Pepe le pew was a cartoon character, an amorous skunk that tragically fell in love with a high class cat. Allow me to wax nerdy on you, dear readers. This is illogical for a few reasons. Skunks are actually mustelids (like ferrets, minks, and weasels), while the house cat (Felis catus) is a felid. You see, they are not only unrelated, but they are in different families! Okay, it is true that they are both carnivora, but this would be roughly equivalent to a snake falling in love with a chameleon. You can see the problems, right? Ah, taxonomy, ruining your favourite childhood cartoons since 1735 (Linnaen’s Systema Naturae).
Just by the fact that skunks are roughly cat-sized and cat-shaped, the (non-biologist) creators of this cartoon thought it would be clever to have a skunk fall in love with a cat. I suppose love is not logical.
But I digress!
The point of introducing Pepe le pew is that he also tragically fell for my window well. Or rather, he fell in my window well. It was in mid-February, 3 am and black as pitch outside. I woke, wondering again what woke me, and heard a scratching noise just below my bed. Another nighttime visitor? A Romeo? I quickly realized that the window was just above my bed, meaning that the well was just below my bed. I figured that it was probably a squirrel and, grumbling selfishly, I decided to help him out when I woke up at 5, as usual.
But just as I rolled over to go back to sleep, I started to smell it. That horribly pervasive, obnoxious Eau de skunk. I groaned and levered myself out of bed, threw on a jacket and some bedroom slippers, shoved my glasses crookedly onto my face, and stumbled out into the dark. It was sleeting rain that froze the instant it touched the snow packed ground. Everything was covered in a sheet of ice. I slipped precariously around the back porch and peered into the well. A very distraught skunk peered back up at me.
Oh Pepe, it was never meant to be.
I think that there was a pair of skunks living under the porch (still are probably). Pepe was probably just out for a morning jog. He must’ve walked out, yawning and stretching when suddenly(!), plop he fell into the window well. In his distress, he just started spraying everything. Well, that was sufficient to rouse me from my bed at 3 am in the sleet.
I can’t say any of that for sure; there were no footprints on the ice and sleet.
I have to say, of all of the animals I have rescued, skunks are the stupidest. I tried everything to help him out. I put in blocks of wood for him to climb up on. I tried putting in a ramp (that worked for the ducklings). But no, Pepe was too stupid (or too frightened). Finally, I put a trash can (rubbish bin?) in the window well, poked Pepe with a broom handle until he took refuge in the bin, snapped the lid on the bin, and lifted him out. Easy as one, two, three (um, four).
So, after all of this effort, after standing for over an hour in the sleet in my flannel PJs and bedroom slippers, I took a moment to celebrate Pepe’s release. He waddled off as quickly as possible away from the house. No sooner had he vanished into the dark than a completely different skunk (with completely different fur colour patterns) wandered up innocently and, without so much as a “how do you do” fell promptly into the window well.
PS Did you know that people used to keep skunks as pets? It’s true! (Wikipedia says so) They used to remove the anal glands that allow skunks to spray. Apparently, if not for their stink they would make good pets. Possibly better than cats.