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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Let the record show that about once a year, I have some kind of animal adventure in my backyard that turns into an article. It’s not even like I live on a farm. Most of the animals in my area are of the variety that one would generally find lying squished on the road, though sometimes I find them dead but not squished. How did that happen?

Most of my animal adventures involve the ones in the cage trap in my backyard. My wife has a garden where she grows beautiful vegetables that are then eaten by local animals. This is not ideal. So she keeps opening this trap, which she borrowed from her boss, and while it’s nice and humane, we did not get it with instructions. We know how to catch the animals, but what are we supposed to do with them? There has to be a step 2.

Animal Control is no help. We tried calling them the first time we caught something, and they told us that they don’t actually control live animals. Just dead ones. If you’re stupid enough to catch an animal you don’t want, it’s your problem to get rid of it. But they will tell you that it has to be within a mile of your house.

Anyway, one Shabbos morning, during the seudah, my son says, “Hey! There’s something in our trap!”

So at first I’m like, “Let’s deal with it after Shabbos.” We’ve done that before.

Then he goes, “It’s a skunk.”

My first thought was that I had actually written in a previous article that the day there’s a skunk in that trap, I’m moving. I have no idea how to get a skunk into a car and drive it to the park without getting sprayed. I’d have to tie it to the roof rack. And probably get a ticket.

I don’t even know how to approach this cage in the first place. And when am I gonna do this? It’s 100 degrees in the sun. Should I really wait until the night?

Add in the fact that Motzei Shabbos was Tisha B’Av. So I figured I could either release it on Shabbos and possibly get sprayed, or I could release it on Tisha B’Av and possibly get sprayed. Sure, I could probably get a heter from a rav to bathe on Tisha B’Av, especially if I asked in person. But time was of the essence. I did look up Hilchos Shabbos, and it turns out I could release it. The sefer didn’t say how.

Then I thought, “What if I let my 12-year-old do it?”

So first my son (Daniel) changes out of his suit into the worst clothes he has. Actually, the first thing he does is run across the street and get his friend Yudi, who, while Daniel is inside getting dressed, marches straight into the backyard in his older brother’s slippers.

We didn’t really have a plan. The plan, as far as we could figure, was for my son and apparently Yudi to approach the cage very carefully, and if the skunk lifted its tail, to run. Except for Yudi, in his brother’s slippers.

So they started making their way to the cage, very slowly, and they got most of the way there before it occurred to Daniel that he didn’t know how to open it. So he decided to climb the swing set to sneak up on it from above, and I was shouting at him from the porch over the noise of the A/C, and Yudi’s brother was shouting, “Don’t go near the cage in my slippers!” and it turns out that shouting isn’t great for keeping a skunk calm.

Then I got the idea that maybe we should cover the cage so that if the skunk sprayed, it wouldn’t hit anyone directly. I handed Daniel a towel, but instead of just walking toward the cage with the towel shielding most of his body, he had Yudi grab the other end. So now they’re holding the towel sideways, walking toward the cage with their faces turned, like Noach’s sons, and neither of them was behind it. So we all yelled some more, which did wonders for the smell.

Then my son had this idea to climb on top of the swing set and drop the towel onto the cage. It did not land squarely. Yudi ran over and rearranged the towel “properly,” but he thought “properly” meant “like a tablecloth”—evenly centered with the bottom half of the cage uncovered on all 4 sides.

So I decided to do it myself. I approached the cage from behind, and I propped it open.

Nothing happened.

So I’m like, “Maybe it’s dehydrated.” But I can’t put a bowl of water in front of the cage, because it’s Shabbos, and also if you feed things they tend to come back.

But I had the bright idea that maybe I could pour some water on it, so I told my son go inside and get a cup of water. He comes out five minutes later, hands me a cup and says, “I finished the bottle.”

“What bottle? Wait. We’re giving it filtered water? That we need for the fast?”

So I take the ice-cold filtered water and pour it directly on the skunk, and it doesn’t move. But it’s definitely still breathing.

So finally I say, “That looks like a good idea. I’m going for a nap.”

Anyway, when I checked the skunk later, it was dead.

So I had to go out in middle of the night on Tisha B’Av to dump it out of the cage onto the middle of the road. But on the other hand, right now I have a dead skunk out on the street in front of my house that clearly wasn’t run over by a car. Well, until Yudi’s other brother ran over it doing a K-turn in our driveway in a 15-passenger van. But it occurred to me: This is how they get in middle of the road! People are putting them there!

Maybe now Animal Control will take it away. The street sweeper certainly hasn’t. We just watched him go around it.

By Mordechai Schmutter


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He also has six books out and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected]