Posts Tagged ‘Minnesota’

Just before bedtime I turned off all the lights and checked the front door. As I looked out onto the porch through the window I saw a new animal friend helping himself to a snack at the cat bowl. We have received all kinds of visitors – raccoons, dogs, cats, birds – but this was our first skunk. He was quite polite and mannerly, not nearly as raucous as some of the other guests.

Skunk FinalI of course did not draw his attention, tap on the window, or open the door. Best let him enjoy himself without distraction. But I wasn’t the only one watching.

Out on the sidewalk, no more than eight feet away, was Mary the cat. She was the picture of stillness, not flinching, not moving a muscle. She watched with attentive calm. She neither fled nor bristled. She waited. And when the skunk pushed away from the table he turned to see Mary. I wondered what would happen next.

Nothing exciting, that’s what. Instead of walking on toward Mary he turned right, dropped off the porch and headed along the house toward the woods. They had both respected the requisite distance necessary for both to feel safe and went their own ways without incident.

Every creature has ways to defend itself or elude threat. They all sense when danger is coming their way and prepare to fight or take flight. Some just freeze, immobilized. Most of the time, unless an animal is hunting as a predator, it responds aggressively when it feels threatened. If an animal has been hurt and anticipates more it becomes hyper-vigilant about any source of threat around it, lashing out quickly and without much warning. The most abused animals often become the most aggressive.

There are several alternatives to handling hyper-charged standoffs in which one or more of the parties feel threatened. One way is to use more force to subdue the real or perceived threat. Another is to flee and passively find other ways to survive. But another pathway is that of mutual respect, adequate resource and insuring a margin of safety.

It is possible that some day the two legged, big brained creatures will evolve to the level of the skunk and cat. They will insure that all are fed, that none feel afraid, and a margin of respect is maintained for all. This will not be easy for this species. In addition to being advanced in so many remarkable ways, including the ways they can care for one another, they remain a planetary menace. They still don’t know how to handle standoffs on the front porch. They don’t know how to avoid them in the first place. And it may be the end of them.

Those who have ears listen to the parable of the skunk and the cat.