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The gift that keeps on giving

Article

Mr. Skunk had a very special Christmas present for Dr. Bo and friends; 'it smelled so bad it hurt'

"I told Papa not the throw them scraps off the back porch,"a voice whined on the other end of the phone.

It was Mrs. Olgien and the voice reflected her remorse for having tocall me on Christmas Eve combined with her anger at Papa for being too lazyto walk out to the chicken yard. I have never met them or been to theirhouse. My first Christmas as a veterinarian might as well have taken meon another adventure.

Cold was an understatement for the effects that a 25 mile per hour northwind had on the rolling canyons of Clarendon, Texas. I was dreading leavingthe warmth of the house for such a petty call. It seems that the combinationof scraps and warmth under the house had lured a skunk. Somehow this critterhad wedged itself between two footers under the house and was very stuck.The family had discovered the culprit before it had emptied its stink bomb.My assignment was to sedate the skunk without releasing the bomb, and thencarefully remove him from the premises. I was still new in the communityand very much wanted to please these people and perhaps make some new friends.

Drama unfolds

As I arrived at the scene, the reasons for living in extreme rural Americacame flooding into my thoughts.

I was 20 miles from the closest anywhere and there must have been 10cars around this house. A combination of family in for Christmas and neighborshad made the home the hot place for Christmas Eve. One of the cars in theyard had the insignia of the Donley County Sheriff's Department, indicatingthat even the law would be involved.

All of the parking spots close to the house were already taken. Thisgave me about a hundred yard walk to the house to focus on my mission andbe thankful that the house faced north and the skunk was under the backporch.

As I rounded the line of prairie-planted wind break trees, I noticedthe lights were on in the living room which was just inside the holiday-light-surroundedglass front door. The "women folk" were gathered in this frontroom while none of the men were in sight.

"You better get in here, Dr. Bo," the much toned-down voiceof Mrs. Olgien greeted me. "The men are in the backyard trying to figureout how to get the varmint."

I was quickly introduced to everyone in the room and then escorted tothe back.

Battle lines drawn

About 15 men stood in the backyard sizing me up as I exited the housewith Mamma. After a thorough briefing, I scooted under the porch to a 2-footsquare opening that led to the sub-structure of the house. Upon peeringthrough, I caught my first glimpse of the skunk's fanny. It was not at allas I had pictured. The skunk was wedged between two boards and was about7 feet away. There was no way I could get a shot of sedative in one of thosebuns and then get away before the explosion of stink.

I backed out and we brainstormed. Finally, we decided to tape a syringeto the end of a broom and use a very small needle to deliver the drug. Thesmall needle might just be gentle enough to keep the skunk from spraying,but just in case, I would be a long ways off.

Slipping a micky

I filled the syringe with about twice the dose of sedative that I wouldhave given a cat. I felt like G.I. Joe as I belly-crawled, inch-by-inch,toward the trespasser. Carefully glancing around the protection of the footer,I gently inserted the tiny needle into the left bun of the skunk and slippedhim a micky. Not a drop of odor entered the air. What an accomplishment!I scurried out to a hero's welcome. I felt sure I would be on Wild Kingdomafter such an adventure-filled mission.

We went back into the house and enjoyed the fruits of our labor, a cupof Mamma's hot chocolate, as we waited for the sedative to go into effect.We visited and laughed for a few minutes and then I started my hero's departure.

I was about to leave when Mamma asked if we had ever actually removedthe now-snoring skunk. "No," was my answer, but I assured herthat it would just take a second and I would do it before I left.

A sleeping giant

A few of the men went with me as I went back under the house to retrievethe sleeping skunk.

I peered in at the now limp tail of the skunk and quickly closed the7-foot gap that separated us. The thing was stuck harder than I had figured.I pulled and tugged with little success. By now, 30 minutes had passed sincethe shot. When the skunk finally came sliding free, our eyes met. It wasat this moment that I realized that the drug had worn off.

This critter had been chased by dogs, wedged between boards, injectedwith a needle and had never released a drop of liquid stink. But the minuteour eyes met, he fogged up the world. He got me right on the side of thehead. Under the house is no place to "jump back;" if you do youwill bump your head and that's exactly what I did.

'Houston, we have a problem'

Only the toughest of the bunch was still in the yard. They knew beforeI backed out that the mission had taken a serious turn.

I could hear the sheriff saying something about clearing the area andforming a perimeter. My eyes were watering so much that I couldn't see athing. This was nothing like the smell you get when you pass a dead skunkin the road. The smell stinks, but this smell actually hurts. There wereparts of my body other than my nose that were smelling this. It was thenthat I felt something warm and liquid running down my neck.

Did I mention that I can't stand to see my own blood? That's right. Ican do a C-section on a cow while eating a hamburger, but a steady flowof my own blood, and I am going to pass out. Maybe it means I'm a sissy,but I have no control over it. I can take kicks, cuts, contusions just fine,but bleeding takes me down.

The bigger they are

My knuckles were white from the tight grip I had on Mr. Skunk.

I never let go as I backed out from under the porch. Here I stood, surroundedby a ring of people I had never met, holding a skunk on Christmas Eve, aboutto pass out. Everyone backed off even further as the smell engulfed thearea. I heard someone say, "He's bleeding all over the place."The next few scenes happened in slow motion for me; first to my knees andthen to my stomach. That was the last thing I remember until I came to inthe garage with Mamma rubbing my head with a cold rag.

I stunk. The four men that carried me to the garage stunk, the womenwho took off my coat and boots stunk and my pickup stunk for two monthsjust from carrying me home.

Lasting impression

They would have been better off if they had never met me. I took twobaths in tomato juice but still had to sleep on a towel-covered couch forthree days.

I talked to Mrs. Olgien a week or so later and she told me that it stillsmelled in the house, but that they had gotten used to it. The moral ofthe story: Don't visit too long on Christmas Eve after shooting a skunkwith twice the cat dose of sedative. Merry Christmas, everyone.

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