an avid student of sustainability, steady‐state economics and the impact of cosmology on issues of science and religion. She and her husband Don Neeper live in Los Alamos with a friendly menagerie of dogs, fish and fowl. 

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