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Skunk Self-Care--and That Smell!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

One of the signs that an animal is feeling well is self-care. That's funny. One of the signs that a person is feeling well is self-care.  I admit to falling off a bit in self-care of late. My hair is driving me nuts, going full-on Bozo with giant sidewings, as I've missed two cuts with my beloved and gifted stylist Angie. I bought barrettes, then headbands. Neither accoutrement has been used on my head for 23 years at least. And neither works on my wild in-between hair, to keep it out of my eyes. Finally, in desperation, I took some tiny butterfly hairclips that I use to secure orchid blooming stems to their stakes. My head is studded with them, each one holding back an obstreperous hank of hair, and I look like Pebbles Bedrock, but it works and I can forget about my hair and get on with my work.  I tell myself it's youthful and perhaps kind of cute, but it's really just pathetic. Oh well. Nobody but my kids sees it, and at least I have enough hair to annoy me. Be thankful for what you have.


You may watch this video and think that SugarBean has fleas. Far from it. This is simply grooming, all the scratching and chewing and licking. What a privilege, to kneel on a terrace directly over a wild skunk, and see how he conducts his toilette. What a thrill, to be trusted, and to trust him. This stink bomb he carries colors every interaction. There's always that chance that something could scare him and I could be drenched. But the longer we know each other, the more distant that likelihood is.

In my years as a dog owner, I've had to deskunk a dog five times. Five times too many. It's one of my least favorite chores. I did it twice for Chet in 12 years, and three times for Curtis in the first eight months I had him! There are lots of folks who are just signing onto SugarBean's story via various Web channels, and it seems that some have missed the two previous posts that explain how it is that my hunting dog Curtis isn't attacking this little black and white yard fixture. Here's the first one: Fun With Skunks and Dogs  and here's the second one: About That Skunk.  Thanks to having SugarBean around, I've had the opportunity to teach Curtis to leave him alone, and that is a beautiful thing. I DID find Curtis cleaning up SugarBean's dinner one day, then STICKING HIS HEAD IN THE MAILBOX where the skunk was sleeping, so I wouldn't say we are exactly home free, but both skunk and dog are champs, and I have to trust the process and the intelligence of both animals. My devotion to one injured skunk has been tested and found true.

While deskunking Curtis, I have given a lot of thought to the absolutely jaw-dropping power of skunkstink, N-butyl mercaptan. As much as I've smelled it, it still amazes me that one animal, smaller than your average housecat, can pack a couple little sacs full of oil that, when deployed, you can smell for literally MILES. And you can't smell it until he lets it loose. How on earth does he confine that stench with nothing more than flesh and a sphincter? It all amazes me and makes me wonder. I found this bizarre little video on the Net that shows the two "nozzles" that pop out on either side of a skunk's anus that fire and even direct the spray! I hope never to be that close! And having been sprayed myself twice (never a direct hit, such as Curtis takes, but damn close), I will say that skunk scent, point blank, is the only smell that actually terrifies me. It's such a primal response.

Yesterday, the kids thought it would be funny to take Curtis' toy skunk, Snoutnose**, and place it in the bluebell patch, where I would see it out of the corner of my eye as I chugged out to fill the bird feeders. I did at the bone! Stopped in my tracks! If I ever had doubt that the black and white pelage of a skunk is a primal fear releaser, it is gone now. And even after going on two months of fraternizing with sweet lil' SB, I still get that chill when I first spot him on his afternoon peregrination. Once sprayed, twice shy. I'm fascinated by this visceral response to seeing him that persists even though my conscious mind knows he's "safe." And I suspect that the frisson of knowing that I could get sprayed adds to my enjoyment of being his friend. It has been pointed out to me that I like to live dangerously.

**a gift from my sweet friend Marianne!

Because one can never have too much of watching a skunk roll around on the ground, here's another sweet video from the same session on April 2. These were made with my iPhone from a ridiculously close range. Lookit that little face! And those nails. Just everything. The snorf. The belly, now much rounder than it was. The underlying white hairs in his tail. The way he norbles on his fur. Oooh this little animal, he's soo sweet.


With love from the edge,



I think you live carefully in dangerous situations.

I am blessed that skunk smell does no more than remind me of summer at home in NJ. I passed that to only 1 girl child. On the other hand, a blooming lilac can make me gag if close by, so odd.

What a blessing!! I love skunk smell/ there are a few of us. My brother too ( genes?) not too close but lingering.
Thanks for sharing. Hope you are many moons together...

Thanks Julie! I learned a new word, frisson! And I love the made up one of the sound Sugar Bean makes when grooming--norbles! What a sweet creature! I love his white cap, thin white line down his face, and those claws! Wow! I promise to read the blogs I must have missed on how you keep Curtis from harassing Sugar bean.

He's so stinkin' cute! They remind me of English Badgers. Thanks for sharing his adorable nose!

So interesting. He doesn't really groom like a cat at all. Much more nibbling than licking as a cat does.

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Wonderful, enlightening, and educational post, as always! I’m curious about something. Your warm and soothing energy and his lack of fear in your presence has obviously given him no reason to engage those horrific looking atomizers. But is it possible that whatever injury befell sweet SugarBean might have “broken” his sprayer, whether it be a physical or nerve injury? Guess there would be other indications of that, like the inability to defecate or perhaps intestinal incontinence, which don’t seem to be issues, but it’s a topic that has take up space in my brain since you first posted about this cutie. ;-)

Thanks for the updates on Sugar Bean. I'm rooting for the little guy.

"Pebbles Bedrock"! Your opening paragraph made me laugh.

I must admit I've never seen a skunk grooming itself before now. SugarBean is just adorable. Love the towhee vocalizing in the background of the second video!

I enjoyed watching Sugar Bean groom and also doing bird ID from the background sounds :)

what a great video of the squirter, and who can aim that well from their asshole?

Catching up on a back log of posts---gah, what a cutie SugarBean is! Scent aversion and wildness excluded, I'd want to pick him up and snuggle him! What a treat it is for you to get to be friends with him.

A rescue here in SoCal has just posted on Facebook about a skunk rescue. Thought you’d like to see the post. And that thing you said about some people not minding the smell so much? This lady is one of them!

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