Yesterday evening I came home from a busy day and noticed a skunk was nosing around my front yard. No big deal… My dogs were out in the back fenced run. I figured this animal was just grubbing around for the bugs and worms that were appearing with the fresh spring weather. So I did what any modern-day nature-curious person would do. I got out my iPhone and began taking pictures.
As I started up the walkway, still tapping, I thought this skunk seemed different from others I’d encountered. It looked over at me and blinked in that casual skunky way (seeming to say, “I can’t see all that well but I know you’re there and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll stay away”). But then, it dragged its body around and circled closer to me.
Oh dear, I thought, this is an injured skunk. It’s dragging its left back leg because it’s been hurt. I could see red flesh and perhaps some bone sticking out. I was concerned but still kept my distance… I knew from first-hand experience how long the spray scent can last from a close encounter.
After I got a decent camera to take more images (my iPhone is old…), the skunk and I started getting better acquainted. I kept going out to check on it and realized it was worse than I originally thought. Neither back leg was functional. One looked like it was hanging by skin, and the other appeared to be gone completely. The determined little animal was dragging its entire hindquarters around. I talked to it in order to soothe it. Much of my conversation included phrases such as, “Oh dear, you poor thing. What happened? Did something hurt you? It’s ok, I’m not going to hurt you.” I was able to get within a couple of feet from her (I think it was a she, as she flopped over at one point exposing nipples).
She seemed to respond positively to my voice, even beginning to follow me as the evening wore on and I decided to go in. I kept watching her from the window and as dusk fell, saw her just a few feet from the house.
During the evening, I had a number of conversations with caring friends who were online. I was certain this animal was not long for this world but I was not sure what I could do to help ease her pain. She was certainly suffering a great deal, but stoic about it as an animal will be.
My dreams in the night were vivid. I had a bad phone connection trying to talk to a helpful neighbour. Did the skunk really go away and live happily ever after? Something threatening was creeping up to the house…
I woke up too early and couldn’t sleep anymore. When I looked out, I didn’t see the skunk. Whew! Great! But, then, when I went outside, I found her curled up right next to the house. She was a little, furry ball just like a sleeping kitten. My own cat started to get very annoyed that I wasn’t letting her out. She started climbing the door frames and window screens. The dogs weren’t happy either.
I realized I can’t let this poor skunk suffer for days, dying in pain next to my house. She had come asking for help. When I brought out a bit of cat food, she woke up and ate it right away. It was clear she’d been struggling for some time. I brought out a rabbit cage, donned some old clothes and thick gloves, and then gently scooped her up and placed her into a bed of straw in the cage. No struggle or scent at all. I put water and more food into the crate (including a strip of organic, local bacon saved from my breakfast).
As some wise women from the area recommended, I finally contacted a kind and accomplished person with the means to a quick release.
I’d never seen a 22 short shot. But it was direct, immediate, and appeared painless. As our neighbour gently put the gun to the skunk’s head, she looked out at us calmly. Then, she was dead instantly.
The sensible neighbour also offered to help me bury her right away, “As the body relaxes from life, the scent is often released too.” I’m glad I learned this, as I had been contemplating painting a portrait of the skunk. I’ve done this before to honour the spirits of dead birds before I bury them.
The scent was releasing as we dug into the southern slope, newly released from snow and warmed by the sun. We gently lowered the skunk into the hole and covered it with soil and capped it with the sod.
So, instead, what I have to honour this resourceful and strong spirit of the skunk I met and lived a day with is this story. I believe she came to a place where she would be recognized and appreciated for who she was. And, I believe that she came intentionally to a place where she would be helped into her long journey onward.
Grateful thanks to all who care about the value of life and the interconnectedness of being. We are all on this journey together. We get by with a little help from our friends.