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About That Skunk...

Sunday, April 12, 2020

While all this is going on with pets inside the house, there's a pet who roams outside, too. Not gonna lie. Going from a Boston terrier to a mountain cur has been a big adjustment. Chet's reason for living was to keep me company. I remember once when he treed a raccoon deep in our woods. He stood up against the tree, barked, got very excited. I watched awhile, then said, "OK, Chet, let's leave him in peace. I'm headed home." That little dog took a last look at the coon and trotted over to me, and that was the end of that. Chet knew what his job was, and he put his whole heart into it. He followed me to the washing machine, to the bathroom; he'd butt the door open with his little melon head when I was showering (never failed to get a peal of laughter from me as the cold air would rush in). And until he lost his hearing at the end, he never even needed a collar on our runs on the busy road, because he listened to every word I said.

I can't say that about Curtis, but he's listening much better than he was a year ago. I don't love him any less for his wandering spirit. My love for him is different, because our relationship is different. He's more like a friend than the everything that Chet strove to be, that I needed him to be. Curtis is just the dog I need at this stage of my life. He's taught me to loosen my grip and let go.

I am usually looking at the hind end of this dog. Not exactly a heeler.

Just like Chet, Curtis knows what his job is. He was bred to hunt. He's a fabulous companion, as you've seen, but his first love and calling is the hunt. So when Curtis trees a coon, he stands up against the tree, bites some bark off it, bays a little, and, if he's not a half mile away through the woods, I watch for awhile. And then I say, "I'll see you at home, Curtis. I'm headed back."  And there we part ways, because Curtis is not a Boston terrier. He is a Treeing Tennessee Brindle. I'll see him again in oh, maybe two or three hours, when he's good and ready to come home. He'll be riddled  with thorns, ear tips bleeding from their tears, tongue hanging down to his brisket, hungry and exhausted and oh, so happy. Overdoing it is his way. He is doing his job, as he feels it in his very cells. 

Work mode: sniffing scent trails old and new. 

So when a badly injured skunk showed up in the yard, Houston, we had a problem. As explained before, he'd gotten himself odiferized three times in only eight months since he'd joined our family. I had concluded that Curtis was one of those dogs who would never stop trying to catch a skunk.

And yet, in that one magic moment explained a few posts back (Fun With Skunks and Dogs), Curtis put it all together. Even as he was charging for the attack, he registered my anguished plea for him to leave SugarBean alone. And alone he has left that skunk, despite myriad opportunities to ruin all our lives since. SugarBean has become a bit of a fixture in the yard. Can't imagine why...

About ten days ago, I heard Curtis ranging about in the woods to the north, his bells jingling. Without even thinking, I called to him to come home. The shortest path was through the tunnels in a trumpetvine tangle that sprawls behind the compost pit. It's a highway for Curtis, for the opossums, raccoons, rabbits...and for SugarBean. Too late, I saw SugarBean, crouched in a vine tunnel. I heard Curtis coming straight toward the skunk. I couldn't do a thing. You can't stop a dog from coming to you once you've called. You can't tell him, "No, I've changed my mind, don't come home." I heard twigs crackling as Curtis drew closer. Frantically, I sent him mind pictures of backing away. And then he caught the scent and stopped. Backed up. Went back the way he'd come, and allll the way around the garage. I ran to meet him as he emerged from the woods a good 300' from where SugarBean was hidden. I threw my arms around his neck. That's when I knew this dog gets it.

I've been very worried about SugarBean. Her right hind leg is nearly useless; she puts it down only lightly and it obviously hurts. I've thought and thought about how to help her. The injury dates to sometime in early March, when I first started seeing her around the yard.

The idea from the start has been to support her nutritionally, and hope for healing in the leg/hip. 
Because as sweet and cute as SugarBean looks, she's not a housecat. 
She's not even a feral cat. She's a mustelid, and she packs a ferocious bite as well as a scent bomb that WILL ruin my whole life if it goes off. About a week ago, something perturbed her in the night, and she sprayed, and that scent drifted in Phoebe's open window and permeated the house. It woke everyone up, and kept me up the rest of the night. I spent that time thinking about what it means to have an injured skunk in residence in one's yard.

A friend of mine tried to help, investigating as to whether the Ohio Wildlife Center would admit the skunk if I was able to catch her. She really, really wanted Sugarbean to get medical attention, and made some offers and suggestions that included offering to drive the skunk to Columbus if I could catch her! (That's love!)  Well, I really wanted her to get care, too, but I knew that her injury is too old (more than a month) for the leg to be set, even if one could operate on a skunk and keep it in a clinic, which one simply cannot. Once it wakes up from the anesthesia, the first slamming door would bring a stinkbomb! And the word came back from OWC that, even if SugarBean were somehow caught and brought in, they wouldn't attempt to operate on her leg. So what's the point of catching her?

the first falcate orangetip of spring

But while I was in the flush of being persuaded that maybe something could be done to help this poor hobbling creature, I set out a cat carrier with the door wired open, and decided to feed SugarBean inside it.
She entered without hesitation. It's all about the food with skunks. But then when she was fed, she did the most interesting thing. I had piled dry straw up in the back of the carrier, and SugarBean went on in and curled up in there, and slept for five hours!

While she was sleeping, it began to rain, and I was able to put a doormat over top of the carrier to shield her from the rain without any trouble or protest from the skunk. 

That night was cold and wet, and, but for a foray around 10 pm, she slept in there all night. 

Well, how do you like that?

Skunks normally have a low profile, but this one is snakelike. She flows over the ground, very very slowly.

One of the most winsome and endearing little animals I've ever known.

I am forever trying to think of new ways to help her.


I'm thinking some kind of supplement known for helping bones/joints could benefit her. Don't know if the efficacy works across species. My husband would have ideas that work on horses; one that I know helps horses/dogs/humans is Cetyl-M. I'm giving it to my Decker Rat Terrier pup after my horse stepped on her and broken three mid-metacarpal bones; figured it can't hurt. I had bought the tablets for my beloved Aussie who had arthritis (didn't seem to help him); the pup thinks they are tasty. Maybe Sugar Bean would, too. I got them at

Love your name for her...SugarBean.

I will contribute to a vet fund. maybe there is a private vet that would at least take a look at her, sedate her and xray?

Our mammal wildlife rehab center in Louisville takes in skunks and has one non-releasable in residence, still fully armed. I don't know how they manage it, but I could hook you up with a phone number if you are interested.

I love this Sugar-Bean story. She certainly found a lovely human to connect with. Lucky girl! If there is any way she can be helped by a vet, I will gladly contribute to a vet fund. Thank you for such kindness, Julie. Sugar-Bean has a fan club!

Count me in for the vet fund. Kathy in San Diego

I'm falling in love with Sugarbean :-}

Julie already knows my love of skunks.
I used to wake very early & watch the mama & babies. Yes, they smell, but you can't believe how interested they are in you,very catlike.

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