Friday the 13th, is traditionally a time when everything goes wrong – a bad omen for a good day. The latest of these was Friday 13th October. As the day was drawing to a close, we sat and joked about the fact that we had had a bad luck free day... then 11 o’clock chimed and the day was not over!
At just past 11 o’clock, I went looking for our baby skunk Skittles, who had been running around the house amusing herself as usual. It had gone quiet and, mindful always of her presence, I went to find her. Imagine my horror as I noted the back door stood slightly ajar! I ran into the back garden calling her, but she was nowhere to be found or seen. I was beside myself with worry!
I spent the next 8 hours outside in my pyjama shorts and hoodie, trawling the local streets, fields, front gardens, waste lands etc calling “Ski-ttles” and trying to find her before she got too far. Skunks you see, pick a direction to walk in and walk in a straight line – they have no homing instinct, so just walk.
As morning dawned, we prepared missing posters to post through letterboxes, and embarked upon a search of all of our neighbours gardens. We turned up nothing concrete – no Skittles, no evidence of Skittles, nothing. We were beside ourselves desperately worried and upset as the weather turned nasty – colder temperatures, heavy rain and bitterly cold winds.
We launched a plea on our Critterish Allsorts business page, desperate to get the word out and find our baby – just 18 weeks old and not yet fully developed. The response from our fans was IMMENSE and the missing poster reached over 50,000 people in just over 6 hours. People were talking about our missing skunk all over the UK –somebody had been heard discussing it in Sheffield, others on the south coast. For the next 48 hours, we were constantly out and about in all directions, all weathers, scouring the local area (which is acres and acres of fields) with binoculars and torches in the hope of catching a glimpse of her – not one confirmed sighting. Friends and neighbours helped in the search for Skittles, but all to no avail.
On Monday we had our first confirmed sighting, at a local stables just half a mile or so away! I had gone to work (a Pet Therapy Day) – after giving an interview to Free Radio about our plight, who then featured it as an item in every following news bulletin! I took the call, and my wife and her friends immediately went to the site to search for her. After spending 6 hours searching fields, copses and farm buildings, they returned home utterly deflated, with no Skittles (it was time for the school run, unfortunately.)
My wife took a call, from a group of people who had formed a search party and arrived to join in, and as she answered the phone she looked out into the garden. There was Skittles, digging a hole by our fence! My wife screamed and threw her phone across the room, as she raced into the garden. Throwing her cardigan over Skittles, she grabbed her and pulled the baby skunk into her arms – despite getting bitten and sprayed, she had Skittles back safe and sound. A “FURRY-tale” happy ending!
The emotional call I got from my wife at the hospital where I was working, was one of the happiest moments of my life. Not only was I in tears, but so were some of the staff – they had been following our progress.
Skittles has no idea of the worry, concern, sleepless nights or upset that she caused not just us, but also many hundreds of her friends who may never have met her, but love her all the same through her interactions with them on Facebook – for 3 days and nights, we had no sleep we had no food, we were out of our minds with worry.
It amazes me that one animal, with a public profile can be so loved by so many people – yes she is cute and she is our pet and we love her dearly, but it does not stop there for Skittles. Her family extends to many thousands of wonderful people who love her just as much, and have never cuddled her or even stroked her.
I have so wanted to, in the days since, take a tour of the UK and USA and allow her to meet all of these wonderful people, who devoted their time and their energy to helping us try and find Skittles. Not just because they follow what we do as a company, but because they have grown to love our baby skunk almost as much as we do.
The power of animals is a truly amazing thing, even electronically, over social media, people grow to love the animal and see its character in photographs and video – without ever meeting it. Once that attachment is formed, the bond is never broken. Skittles is very lucky to have such an amazing group of people who care about her – even the local police have visited her to give her a dressing down (and a cuddle of course!). I wish in some ways that humans had the same power as animals, we would all just live in total harmony, now wouldn’t that be nice?
So inspired was I by the love and enthusiasm of people on Facebook, and their refusal to give up hope, that I have started my own group on Facebook to help others in the same situation find their lost or stolen pets. It’s called “Critters ReUnited” and we have admins all over the UK and even in the USA, who are each tasked with ensuring the adverts are shared in the relevant areas as much as possible.
Critterish Allsorts undertake animal assisted therapy sessions, with their critters (who are all family pets), on an individual or group basis in your home, hospital, care home, foster home, or school. Visit their website for more information.This blog is written by Dale Preece-Kelly from Critterish Allsorts, if you would like to find out more about them check out our previous article 'Meet the Critterish Allsorts'